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The warnings were there about the 2018 staff — we just didn’t listen to Nick Saban

Nick Saban tried to warn us.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Texas A&amp;M v Alabama

Look at this coward

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, Saban placed some of the blame for the Tide’s disappointing CFP Final performance on a few members of the staff more focused on their own professional agendas.

“When the season started, I think we were great,” Saban said. “When we won the LSU game, it just seemed like people’s own agendas starting to become more important.”

Finebaum then asked Saban to get more specific.

“Coaching,” he said. “We had a lot of guys who wanted to be head coaches at different places. It takes a special person to say focused on what they have to do now when they have job somewhere else that’s awaiting them and they have a responsibility on staffs.”

It was a team-wide loss, staff included, with Saban repeatedly stressing internal distractions. Nor has he by any stretch exempted himself from the criticism. And it is certainly not the first time that he’s stood in front of the firing squad and shouldered some blame for a critical loss.

Using almost the exact same language two years earlier, he said:

“I didn’t do a good job, whether it was keeping the team focused, making sure the team took the ownership they needed to take in those games ... whatever. I don’t know what it was,” Saban said. “But I do know it’s on me, and we’ll go on and all learn from it.”

Of course, many say that throwing the assistants under the bus was just that — being a graceless loser, unable to accept that he got his butt kicked and outcoached, and is now looking for a cop-out or an easy target. And, yes, he did select the staff and hire them and oversee them.

Those will be — and have been for six weeks — talking points we’ll hear again and again in 2019.

But, are they necessarily fair or accurate?

I don’t think so. In fact, if you go back just six short weeks before that CFB run, Nick Saban was sounding the warning signs, very much a man worried about people going their own way:

“It really doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks,” Saban said. “They have every right to work like I’ve worked for 40-something years as a coach, get a job and have their own team. Then they can make any decision that they want. I tell the assistants that all the time: ‘You want to do it that way? Get you a head job and you can do it that way. Aight?’ But right now this is the way we’re going to do it.”

Very often Nick Saban uses media appearances to emphasize talking points to those within the program. We’ve grown used to his press conferences being as much about and for his team as for public consumption. In this case, his remarks should have been a four-alarm klaxon: there were hints of entitlement and insubordination — distractions, in a word — from those that did not run the show and had not paid their dues. Not only did some of the staff not heed these warnings or correct their course, but the media and fans seemed to have ignored his cautionary remarks too.

During the week of an FCS game, it’s easy to ignore crotchety Saban doing his usual thing. But, it would probably behoove fans — and those who cover the team — to delve a little more deeply into those fleeting-but-clear warning shots he takes across the bow. The outcome of the season may be written there for those who will read it.

In this case, it was. And he tried to warn us in November.


How much of the Clemson loss should we attribute to internal distractions and a bumptious coaching staff?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    All/almost all — A stable staff puts together a winning gameplan for the Tide’s more talented roster
    (161 votes)
  • 43%
    A good deal, including on Saban himself. This team wasn’t prepared and the staff didn't adjust well when they needed to.
    (708 votes)
  • 37%
    50/50 — the players bear equal blame here. It was bad prep to be sure, but there were too many mental errors to be successful.
    (608 votes)
  • 6%
    Mostly on the players. Alabama moved the ball practically at will and gave up the bulk of its yards / points on four busted plays. So, the schemes were working in a game far closer than the final.
    (111 votes)
  • 1%
    Other, below.
    (29 votes)
1617 votes total Vote Now