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Jumbo Package: Lane Kiffin, Kirby Smart and others share their stories of working under Coach Saban

ESPN has given us a real treat...

Ole Miss v Georgia Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Well-deserved, right here:

Last week, the Pro Football Writers of America named Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin as the winner of its NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for the 2023 season.

Next week, The Associated Press will announce the winner of its NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award on Feb. 8. Tagovailoa and Hamlin are finalists for that award, along with quarterbacks Joe Flacco of the Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams.

In announcing its award, The Sporting News reported Tagovailoa received 37.3 percent of the votes to win, with Hamlin second at 25.6 percent.

Tua, once considered an MVP candidate, led the NFL in yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt, air yards per throw, was third in QBR among full-time starters, was second in throws that resulted in a first down...and most importantly, played a full healthy season for the first time, god, I think ever.

Now, if we can just get him taking fewer sacks (29) and interceptions (14), we’ll be cooking with gas.

Roll Tua

Several sources have confirmed the initial report, but new OC Ryan Grubb is “under consideration” for the OC job with the Seahawks. There is some smoke to this one, since he is the only Tide coach that has yet to sign his new deal with ‘Bama, and as Brent noticed, he’s not changed his social media stuff to reflect his Alabama position.

Last month, Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb made the move to Tuscaloosa with former Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer. Grubb might already be going back to the Pacific Northwest.

Per a league source, Grubb could be joining new coach Mike Macdonald as offensive coordinator of the Seahawks. While it’s not finalized, Grubb is definitely under consideration for the job.

If it happens, it just does. Josh presumes the passing game coordinator would just be bumped up to OC, and that’s as likely a scenario as any. It is KDB’s offense, after all. I’m far more worried about the impact this would have on the portal. We are still in perilous waters, with about a week left before the end of that magic 30-day vacating period expires...and Alabama has had a lot of good fortune lately with skills players (including inking Williams and Ffrench rethinking the Tide).

Brent thinks the Seahawks are unlikely to go this direction, given the new coach’s pedigree as a defense-first, Harbaugh disciple. But, we shall see.

We’ve taken Greg McElroy to task on these pages, as well as social media, for defending what was very clearly tampering by Iowa with Kadyn Proctor, a breach that McElroy defended as part of the “relationships” you develop.

Well, well, well. The dildo of consequences rarely arrives lubed...and that’s not just egg on your face, GMac:

Iowa is working to self-report a Level III violation regarding impermissible contact with Kadyn Proctor, The Athletic’s Scott Dochterman reported. An assistant coach allegedly sent a text to Proctor while he was at Alabama after a tough game.

After he committed to Iowa, Proctor said the Hawkeyes “hit him up”...

Yep. Tampering, not just “relationships.” So enjoy Iowa City, Kadyn, and we’ll enjoy taking our victory lap.

This is simply awesome, and I’m so glad someone with the resources was able to do it:

Georgia coach Kirby Smart joked that he would like to fly all the coaches who worked under Saban to his new home in Jupiter Island, Florida, bring in a film crew and simply sit around and tell stories about Saban’s legendary career.

This is ESPN’s attempt to do just that, as we talked to 11 members of the Saban coaching tree, viewing the legendary leader through the eyes of the people who know him best.

Saban’s protégés, including Mark Dantonio from their Michigan State days, Jimbo Fisher from their time at LSU and Smart, Mario Cristobal, Lane Kiffin, Dan Lanning, Steve Sarkisian, Mike Locksley and more from Saban’s 17-year run at Alabama, share their most memorable, funny and moving moments and break down what made him one of the greatest coaches of all time.

From Saban’s decision to replace Jalen Hurts with Tua Tagovailoa at halftime of the 2017 national championship game to helping Sarkisian pick up the pieces of his life. We learn what Kiffin did to provoke an epic “ass-chewing,” about Smart’s awkward first interview and Fisher’s shared “West Virginia hillbilly” ties with his former boss/nemesis. We get insight into Saban’s softer side and some blow-by-blow accounts of Saban’s pickup basketball games.

Here’s an excerpt from Lane Kiffin, but these are all worth reading:

“I’d come from the Pete Carroll camp. I wasn’t wired that way, to let the defense win,” said Kiffin, who spent three turbulent but successful seasons as Saban’s offensive coordinator.

So Kiffin had several coaches on his offensive staff present different types of plays, or what one of those assistants recently referred to as “cool plays,” and put them in before practice. Everybody in the offensive staff room knew Saban wouldn’t be pleased.

