Alabama head coach Nick Saban has achieved a status where each and every move, including the dismissal of Lane Kiffin before the title game, goes undisputed.
Few ever reach a professional status where their decisions go unchecked, regardless of the timing or how outrageous they may seem.
It is obvious that Nick Saban has attained that rarest of tiers.
The latest maneuver of The Process Saban often preaches has been to jettison offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin just one week before Alabama faces Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Not one person, me included, has publicly questioned if Saban made the smart move here. This, despite the fact that Alabama will now go into the title game with a true freshman quarterback, Jalen Hurts, receiving play calls from an offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, that has not called a game for the Tide this season.
There is something to be said for becoming familiar with one voice during a season, and that is what Hurts had done with Kiffin. Now, in the biggest game of his life, a new sound will travel into Hurts’ ear as he tries to outwit a Clemson defense that just pitched Ohio State its first shutout since 1993.
Yet, as Saban has proven over the years, including his hiring of Kiffin in the first place, he knows what is best for his team and will only put players in what he believes to be the best possible position to win.
The reasons for Kiffin’s early departure all make sense: he was distracted by working double duty as the new head coach at Florida Atlantic, the Alabama offense didn’t exactly light it up in the semifinal against Washington, and Kiffin’s passive aggressive insubordination while discussing his boss with the media had grown thin.
There are a lot of successful coaches – Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, and Jimbo Fisher, for example – that have also won national championships, and yet if they were to make the same move as Saban would likely thought to be crazy. This is Saban, though, and his winning ways now transcend any possible criticism.
Who he parted ways also helps Saban’s cause. For all the good he did for the Alabama offense in his three years in Tuscaloosa, Kiffin has a history of burning bridges at other stops during his coaching career. His in-your-face attitude and constant trolling of opponents and their fans starkly contrasts the buttoned-down professionalism Saban expects from everyone involved with his program.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick might be the closest figure in today’s sporting landscape that comes close to the stature Saban has amassed and the respect he receives (and richly deserves). Belichick consistently trades away players who seem to be near or at their prime, but that the future Hall-of-Fame coach identifies as a little more than disposable assets. That system has brought six Super Bowl appearances and four titles to Foxborough. It is little coincidence that Saban served as Belichick’s defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns for four seasons. Both exhibit an unwavering belief in their respective Processes.
Saban’s latest maneuver could blow up in his face if Alabama’s offense sputters and the Crimson Tide lose to Clemson. Though, given his track record, it would be more shocking if it didn’t work out perfectly.