Nick Saban

USA Today

Nick Saban’s Legacy

Can the GOAT really get beaten like that on the biggest stage?

January 08, 2019 - 11:00 am

Last night is going to leave a mark on Nick Saban. A week at the lake house watching the Weather Channel and smashing Little Debbie’s isn’t going to erase that beating. 

And here’s a serious question: can the greatest of all time really get beaten like that on the biggest stage?

Going into last night, it was essentially fact that Nick Saban was the greatest college coach of all time. But can you really be the GOAT and get absolutely wrecked like that in a national title game?

Because it’s not like he scotch taped his way through the season and managed to find a way to win 14 games to get to that spot. This was the greatest team in Alabama history and that’s a history that has a lot of good teams. He has the Heisman runner-up at quarterback. He has at least three NFL running backs in his backfield. He has elite talent all over the roster.

Remember when this team was so good, people thought they could give the Buffalo Bills a game? Not just give them a game, but maybe beat them? Yeah, me neither. 

Oh, and speaking of the Bills, the last time Nick Saban lost a game that badly, it was at the hands of the Buffalo Bills when JP Losman lit him up for a 21-0 win back in 2006. 

Nick Saban and Alabama were exposed last night. Everywhere you thought they had a strength, Clemson was stronger. Clemson was more physical, Clemson was tougher, Clemson was smarter, Clemson was more athletic. Clemson was more composed.

A true freshman absolutely destroyed Nick Saban’s bread and butter, his defense. Nick Saban is a defensive backs coach by trade and Trevor Lawrence, Justyn Ross, and company had them on roller-skates all night. 

For a while, I couldn’t tell if that was Nick Saban’s Alabama or Mike Shula’s Alabama. 

It wasn’t just about the defense not able to get off the field on third down. They dominated you everywhere. You lost by four touchdowns. That’s not just third downs. You can throw the stats out the window on that. 

Maybe you’d thinking that it was close based on the stats, but you’d be completely wrong. If you’re looking at the box score and trying to argue that the game was close, you’re desperate. And Nick was desperate all night. 

Alabama v. Clemson last night was like Alabama v. Notre Dame six years ago. Only this time, Bama was in the role of Notre Dame. And Notre Dame this year did a better job against Clemson than Alabama did. 

For the final three quarters of that game, Alabama had no business being on the same field as Clemson. Seriously. That’s how huge the gap was.

And it wasn’t just about Trevor Lawrence outplaying Tua. 

Or Clemson winning the battle in the trenches, on both sides of the trenches. 

Or Clemson’s receivers making Bama’s secondary look like amateurs. 

The biggest gap between the two teams was between the head coaches. 

Dabo Swinney coached circles around Nick Saban. Dabo seemed to know everything that would happen before it happened and Saban had no idea what was happening.

And let’s deconstruct this a little more. Nick Saban is a freakish half from Tua away from having lost two straight national title games in embarrassing fashion. 

It’s easy to forget now, but going to Tua last year was a desperate roll of the dice. It came up perfectly, but that wasn’t some brilliantly crafted game plan to keep his best player on the bench all season and only break him out when they were in huge trouble against Georgia.

That was desperation. Just like last night’s fake field goal was desperation. And embarrassing. 

And speaking of fakes, Saban and Alabama might’ve been an idiotic Georgia fake punt away from not even making the playoffs. 

And I’m not really interested in hearing the arguments about how Saban’s coaching staff is the weakest that it’s been in a long time. 

First off, the guy has a coaching staff of about 300. How many former head coaches does he have around him as coordinators, assistants, advisors, consultants, and whatever job titles he wants to hand out? If one guy isn’t doing his job, there are another forty who can take his place. 

And secondly, I didn’t hear that argument or complaint about the staff throughout the season. Don’t come in here now that the head coach got pantsed and blame the assistants. 

This isn’t on the coaching staff. Sure, Mike Locksley didn’t exactly dial up a masterpiece on offense last night, but nobody was saying he sucked when he won the Broyles Award as THE TOP ASSISTANT IN THE COUNTRY a few weeks ago.  

So that argument that this is the weakest coaching staff sure feels like an after-the-fact argument from people who want to cover themselves for getting this Bama team so wrong. And I get it. Because everyone got them so wrong. And got Saban so wrong this year. 

Remember when Nick Saban was the Nicktator? Just a machine who rattled off win after win? The Nick Saban who showed up in the semifinal and the title game wasn’t that. This Nick Saban was unhinged, smashing headsets, f-bombing officials, and losing his mind at players…WHEN THEY WERE BEATING OKLAHOMA.

A lot of coaches get criticized for how they handle themselves on the sideline, but for some reason, Saban always slides on that. But he looked like a lunatic repeatedly in the last two games. 

And did you see him in the postgame press conference? He started that off with his arms crossed, just looking like a beaten man. Which he was. I’m not sure when Nick Saban is more miserable: when he wins or when he loses. Call it a tie for last.

I’m not saying that Alabama is finished or that they’re going back to where they were in the Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione Era. Shoot, they could be right back here again next year.

Just know that last night: 

Nick Saban wasn’t the best head coach in that game. Dabo Swinney was.

Nick Saban wasn’t the best defensive mind in that game. Brent Venables was.

So can you still be the greatest of all time when you weren’t even close to the greatest last night?