Saban needs to own up to Brees mistake

Nick Saban’s legacy is that he is one of the best college coaches in NFL history.

He has won seven national championships, one more than Bear Bryant, who won six. And Saban may add more to his gaudy resume.

Yet there is one blemish on his coaching record that still seems to haunt him – his 15-17 record in Miami as an NFL coach in 2005 and 2006.

That record doesn’t diminish his reputation as a coach. Very few successful college coaches have won NFL titles. Paul Brown, Jimmy Johnson, Pete Carroll and Barry Switzer are the only four to do it and Switzer took over a team that won the two previous titles in Dallas under Johnson.

The signature moment of Saban’s short NFL career came when he bypassed signing an injured Drew Brees when he was a free agent and signed Daunte Culpepper. Brees, of course, went on to star for the Saints while Culpepper, who had knee injuries, was at the end of the line.

It was an obvious mistake by Saban, but he never takes responsibility for it. He blames the doctors for flunking Brees on the physical. Which wasn’t surprising because Brees arm was in a sling.

The interesting thing is that Saban doesn’t seem willing to let go of the narrative that it was the doctor’s fault that the Dolphins didn’t sign Brees.

He even brought it up again when Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses wasn’t drafted and signed as a free agent by the Jaguars. Moses missed the 2019 season with a torn ACL and then admitted he played last year in pain.

So it wasn’t surprising teams didn’t want to risk signing a player who admitted he played in pain last year and whose production dropped from 2018.

But Saban said the teams should have overlooked that fact he played hurt last year and drafted him. And then he brought up Brees and said it was another case where the doctors made a mistake.

“So I guess they (doctors) make mistakes, too,” he said.

Of course, we don’t know yet when they made a mistake on Moses until he proves he can play in the NFL on his damaged knee.

And Jason Cole, who covered the Dolphins when Saban was coaching them and said he enjoyed covering Saban, noted that Saban was in charge and could have signed Brees if he wanted to.

PFT made a similar point that Saban certainly could have found a doctor to give the green light to sign Brees if he wanted to. Sean Payton, the New Orleans coach signed him.

The larger issue is that Saban apparently can’t get over the Brees mistake.

But there’s one way Saban could still prove he can win in the NFL. He could leave Alabama and coach another NFL team. Certainly Saban would be in demand if he showed an interest in coming back to the NFL.

Of course, Saban isn’t going to do that. He has it too good at Alabama where he can recruit an unending stream of five-star players and usually has more talent than the opposing teams he faced.

So if Saban doesn’t want to coach in the NFL again, he should stop bringing up Brees as a reminder that his short tenure in the NFL wasn’t a success.

49ers’ bet on Lance is big and bold

There is an old saying that owners own, coaches coach and players play.

For the San Francisco 49ers, things are a little more complicated and the roles are blurred.

That is why the 49ers’ decision to give up a third-round pick this year and their first-round picks the next two years to move up nine spots to draft Trey Lance with the third pick was a move with a lot of ramifications for the future of the team.

Yes, the same Lance who played just 19 college games at North Dakota State, just one last year.
And the team already has Jimmy Garoppolo, who obviously is no longer in their long-term plans.

Lance was one of the five quarterbacks drafted with the first 15 picks. The other four are Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Mac Jones.

We all know that not all five are going to make it big. That’s not realistic.

What we don’t know is which ones are going to live up to expectations and which ones don’t.

It is fair to say, though, that the 49ers and Lance are in the most interesting situation.
To start with, they have to decide what is Garappolo’s future.

Coach Kyle Shanahan made a statement before the draft when asked about Jimmy G that he had to backtrack on after the draft.

“I totally bombed that,” Shanahan said. “I hated how that came off. I talked to Jimmy about it right away. I didn’t realize (how it sounded) when I did it. A person (reporter) I have a relationship with who sometimes he asks me what I think is a silly question, sometimes I mess with him back, and that’s kind of what I was doing. That was between me and that guy, had nothing to do with Jimmy when I said, ‘I didn’t know if we’d be alive Sunday.’ ”

As if things weren’t complicated enough, owner Jed York said publicly he asked Frank Gore for his opinion on the quarterbacks in the draft and he endorsed Lance.

It’s unusual for an owner to ask a player for his advice. Gore played with the 49ers for a decade and is currently a free agent.

Gore also said he would be OK if Garoppolo played for two more years before his contract runs out.

Let’s sort this out. There is no way Garoppolo is going to play two more seasons and then walk away as a free agent. He will be traded either before or after the upcoming season.

The larger question is how good Lance is going to be. If he turns out to be another Carson Wentz, Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are going to have some explaining to do. They have put their future in Lance’s hands and need Lance to be an elite quarterback.

It is like they are walking on a high wire without a net as they prepare for upcoming season.