Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Return of the King?

My last post is now somewhat confirmed, as Skip Bertman has said that Michigan officials have asked for permission to speak to Les Miles. Skip has given them that permission, so long as they wait until after Saturday. I'm now almost unwilling to even consider the possibility that Miles is not leaving.

That leaves us wondering, who is going to be the next head coach at LSU. Right now, the message boards are lighting up with 3 names above all: 1) Jack Del Rio, 2) Nick Saban, and 3) Steve Spurrier.

Wait, what was that second one again? Nick Saban? Surely I jest?

No, I do not. In fact, I would say that the Saban name has been the most mentioned among supposed insiders with supposed inside information.

The most common story is that there are several important LSU people in the process who are pushing for us to pursue Saban. This is allegedly not exactly being discouraged by Saban's agent Jimmy Sexton. The fact also remains that Saban has no buyout in his contract with Alabama, and he did this by negotiation. Meaning, he really wanted the option of an easy way out of Bama.

When this first started surfacing a couple weeks ago, I thought it was absolute foolishness. It seemed ludicrous on multiple levels. LSU fans weren't that fond of him any more, and such a move would further hurt Saban's reputation as an unprincipled mercenary. But now I'm thinking it's just crazy enough to be true. After all, did anything that's happened this year in college football really go by the book?

Now, just because there is some outside possibility that it's true does not mean it's a good thing. While I'm not willing to take the Saban-to-LSU rumors seriously enough to discuss them, my discussion will focus on why I think it's a bad idea.

First, correct or incorrect, Nick Saban has a reputation now for being an unprincipled mercenary, as mentioned above. He is, therefore, damaged goods. He simply does not have the cachet he had when he left LSU, but we'd have to pay him a lot more to get him now than we did to keep him then.

Second, while I think Saban is a very good coach, I do not think he is an exceptional coach. I think there are many people around who are just as good at being head coach as is Nick Saban. In fact, I think Saban's the 2nd best coach in the state of Alabama. He's the highest paid coach in college football, but not the best coach in college football, and we'd have to give him a raise to hire him.

Third, Saban's reputation for being difficult to work with is legendary. In an age when coordinators are at least as important as the head man who hires them, I think Saban is going to have a problem moving forward, wherever he is, with hiring quality coordinators. This is a problem that Bama is having right now, according to many. At LSU, he found stability with Jimbo Fischer and Will Muschamp, but those guys aren't returning. I'm not sure he can find coordinators that good anymore who will stay with him for more than a year or two. He also ran through position coaches like a man runs through socks and underwear. This takes a toll on a program.

Fourth, it is well reported that Saban lost the team during the 2004 season, one which can be characterized as a major disappointment. Reports are the team spontaneously erupted in applause when it was announced that he was leaving. There are still a few players from that team here now. Not to mention, the Saban personality traits that caused him to lose that team still exist. I think he's the kind of coach whose life span at any particular place is limited. He can whip a program into shape (I think), but he will also kill the morale around the football offices and eventually wear the whole program out, including the players, who will tire of his shenanigans.

While there is a certain amount of deliciousness in thinking about this (it would, after all, be a great story), I really hope LSU does not seriously pursue this. I would prefer going in another direction.


gerry dorsey said...

i've heard this nonsense, and i can't imagine there being any truth to it. he would burn so many bridges with so many people, maybe most importantly recruits.

however, you speak of deliciousness, and i say as a bama fan, a teensy part of me would love to watch tigah nation roll over like a cheap hooker and go right back to loving him. these the oh so creative folks who brought you such catch phrases/tshirts as "saban is a douche," "saban sucks," and "nick satan" just to name a few.

Anonymous said...
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Richard Pittman said...

While I think you'd definitely see a lot of that, don't believe even for a second that LSU fans would be united in support of this move. There are many who, like me, believe it was for the best for LSU to part ways with Saban in 2004.

Rehiring Saban would divide the fans quite a bit, unless of course he won a lot of games last year.

Richard Pittman said...

Mis-typed. That should read "unless of course he wins a lot of game next year." It's still early in the morning.

Anonymous said...

Gerry, you forgot, "$ABAN"


jimherehi said...

I just don't see Saban being offered the job at LSU. Jack Del Rio seems like a good choice. I even like Steve Spurrier. Either one would fit in well here.
Saban is just too confrontational. Too many undesirable traits.

gerry dorsey said...

of course he'd win people over if he won, but what about the next 10 months? besides that, all i heard from lsu fans upon his hire was "how can a recruit ever trust him since he'll obviously bail out in a couple years." whether its true at this point or not, it would definitely be true should he jump ship again.

even as i'm typing this i wonder why i'm wasting my time. not gonna happen.

Poseur said...

I didn't like Saban when he was hired but sort of came around due to that whole national title thing. I never particularly liked him, and I wasn't sorry to see him go. I certainly don't want him back.

He is a good football coach. But he also can't work with others, always drops inexplicable games (seriously, are LSU fans upset with Miles for losing to the Hogs after years of Saban?), blames all of his failings on others, and seemingly burns bridges everywhere he goes. There's a reason he only sticks around for a few years at each place.

It's like an old girlfriend. There's a reason you broke up.

As for Del Rio, I am EXTREMELY reluctant to get a pro coach. It's a different skill set. Spurrier is in his last years and I don't want to fund his retirement. None of those big names exicte me, but Del Rio is the least objectionable. Those are the kind of hires desgined to generate headlines, but not really thinking about the program.

Can we get Rodriguez? Or, shudder to think, Tuberville?

gerry dorsey said...

contrary to the image my fanbase portrays, i'm not being arrogant, but do you really think rich rod is going anywhere??? what is the upside to him going from wvu to lsu??

Richard Pittman said...

It is my understanding that Rich Rodriguez's contract extension included a killer buyout that we will not be able to touch. Could be wrong though. I think he'd be an excellent candidate, however.

Anonymous said...

What kind of buyout does Miles have? We could "transfer" the buyout money to WVU.


Poseur said...

I honestly don't think Rodriguez would leave WVU. My question was whether we could get him. He's one hell of a coach. But I think LSU is in the sort of position now to dream of just about any coach on the market. This is a big time program which has one of the top high school football recruiting bases all to itself.

PurpleTiger006 said...

This whole Saban thing is ridiculous. I mean, why would anyone with any sort of intelligence want to bring in a coach that is going to cost at least $4 million, when there are perfectly good candidates you could get for half of that. Let it be. Just like I said on Dorsey's blog, "Move On!"

I for one do NOT think this would be a good move. He is at Bama for now. Let it be.

I really like the coach from Cincinatti. I don't know how he would fare in the SEC, but I like him.

Jeffrey Macloud said...

I wonder if LSU hasn't entered that elite program status where the school just won't accept hiring an up-n-comer anymore - sort of like what some folks say about Michigan, Notre Dame, etc. Has the program gotten to the point where they'll only accept a proven coach with a deep resume (which translates of course to $$)?

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