Offseason Thread: When Saban Retires -- Who?

4Q Basket Case

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Nov 8, 2004
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It's the offseason, and I don't want to talk about white helmets or red pants.

So when that sad day comes and Nick Saban heads to Lake Burton, who do you think should be the next Alabama Head Coach?

There are no perfect options. Hard to believe it now, but even Saban wasn’t riskless when he was hired in 2007 – he had a reputation as being hard to deal with, and forever running to the next job. And there was that unfortunate incident where he said he wasn’t coming to Alabama, then did.

So who among a list of imperfect options would you choose?

Generally speaking, the best chance for continuing the success of a legend in any organization, not just a college football team, is to hire someone from within. Problem there is I don’t think anyone looks at any member of the current staff and says, “He’s the one.”

So the next best thing is someone who has been Sabanized at an earlier point, bought into The Process, and has proven he can execute it, having generated success on his own.

Only one name stands out to me, and that’s Lane Kiffin.

He’s an undeniably visionary offensive coach, a good recruiter, and coming around on the defensive side, at least enough to acknowledge that it’s a good idea not to give up 30+ points a game.

No, he’s not riskless. If he hasn’t matured out of the off-field shenanigans, he could embarrass us. And he still has a streak of smartass punk. Due diligence on his off-field behavior would be huge here.

Billy Napier is another possibility, though it’s too early to tell for sure yet. He took a struggling Louisiana Lafayette program and turned it into a Top 20 team in his third and fourth years…a promising beginning. But it’s not the SEC. We’ll have to see how he does at Florida.

In addition to alienating everyone he ever met, Jeremy Pruitt coached himself out of contention at UTe. Dabo is looking like he’s crashing and burning on a number of fronts. Jimbo Fisher is a good recruiter, but forever under-achieves his talent, and doesn’t win enough to overlook his grating personality.

I’m still not sold that Mario Cristobal’s success at Oregon wasn’t part Pac-12 weakness and part Nike money. Plus, I doubt he’d leave Miami. Similar with Lincoln Riley – not sure the source of a lot of his success wasn’t a weak Big 12 where defense is optional, and I don’t think he’d leave USCw. At least no time soon.

After Saban, the next best coaches in college football are Ryan Day and Kirby Smart, neither of whom do I think would leave their current gigs. Even though I acknowledge that they’re probably better coaches than Kiffin (certainly more proven), I don't think they're realistic options.

So I’m going with Kiffin. If due diligence discovers that he hasn’t changed his off-field behavior, just gotten better at concealing it, I’m going with Napier, fully understanding that he’s much more of a roll of the dice.

What say you? Disagree with Kiffin all you want, but if you do, please name somebody who would actually leave their current job, would be better than Kiffin, and why you think that.
 

buckeyeFB_

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Jun 24, 2019
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The tough part about predicting something like this is that no one knows when Saban actually will retire.

Some guys who may seem like potential realistic candidates right now may not be potential realistic candidates when Saban actually does retire -- some of these guys might fall off, while others may land jobs in the meantime that aren't worth leaving.

Similarly, there will be some guys who don't currently seem like potential realistic candidates, but they may become potential realistic candidates when Saban actually does retire.
 

colbysullivan

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Dec 12, 2007
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The tough part about predicting something like this is that no one knows when Saban actually will retire.

Some guys who may seem like potential realistic candidates right now may not be potential realistic candidates when Saban actually does retire -- some of these guys might fall off, while others may land jobs in the meantime that aren't worth leaving.

Similarly, there will be some guys who don't currently seem like potential realistic candidates, but they may become potential realistic candidates when Saban actually does retire.
Yep, the narrative used to be Dabo was the only logical choice, but now there’s no way in hell we’d hire him (thank goodness).
 

