Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: The Buccaneers should grab their checkbook and hire Nick Saban

Bucs general manager Jason Licht needs to do two things immediately.

Grab a checkbook. Call Nick Saban.

The Bucs have an opening for a head coach. Saban is the best football coach not in the NFL right now. He could be available. It's certainly worth finding out.

Make the call. Set up the interview. Get on the plane and fly to Alabama. Offer the sun and the moon and stars and a corner office with as much control as he wants. Then get him to sign on the line that is dotted.

Do whatever it takes to make Nick Saban the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide won its fourth national title in seven seasons with a shoot-out-the-lights 45-40 victory against Clemson on Monday. It was Saban's fifth overall.

He's the best college coach alive. He is the best college coach ever.

In this day and age with more games, more competitive recruiting and limited scholarships, Saban has moved past Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden and whatever other coach you want to offer up.

He can win any way you want. He has won national titles with defense. He has won with offense. On Monday, with a perfectly executed onside kick and a kickoff return for a touchdown, he won with special teams.

His quarterbacks are good, but not special. His staff is a rotating door of coaches who have gone on to other places, such as FSU's Jimbo Fisher, Florida's Jim McElwain and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio.

Even in years when the Tide doesn't win it all, it is in the running. And Saban is doing all of this while in the best conference in the country.

He has done everything you can do at the college level, which is exactly why the time might be right for Saban to make the jump. Saban is 64 and still has several good years left. But if he's ever going to leave Alabama, the window is now.

He could stay at Alabama, win more national titles and convince historians to declare him the greatest ever. But many of us already believe that even if he never wins another.

Alabama is on cruise control at this point, and Saban might want to kick back and reap the benefits of all the hard work that turned the Tide back into an elite program.

But with those benefits come lofty expectations, perhaps too lofty. Now, anything short of a national championship feels like a disappointing season at Alabama. This isn't to suggest that Saban's seat would ever get hot in Tuscaloosa. He probably can coach there as long as he wants.

Then again, wouldn't you have said the same about Bowden at Florida State? You just never know when those pesky boosters start getting restless. All it takes is losing to Auburn a few too many times and the Tide could turn.

Why not leave while on top?

Plus, Saban has some unfinished business in the NFL.

He spent two seasons coaching the Dolphins, and it did not go well. The narrative is that Saban couldn't hack it as an NFL coach and went running back to the safe haven of college football.

To be fair — and to address those concerns that Saban isn't cut out for the NFL game — Saban's time in Miami wasn't that bad. He went 9-7 in his first season and barely missed the playoffs. Before his second season, the Dolphins signed quarterback Daunte Culpepper instead of Drew Brees and ended up going 6-10. Saban suggests that if the Dolphins had signed Brees, he might still be in Miami.

Bottom line is Saban went 15-17 in two seasons in the NFL. Not horrible, but it did leave a sour taste that Saban might want to wash out by proving he can, indeed, make a good NFL coach. A successful turn in the NFL and he might go down as the greatest football coach ever.

He has all the tools to succeed at any level.

He relates well to younger generations from varied backgrounds. He has shown the ability to adapt to the ever-changing college game. He knows how to oversee all aspects of a football program, including hiring smart people and delegating.

The only real drawback is that he's not warm and fuzzy with the media, but who cares about that besides the media? You want a coach who wins news conferences or football games?

Saban makes sense for Tampa Bay. He gives it juice. He gives it credibility. He gives it a heck of a good coach.

And Tampa Bay makes sense for Saban.

The Bucs might be the most attractive opening there is because they have the makings of a franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston. That, alone, makes it a better job than San Francisco, Cleveland, Philadelphia and, maybe, Tennessee. You could make a case that the Giants' opening, because of quarterback Eli Manning, is a better job. But it's New York. New York has colder weather, less sunshine, more media and higher taxes.

Saban really hasn't been on the Bucs' radar, at least from the rumors out there. You've heard other names, and one of those coordinator-types probably will get the job. Whoever that is might even turn out to be pretty good.

With all due respect, however, the coaching world is full of guys like Dirk Koetter and Josh McDaniels and Sean McDermott.

There is only one Nick Saban.

Go get him.

Comments
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