James Jones Column: Is Nick Saban close to retirement?

Published 6:48 am Friday, September 15, 2023

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Is the Nick Saban dynasty coming to an end at Alabama?

According to family sources, Saban plans to retire after this season. After Alabama’s 34-24 loss to Texas last weekend, talk around the state centered around Saban’s successor.

Even Yea Alabama’s Aaron Suttles, a co-guest speaker at the Selma Quarterback Club on Monday, commented on that topic up in his address to club members.

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To me, the Tide’s loss to the Longhorns had a different feel as I listened to Saban during the press conference.

“You know what else?” Saban said. “Nobody wants to win worse than they (the players) do. Not me, not you, I don’t care what kind of fan you are. Nobody wants to win more than the players that play. Nobody. And nobody feels worse than they do when they lose. Nobody. So, for all you self-absorbed folks out there that can’t look past your own self, [aight,] to appreciate what other people are doing.”

That was a side of Saban I never saw, even in my days of covering him as the LSU coach for another newspaper. Saban never goes after the fans and calls them “self-absorbed.”‘ He usually agrees with the fans’ high expectations of Alabama football.

Every June, my family members, who are diehard Crimson Tide fans, ask me “How many games are we going to lose?”

I usually give them my answer on a gut reaction, “They will lose once.”

This year, I gave them a prediction that was published in The Selma Times-Journal last month: 11 wins.  I also predicted they’d split these four games: Texas, Texas A&M, LSU, and at Auburn.  The Longhorns proved me right.

What I found strange was how Saban treated the quarterback situation.

Before the season,  I said Jalen Milroe is not the answer at quarterback. In three previous years, Milroe has shown me nothing that he can take the reigns of signal-caller. Sure Milroe had a few moments against Texas, but his two interceptions gave the Longhorns 10 points, which was the margin of victory. Two touchdowns were called back because of penalties.

After the game, social media was filled with defending Milroe. I strongly disagreed. Had Milroe played better, the Crimson Tide would have won going away.  I’m trying to figure out why a quarterback change did not take place.  In the 2018 national championship game, Saban pulled Jalen Hurts and put in Tua. We all know what happened: Tua led the Crimson Tide to victory and a national title.

Saban has coached four NFL starting quarterbacks: Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones. Five, if you count AJ McCarron, who spent his eight years as a top-end backup.

With that success at quarterback, I’m wondering why Alabama couldn’t land a blue-chip signal-caller. If I was a quarterback with NFL aspirations and quickly becoming an instant millionaire, I’d strongly consider the Crimson Tide.

Instead, a quarterback may keep the Crimson Tide out of the playoffs and sealed to a mediocre season.