Con

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Dec 19, 2006
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Sigh, I’m getting too old for this…

I really just don’t want to think about it. That being said, Sark with Pruitt as DC would be formidable. Dave Aranda might be a name to watch out for as well. Napier has potential, as does Cristobal.
I was able to hear him speak at the coaching clinic a few weeks ago and he is impressive. He is still early in his head coaching tenure, but he seems to be on the right track. I think Kiffin would be one of the few with the right attitude to deal with the pressure of following Coach Saban though, so I would make him my back up plan.
 
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Generally speaking, the best chance for continuing the success of a legend in any organization, not just a college football team, is to hire someone from within. Problem there is I don’t think anyone looks at any member of the current staff and says, “He’s the one.”…
Someone’s been reading his Jim Collins. The codicil to that rule of thumb in business is that the culture has to have fully become a manifestation of the Level 5 leader’s vision in this regard. So, the person taking over has to be literally plug and play because the culture is so strong that it will send out antibodies to kill anything inconsistent with it. If that’s the case with Alabama football (which actually means we need the entire athletic department, not just football, to be built in this mold), then yes, an internal hire irrespective of HC experience could theoretically succeed. The question is whether all the conditions precedent exist.

the next best thing is someone who has been Sabanized at an earlier point, bought into The Process, and has proven he can execute it, having generated success on his own…

..I’m going with Kiffin. If due diligence discovers that he hasn’t changed his off-field behavior, just gotten better at concealing it, I’m going with Napier, fully understanding that he’s much more of a roll of the dice…
If the conditions precedent do not all exist, then I’m hard-pressed to disagree. However, other than Kiffin, if Greg Byrne had to make a hire RIGHT NOW, Mel Tucker probably is the best fit of any realistic candidate (ruling out Smart and Day) under these criteria:
  • Former Saban staffer - check
  • Been Sabanized - check
  • Success at a P5 school by the program’s standards - check (small sample size though)
  • Knows how to handle himself on camera - check check (see Gameday interview October 30, 2021)
  • Bonus - a black head coach at Alabama. Check check check

Two to five years from now, who knows? Sark, Napier, Curt Cignetti, hell Butch Jones; any of them might meet the criteria; but right now, it’s a universe of two…
 

deliveryman35

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Jul 26, 2003
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I really like Dave Aranda, but not sure he would be the right fit. I’m reserving judgment on Billy Napier until we see what he can do in Gainesville. IF he can do well there and challenge Georgia, then I think his stock will continue to skyrocket and he could become a serious contender for the job. Could we possibly go the NFL route again? I really think Saban has 4-5 yrs left in the tank and the coaching landscape will change A LOT in that time period.
 

colbysullivan

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Dec 12, 2007
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I really like Dave Aranda, but not sure he would be the right fit. I’m reserving judgment on Billy Napier until we see what he can do in Gainesville. IF he can do well there and challenge Georgia, then I think his stock will continue to skyrocket and he could become a serious contender for the job. Could we possibly go the NFL route again? I really think Saban has 4-5 yrs left in the tank and the coaching landscape will change A LOT in that time period.
That’s why I suggested Aranda. I think he might have what it takes and seems to be doing things the right way. We’ll see.
 
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Good suggestions on both Aranda and Tucker.

Even though he hasn’t been Sabanized, I also thought of Matt Ruhle, assuming he’d leave the NFL.
I know this might not be fair, but I’d be very reluctant to take anyone who played or coached at Penn State during the era when Sandusky’s actions should have been known to anyone on the inside…
 

Patton

1st Team
Nov 10, 2021
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It's the offseason, and I don't want to talk about white helmets or red pants.

So when that sad day comes and Nick Saban heads to Lake Burton, who do you think should be the next Alabama Head Coach?

There are no perfect options. Hard to believe it now, but even Saban wasn’t riskless when he was hired in 2007 – he had a reputation as being hard to deal with, and forever running to the next job. And there was that unfortunate incident where he said he wasn’t coming to Alabama, then did.

So who among a list of imperfect options would you choose?

