As an avid fan of the NFL, I always follow the Sunday games. Today I was perusing the scores and noticed that, at halftime, the New England Patriots were leading the Miami Dolphins by a score of 42-7, in Miami, and Tom Brady was on his way to having a perfect day in terms of passer rating.
At this point, I wondered to myself, "Just how valuable is Nick Saban?"
Personally, I always find it interesting to hear people say that Saban "flopped" in the NFL. When he came to Miami, the Dolphins were coming off of a 4-12 season, had their star player suspended, were well over the salary cap, and didn't have many draft picks. In the NFL Draft, Saban selected Ronnie Brown -- a controversial pick at the time -- out of Auburn, and then went 9-7 in his first season. His second year was a disappointment going 6-10, but the Dolphins were still in a much better situation than what he inherited. The talent level had improved, the Dolphins were now well under the salary cap, and Ronnie Brown is at the moment only one of two of the top ten picks in the 2005 NFL Draft that doesn't look like an absolute bust. And he led his Dolphins to a 21-0 win over these same Patriots, all the while the Pats had fewer than 100 yards of offense, in this game a year ago.
And what about the Dolphins the year after Saban's departure?
At this point, 6-10 seems like the Super Bowl. The Dolphins are currently 0-7, with 0-8 likely coming next week. 0-16 could potentially be a very real possibility, and would likely be an outright probability if the Dolphins weren't in the same division with two other terrible teams (the Bills and the Jets). And what about Nick Saban's defense, which finished fifth in scoring defense in the NFL a year ago? Despite the acquisition of big dollar free agent linebacker Joey Porter, the Dolphins defense is now dead last in the NFL in scoring defense.
Obviously the Dolphins have turned disastrous, but what about Alabama?
A year ago the Crimson Tide finished 6-7, and coming into this season we've only had one winning season since the departure of Dennis Franchione in 2002. The team itself had a talent deficit to all of the top programs in the conference, and overall was simply overweight and out of shape due to four years of Club Shula.
Nine months after taking over as the Alabama head coach, however, Saban has the Tide sitting atop the SEC West with his former team, the LSU Tigers, going into a week nine showdown. Though the the Bayou Bengals will certainly be favored in the upcoming showdown, if the Tide can pull out the victory they are likely headed to Atlanta, and that fact alone speaks volumes for what Saban has done so far. Moreover, after administering the worst beating of the Tennessee Volunteers in over twenty years, the Tide has now moved to 6-2, and this season marks only the second time since 1994 that the Crimson Tide has knocked off both Arkansas and Tennessee in the same season.
On the recruiting front, things are going great as well, and are honestly well ahead of schedule. We are looking like we will have a top five recruiting class, and it will be, with little doubt, the top recruiting class in the SEC. It could very well be the best recruiting class we've had at Alabama in almost 20 years.
So how valuable is Nick Saban?
From the looks of the Dolphins and the Crimson Tide, extremely valuable.
Update [2007-10-22 14:48:18 by outsidethesidelines]:
As if things weren't already bad enough for the Dolphins, the Miami Herald is now reporting that Ronnie Brown, the lone bright spot of the team, is out for the year with a knee injury. Brown injured his knee yesterday -- naturally -- when the Fins were trailing by five touchdowns while trying to chase down Patriots cornerback Randall Gay on an interception return.