Although Alabama’s Nick Saban is arguably the best college coach of his generation, he is still disappointed by his two years in the NFL and how he abruptly left the Miami Dolphins to return to the college ranks.
Saban’s departure was a blow to a Dolphins organization that had invested heavily in luring him away from LSU where he had won the national championship in 2003. His time in the NFL showed some promise but after months of being linked to the Alabama job, in late December of 2006 Saban infamously said that “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”
Weeks later, Saban left South Beach for Tuscaloosa.
The Dolphins have made the playoffs just once since Saban left and are on their third head coach (four counting interim head coach Todd Bowles who coached the final three games of the 2011 season).
Two lackluster years in which the Dolphins had a 15-17 record and failed to make the playoffs was enough of a dalliance in the NFL for Saban. What followed for Saban at Alabama is well known including four bowl wins, two national championships and a chance for a third title next month against No. 1 Notre Dame.
But there is an inkling of regret from a coach who is known for not making excuses or dwelling on the ghosts of his past, and it stems from his abrupt NFL exit.
“I think the biggest thing was probably not handling the way I left very well,” Saban told “The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz” on 790 The Ticket in Miami. “That’s always been a thing with me that I’ve never felt good about it. The one thing that I don’t have any regret about was the relationship that I had with the players and the job that I did for the Dolphins and [former majority owner] Mr. [Wayne] Huizenga. We all make mistakes; we all learn about ourselves. As much as I respected the players and the organization, the things we tried to do there, this has been a good thing for my family to be here.”
When the Dolphins hired Saban, they thought they were getting the equivalent of what the Dallas Cowboys got two decades ago with the hiring of Jimmy Johnson -- a college coach who could bring energy and savvy to a team that had floundered the year before. Saban did effectively build a core in Miami and not surprisingly had solid drafts but college coaching always seemed the best fit for his personality.
Which is why a return to the NFL doesn’t seem to be in the picture for Saban who seems content to keep rolling with the Tide.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing here right now. I’m getting old now. I don’t think we’ve got too many moves left in us,” Saban said. “You develop a lot of relationships and loyalties to the players you recruit and the players you have on the team and the people you have in the organization. I don’t think it’s really fair to leave. I regretted when I left LSU because I left a lot of relationships there. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay here for a long, long time and will be able to continue to have success.”
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