Nick Saban's days as the Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach are over—at least they should be if his team is able to defeat the No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Jan. 7 to win the BCS National Championship.
There oftentimes comes a time in one's professional life where there's nothing left to prove. In hip-hop, it's called the "drops mic" phenomenon. Where you've done so much to destroy the competition that there's nothing more to prove and you can walk away knowing you're the best man in the room.
Saban will reach that point in college football if Alabama wins on Jan. 7. He'll have captured four national championships, won five BCS bowl games and developed a drove of players who went on to rousing success in the NFL.
With another national title, Saban will also cement his place as the second-greatest coach in Alabama history. People oftentimes forget that Saban took over a program that was in absolute ruin before his arrival. Mike Shula and Dennis Franchione, Saban's two predecessors, had essentially warped the program into also-ran status with a reputation for NCAA violations and unranked finishes.
It took Saban six years to rework the Tide program into one of the biggest sports dynasties of the early 21st century. That puts him in a position of power with Alabama and puts fans in a situation where they couldn't possibly be upset if he left.
He's already been at Alabama longer than any other job in his head coaching career. Saban spent just five years at Michigan State and LSU before moving onto greener pastures, and we know how his two-season stint with the Miami Dolphins ended.
In other words: Saban is a coaching nomad, a guy who's always looking for the next, best opportunity and jumping whenever it becomes available.
There won't be a next, best opportunity in college. At Alabama, Saban essentially has every football coach's dream. He has a never-ending supply of great players, a massive salary and carte blanche to pretty much do and say whatever he pleases.
To extend the hip-hop analogy from earlier, another national championship would put Saban in the same rarefied air as Jay-Z when he wrote "What More Can I Say" from 2003's The Black Album. Like the Brooklyn Nets part-owner, there will be nothing left to prove for Saban in college football—other than possibly matching Bear Bryant and Fielding H. Yost for the most national championships in history.
Even that distinction seems relatively hollow. Yost and Bryant both dominated in completely different eras, and there aren't many pundits out there who would place Saban behind anyone among this era's top coaches. He already should be considered the best coach among his peers, so the six national championship dream seems rather arcane, no?
On the other hand, Saban's legacy in the NFL would leave a sour taste in just about anyone's mouth. He took the Alabama job after vehemently denying interest, leaving the Dolphins stranded and many wondering whether Saban could ever get another NFL job.
After his work at Alabama, that's no longer a question. Just about every team will have Saban somewhere on its wish list, and another national championship victory puts him in a perfect situation to move back into the NFL.
Saban is 61. He's older than every current NFL head coach other than Tom Coughlin. While Saban certainly isn't showing any signs of a decline with that age, it matters. His time to prove himself in the NFL is rapidly evaporating, and there are enough openings that this seems like an obvious jump point.
Saban isn't going to do anything crazy like leave for the Kansas City Chiefs. However, there are vacancies in Chicago, San Diego and Cleveland that should all be intriguing
The Bears job is particularly interesting. Lovie Smith was fired after going 10-6, and there is a stable of talent in Chicago that should transition well into the future. According to Football Outsiders, the Bears had the best run and pass defense in the NFL during the regular season. That fact alone that should pique the interest of the defensive-minded coach.
Obviously, Chicago has to offer Saban the gig. But if his representatives let it be known that there is interest, it's unlikely that Chicago could find a better replacement for Smith elsewhere.
Saban essentially saved Alabama. Could he do the same for an NFL franchise? I don't know. But he should definitely give it one last shot.
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