Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Forget about Nick Saban leaving Alabama for the Browns or any other NFL teams.
Fresh off his third BCS Championship Game win in four years, Saban on Tuesday delivered not only a strong statement but perhaps his first elaborate explanation whey he intends to stay away from the NFL.
It may have been the same message delivered Jimmy Haslam previously, prompting the University of Tennessee benefactor and new Browns owner to look elsewhere for his first NFL coach.
At the post-mortem press conference wrapping up Alabama’s 42-14 victory over Notre Dame on Monday night, Saban at first was agitated that reporters in south Florida questioned him about the possibility of leaving for the NFL.
“How many times you think I’ve been asked this question?” Saban began. “How many times do you think I’ve been asked to put it to rest? And I’ve put it to rest. And you continue to ask it. So I’m going to say it today.”
Saban was roundly criticized for his two-year stint as Miami Dolphins coach in 2005-06. The Dolphins were 15-17 under him and Saban has since been crucified for choosing Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees when he selected his future quarterback. Brees was coming off major shoulder surgery and reportedly did not pass the physical exam given by Miami team doctors.
“I think, you know, somewhere along the line you’ve got to choose,” Saban said. “You learn a lot from the experiences of what you’ve done in the past. I came to the Miami Dolphins, what, eight years ago, for the best owner, the best person, that I’ve ever had the opportunity to work for. And in the two years that I was here, had a very, very difficult time thinking that I could impact the organization in the way that I wanted to or the way that I was able to in college, and it was very difficult for me.
“Because there’s a lot of parity in the NFL. There’s a lot of rules in the NFL, and people say that you can draft the players that you want to draft. You can draft the player that’s there when you pick. It might not be the player you need, it might not be the player you want.
“You’ve got salary cap issues. We had them here. You got to have a quarterback. We had a chance to get one here. Sort of messed it up. So I didn’t feel like I could impact the team the same way that I could as a college coach, in terms of affecting people’s life personally, helping them develop careers in graduating from school, off the field, by helping them develop as football players. And there’s a lot of self-gratification in all that.
“So I kind of learn through that experience that maybe this is where I belong, and I’m really happy and at peace with all of that. So, no matter how many times I say that, you’all don’t believe me. So I don’t know why I even keep talking about it.”
Saban, 61, is believed to be the highest-paid coach in college with a reported base salary of $5 million a year. He also won a BCS Championship at Lousiana State University, giving him four titles in eight years at two colleges.
Haslam’s coaching search is kind of at a standstill as he and CEO Joe Banner decide where to turn next.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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