Generally speaking, the best chance for continuing the success of a legend in any organization, not just a college football team, is to hire someone from within. Problem there is I don’t think anyone looks at any member of the current staff and says, “He’s the one.”

So the next best thing is someone who has been Sabanized at an earlier point, bought into The Process, and has proven he can execute it, having generated success on his own.

Only one name stands out to me, and that’s Lane Kiffin.

He’s an undeniably visionary offensive coach, a good recruiter, and coming around on the defensive side, at least enough to acknowledge that it’s a good idea not to give up 30+ points a game.

No, he’s not riskless. If he hasn’t matured out of the off-field shenanigans, he could embarrass us. And he still has a streak of smartass punk. Due diligence on his off-field behavior would be huge here.

Billy Napier is another possibility, though it’s too early to tell for sure yet. He took a struggling Louisiana Lafayette program and turned it into a Top 20 team in his third and fourth years…a promising beginning. But it’s not the SEC. We’ll have to see how he does at Florida.

In addition to alienating everyone he ever met, Jeremy Pruitt coached himself out of contention at UTe. Dabo is looking like he’s crashing and burning on a number of fronts. Jimbo Fisher is a good recruiter, but forever under-achieves his talent, and doesn’t win enough to overlook his grating personality.

I’m still not sold that Mario Cristobal’s success at Oregon wasn’t part Pac-12 weakness and part Nike money. Plus, I doubt he’d leave Miami. Similar with Lincoln Riley – not sure the source of a lot of his success wasn’t a weak Big 12 where defense is optional, and I don’t think he’d leave USCw. At least no time soon.

After Saban, the next best coaches in college football are Ryan Day and Kirby Smart, neither of whom do I think would leave their current gigs. Even though I acknowledge that they’re probably better coaches than Kiffin (certainly more proven), I don't think they're realistic options.

So I’m going with Kiffin. If due diligence discovers that he hasn’t changed his off-field behavior, just gotten better at concealing it, I’m going with Napier, fully understanding that he’s much more of a roll of the dice.

What say you? Disagree with Kiffin all you want, but if you do, please name somebody who would actually leave their current job, would be better than Kiffin, and why you think that.
Just 1 question. Please explain to me HOW Ryan Day is a better football Coach than Lane Kiffin?
 
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Tide Rev

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My prediction is Coach leaves after the next NC or 5 years whichever comes first. I am sure Miss Terry wants some years with him without football. But it is just a guess. Then, I think Byrne will hire the right guy. I would not want to be “that guy” though to follow Coach Saban. That has to be a consideration for some of these guys.
 

DawgAlum2054

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Dec 20, 2018
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The good news about Alabama is that it’s a destination many coaches would leave their current job for.

Sam Pittman currently has me intrigued and so does Aranda

while Kiffin is a good coach, he would concern me as the face of my program.
 

colbysullivan

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Just 1 question. Please explain to me HOW Ryan Day is a better football Coach than Lane Kiffin?
I don’t know if he’s a better coach than Kiffin per se, but he seems to be a genuinely good guy and does things the right way. Kiffin just seems like a pot stirrer to me. “Get your popcorn ready…”
 

GrayTide

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I agree, based on what we know now, Kiffin would be the logical choice. I think the good news is, CNS will likely be around 2-3 more years after this season so the names mentioned all have a couple of years to prove themselves. My maybe list, in no particular order would include. Sarkisian, Aranda, Napier, Shane Beamer, Mike Elko (1st year at Duke), and Cristobol.
 
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dWarriors88

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Jan 4, 2009
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It’ll never happen. Neither side will even consider it IMO.
If Alabama AD wants to continue the winning tradition, they'll consider any option. A year ago I never would have thought Brent Venables would be replacing Lincoln Riley, after CLR ran to USC. It's difficult to predict the future obviously, but as far as off-season message board bait goes, Kirby Smart is probably the best option to go with. But if that's too much to stomach for some of yall, Lane Kiffin and Arranda would do well too.
 

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