By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
The Saban Watch: Nick Saban as the future Browns coach is a rumor that won’t go away.
Instead of dying a natural death, the rumor picks up steam, repeated almost daily in some national media forum.
I have talked to three people who know Saban well and who know his situation at the University of Alabama, and each insists Saban will not leave Tuscaloosa, Ala., for Cleveland.
Now we can add a fourth source with that same belief – Browns and former Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson.
“I can’t see him coming to the NFL. I can see him staying at Alabama and retiring at Alabama. That’s what I can see,” Richardson said after Wednesday’s practice.
“He just has so much put into it. There’s so much there for him. There’s no reason to leave.”
Saban, 61, is preparing his team for the BCS National Championship against Notre Dame on Jan. 7. If Saban wins, it would be his third championship in four years at Alabama and fourth overall including one at Louisiana State.
One of the theories about Saban returning to the NFL is that he might be getting bored collecting college championships and might want to rectify his failed two-year stint in the NFL as coach of the Miami Dolphins. He left the Dolphins in 2006 after seasons of 9-7 and 6-10.
“How can you get tired of winning?” Richardson asked. “How can you get tired of winning national championships. The way he plays the game is at the highest level at their level. So why would you change?
“The way he lives his lifestyle down there, the way he loves playing football. He loves intensive football, where every game counts. One game you might be out. That’s the intensity he loves in every game. Those players are just like robots down there. They know what coach Saban wants and they’re going to do what coach Saban says.”
It might not be the NFL down in Alabama, but it’s close.
“He treats his program like the NFL,” Richardson said. “He makes sure his players are prepared for the game and prepared for the next level.”
The Saban-to-Cleveland rumors are rooted in a couple factors.
Foremost is the belief that Browns owner and University of Tennessee benefactor Jimmy Haslam adored Saban’s work at both LSU and Alabama and is prepared to empty the vault for him. The figures bandied about are $100 million over 10 years – or the equivalent $10 million per. That would exceed the highest reported yearly salary for an NFL coach by about $2 million.
There is also the feeling that while Saban would demand total football authority – something CEO Joe Banner would concede, in Saban’s case – Saban would want someone familiar with him to handle his personnel footwork. That’s allegedly where Mike Lombardi comes in. Lombardi worked as Bill Belichick’s personnel aide when Saban was Belichick’s defensive coordinator from 1991 to ’94. This loose associaton – that Saban would be any more attracted to Cleveland simply if Lombardi were involved -- has been deemed fictitious by some sources.
Finally, there are some who believe that Saban might make an exception to his fondness for warm weather if he could return to his geographical roots. He is a native of West Virginia and played and then coached at Kent State.
Asked if he’s buying the Saban-to-Cleveland rumors, Richardson said, “I don’t believe it. Rumors are rumors. I don’t buy into it. That’s one thing he taught me, (not) buying into rumors.
“It’s something that happens every year. You’d think people would get tired of it just hearing Coach Saban is going to leave. And he winds up winning another national championship.
“I’d be very shocked, very shocked … I don’t see that happening.”
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