“We had a really good day on offense, ran some reverses, threw a double pass and had all these touchdowns, and he said that all I was trying to do was win the drill and trick the defense and not help the team,” Kiffin said. “I was like, ‘Isn’t that the point in good-on-good situations on offense, to see if you can move the ball?’

“He was furious.”

His ears ringing from the chewing-out the day before, Kiffin changed it up the next practice.

“Stubborn old Lane, I ran the most generic, basic, under-center offense I could, sort of their old-school offense they ran under Joe Pendry,” Kiffin said. “And the defense killed us. We’d be third-and-8, and I’d have the quarterback under center.”

In the staff meeting afterward, Saban was again miffed and wanted an explanation from Kiffin on why he was going under center on third-and-long and running the ball.

“‘I’m just running what I thought you would want me to run against the defense,’” Kiffin answered. “Again, it was just me being smart-ass me.”

At that point, Saban cleared everybody out of the room except Kiffin, who knew what was coming...

Brent will have much more on the Xs and Os of Kane Wommack’s new defense at Alabama, but it sounds like practice is fairly brutal on the offense...and that’s good to hear.

He said the defensive scheme the coach ran made for difficult situations in practice.

“You’re going to have landmarks as a zone-dropping team, but for him, it’s more vision drop,” Bradley said. “You’re going to play off the quarterback’s eyes, which is tough, because a lot of guys at the college level can’t use their eyes as well as they want, so guys kind of flow or melt to where their eyes are going and turnovers happen, breakups happen.”

Bradley predicted the move to Alabama will work out just fine for Wommack.

“He’s going to make other excited about the day, excited about going to practice,” Bradley said. “Whether you’re in the building or out of the building, he’s always gonna bring the juice.”

Speaking of paying homage to great ones, a new scholarship is being endowed in Eli Gold’s honor. The initial fundraising kicking off event is upcoming, and if you’d like to attend, I can think of few better men to throw a few dollars at.

I finally got to meet Eli at a Christmas party over the Holidays, and he’s a gracious, quiet man and an absolute sweetheart. His voice has been the voice of my Tide fandom, as it is for others, I’m sure. And, weirdly, I think I’ll miss him more than Coach Saban...just not anytime soon, we hope.

Join us for an exciting evening at The Club on Tuesday Feb 20,2024 at 7:00 p.m. This event will recognize Eli Gold and his newly formed scholarship the Eli Gold Scholarship. Eli Gold, the “Voice of the Crimson Tide” since 1989, will be providing remarks about his career in broadcasting and his new scholarship benefitting students at The University of Alabama.

Whether you’re an alumni, student, or fan of The University of Alabama we cordially invite you to attend this event.

And, finally, KDB is going after some beef, managing to swing an OV from 5-star+ LSU DT commit, Thanos (yes, that’s his name).

Besides possession precocious power for his age (he’s an entering Junior in 2024), Stewart has already flashed some fairly sophisticated rush moves from the interior. What a coup it would be to grab this kid from New Orleans.

Hudl has begun disabling embeds, but check out his 2023 highlights. Phenomenal young player.

We’ll be back in a bit with some Points in the Paint, but for now, Roll Tide


Who was your favorite OC of the Saban era?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Applewhite — The Texas Sleeper Agent was paying us back in advance for Colt McCoy
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Coach Mac — RTDB, get to 20 points, and then let the defense take over. Thank god for Mark Ingram.
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    Nuss — Sure, he lost the A&M game singlehandedly, and likely cost the Tide a shot at a three-peat, but he wasn’t bad at all. Look at all the dudes he put in the NFL.
    (3 votes)
  • 30%
    LMFK — The GOAT that brought Alabama into the 21st century, a lot of fun, and a huge pain the ass.
    (318 votes)
  • 64%
    Sark — Nope, THIS was the GOAT. Better schematically and more mature than Kiffin, and hist 2020 season will go down as CFB’s best offense ever.
    (668 votes)
  • 0%
    Locks / Enos — Just like your prom night, go fast and go deep, have fun, but ultimately end with a lot of dissatisfaction.
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Daboll — Dude had the balls to talk Saban into putting Tua in...and it worked, changing Alabama football forever.
    (26 votes)
  • 0%
    Bill O’Brien — His star player won a Heisman quarterback. Checkmate, nerds.
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Tommy Rees — A feather is erotic, but a whole chicken is just kinky
    (2 votes)
1035 votes total Vote Now