Nick Saban is only in his sixth season as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide. It seems, though, as if he has been there for at least twice that. His endless pursuit for perfection and unwillingness to settle for anything less has landed him at the top of the heap as far as college football coaches go, and his program is growing into an unstoppable force right before our eyes.
Sometimes losing a football game is not always a bad thing. The Arkansas Razorbacks lost to lowly Louisiana-Monroe last week. In his first season at Alabama, Saban saw his Tide suffer the same fate at the hands of the mighty Warhawks.
That loss was to many 'Bama fans the day that the Tide hit rock bottom. It was their third of four consecutive losses and the most humiliating by far. But since that day, Saban and the Tide have amassed a 52-7 record and a pair of BCS championships.
A year after a disappointing 7-6 record in the first effort of the Saban era, Alabama rolled to a 12-2 record which was followed by its 13th national title and a 14-0 record in 2009. After a 10-3 campaign in 2010, the Tide found itself yet another national crown last season despite a 12-1 mark. And this year, after impressive drubbings of highly touted Michigan and Arkansas—neither of which came at home— Alabama seems to be on a collision course with perfection once again.
Alabama is simply throttling opponents these days. Michigan is not as bad as the 41-14 beatdown Alabama handed it less than a month ago and Arkansas cannot possibly be as poor of a team as they showed in Saturday's 52-0 spanking at the hands of the Tide.
As the Hogs appeared to quit on themselves and their fans last weekend, it dawned on me that Alabama is playing with such precision right now that it isn't even a surprise anymore when it leaves an opponent wondering if it even wants to continue playing out the rest of the season.
There was a time when Alabama got excited over a top 10 recruiting class. But now, a top five class is simply assumed, and anything less than No. 1 is somewhat of a disappointment.
There was a time when, even at Alabama, a 10-win season was something to be thankful for. But now, 10 wins are expected, and it takes 12 to constitute a productive season.
All-Americans were once unique. Now they are everywhere.
There was a time when settling, although not preferred, was accepted by Alabama fans. Giving head coach Mike Shula "time" to build a program was just something that had to be done. But there is just no way that the poor guy who has to follow Saban will be given "time."
For those who find themselves supporting a program other than the Crimson Tide who have always seen Alabama to be "arrogant" and "entitled," well, they better look the other direction when the Tide comes to town these days.
Saban was given pretty much anything he wanted to come to run the Alabama program and what he wanted was control. Saban was smart enough to recognize a gold mine when it was looking him in the face, begging him to take over. And giving Saban full control of the football program at Alabama was the best thing the school could have ever done.
Saban runs his coaching staff in a way that would make George Patton proud. He sets the tone for what they can and cannot do and then demands that they execute their roles with flawless precision.
He runs the media, playing them like fools as they try their best to throw him under the bus after he lays into one of their own for asking a question that is unacceptable, all the while knowing that the "incident" will quickly get back to his players, re-instituting the fact that anything less than the best will not be tolerated under his watch. Genius is what it is.
The result of Saban's merciless quest for utopian perfection has been that his players have responded to it and taught themselves to work with the same resolve toward the unlikely goal that they have been charged with.
The Alabama football team is setting the standard for which all programs strive to be these days and it is the endless and tireless work of Saban that we have to thank for it. The offense is as balanced and efficient as it has been in the entire history of the program. The defense plays as if the offense is totally incapable of moving the football and as if it is it only who can help Alabama win.
The overall tenacity and ferocity of Saban's teams is something that one would expect to see come and go as players leave early for the bright lights of the NFL and new, fresh faces are shipped in, unaware that they are already expected to be better than the previous group.
Yes, I am well aware that Alabama is not quite as perfect as this story lets on. Can Alabama lose a game or two this season? Sure it can. Is it possible that Saban has already won his last title at the Capstone? Could be. Do I remember that, just a few short years ago, articles like this one were being written about schools like USC, Texas and Ohio State? Yep.
Look, college football has its ebbs and flows. Programs rise to the top only to fall back to the bottom in a matter of a year or two. Alabama has been no exception to this unwritten law of the game and it will surely see this run come to an eventual end as well.
But the way things are looking right now, any significant drop in the quality of football that Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are playing is way off in the horizon. Expecting Alabama to come back to the pack, or for the pack to rise up to the level the Tide has set any time soon, is a useless exercise.
As Saban has become the Darth Vader of college football and Alabama has jumped into the role of the "evil empire," those who pull every week for the Tide's premature demise must admit one thing. If they could hire Saban away from Alabama, they would do it in a heartbeat.
The hatred that is spewed about Nick Saban every week is most often done in the guise of jealousy. How do we at Alabama know this? It's easy to spot. We did it ourselves when Urban Meyer was doing at Florida what Saban is now doing at Alabama.
This is the way that college football works. Again, both the top and the bottom of the college football world are never as far away as they often seem. But at Alabama, the top is at eye level, and the bottom seems light years away. For this we thank Nick Saban.
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