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.