If Alabama football head coach Nick Saban ever is to jump back into the NFL waters that drowned him the last time he attempted to swim, the New York Giants job is one of the few that he would be interested in.
It’s already been well reported that Saban was in talks to be the Giants head coach before (thanks Tom Arnold, you’re a regular Frank Deford), but now that Saban has an ironclad and extremely pricey deal with the Crimson Tide it’s widely thought that Saban will stay in the college ranks.
Two things, however, could lure Saban back to the NFL, specifically the Giants: power and pride.
The NY Post more or less dismissed the idea of Saban jumping to the Giants recently because of John Mara’s preference that there is a separation between GM and coach (Mara also said he would never say never about total control if the ‘right candidate was there.’).
Saban would seemingly want full control.
That said, if Saban was assured a working relationship like the one Patriots coach Bill Belichick has with Nick Caserio (who is not the GM but officially titled the Patriots ‘Director of player personnel’), he might relinquish some of his demands. Saban is the biggest, most successful branch of the Belichick coaching tree, having been Belichick’s defensive coordinator in Cleveland in the 1990s. He and Belichick remain close and Saban has successfully emulated what Belichick has done in the NFL in the college ranks at Alabama.
The way it works in New England is that Belichick has final say over all personnel moves. Belichick is the GM without the title, and Caserio simply does the dirty work. Interestingly, Caserio is the leading candidate for the Giants vacant GM job. The Giants will not hire a coach until they have a “GM” in place, so if Caserio is hired – expect his first phone call to be to Tuscaloosa.
Saban would also be the first call that Scott Pioli, another Belichick disciple, would make if he were to land the Giants gig. Pioli is also a top candidate for the GM job.
Belichick has consistently revered the Giants organization over the years, so much so that the emotionless grouch cried on camera during his final visit to the old Giants Stadium. When someone from his coaching tree asks about a certain job in the NFL, Belichick typically gives them a thumbs up or thumbs down, and “his guys” are well aware that the Giants gig is one of the plush jobs not only in the NFL but in all of pro sports. Saban surely recognizes that.
As for Saban’s pride, he knows full well the narrative surrounding him across the country. He’s a great college mind, but in the big boy world of the NFL he’s a failure. This thought reached a fever pitch and was debated nationally earlier this year when Bill Simmons (arguably the biggest name sports writer in the country) called Saban a coward for not wanting another shot at the big time.
“He’s the guy who plays Madden on rookie level winning the Super Bowl,” Simmons joked. “Come to the NFL, let’s see what kind of coach he is. When he plays golf, does he play from the pink tees? Come to the NFL, let’s see how good you are.”
Saban loves to prove his many detractors wrong, and at age 66 – this is probably one of the last chances he’ll have at landing a top-notch job in the league.
And as for that small little detail about money … how many millions is enough for Saban? Asked if he thought he was worth his $11 million salary at the start of this season, Saban replied: “Probably not. But I don’t really do this for money, never really have. I started out in this profession making $8,000 a year, and that was after two years of being a graduate assistant and making nothing, going to graduate school and working, loading trucks at night and my wife worked in the registrar’s office. We were happy when my dad brought us a case of peas, so we could have a side dish when we’re eating. We worked hard through the years. I don’t think it’s up to me to determine what the value is or what the market is for coaches, or what value I have created here for this institution and this place.”
Saban has a whopping $26.9 million buyout in his contract, but everyone must remember that this is the NFL and this is the New York market we’re talking about. Big money has never been a problem for either entity, so Saban to the Giants can in no way be ruled out.