With Pete Carroll's Success 2nd Time Around in NFL, Should Nick Saban Try Again?

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With Pete Carroll's Success 2nd Time Around in NFL, Should Nick Saban Try Again?
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Pete Carroll just won the Super Bowl.

As recently as four years ago, that's a sentence NFL bloggers and other pro football elitists would have scoffed at, a haughty joke they would have made over a bag of Cheetos on a Sunday afternoon.

Carroll's tenure with the Jets and Patriots in the 1990s was lackluster, to say the least, and his success at USC was mere proof that a great college coach is lesser than a great (or even decent) professional one.

Further evidence to this theory was Nick Saban's failure with the Miami Dolphins. A winner of the highest order in the college ranks, Saban flamed out after two ugly seasons in the NFL, burning bridges in Miami like "Miami 2017."

It landed him on the NFL Network's list of "Coaches who Belong in College":

Carroll, however, was another member of that list, and on Sunday, he disproved its merit at the highest level.

Meanwhile, success from "gimmicky thinkers" like Chip Kelly has further intrigued the NFL with coaches in its minor league. The Houston Texans snatched Bill O'Brien from Penn State, while former Syracuse boss Doug Marrone just had a decent-enough debut in Buffalo.

With all that college-to-NFL momentum for proven coaches, it begs questioning whether Saban might or should follow suit. The dynasty he's built at Alabama is no smaller than the dynasty Carroll built at USC, and the two coaches are exactly the same age at 62.

Might Saban be best served to follow Carroll's footsteps and prove his NFL critics wrong?

In simple terms: no.

If you need a reason why, start at the 2:06 mark of the video above, cut from the NFL Network segment on Saban's tenure.

"Reviled" is the word Michael Silver uses to describe Saban's professional reputation—a reputation he earned after breaking one oath to get to Miami and another one to leave.

SUSAN WALSH/Associated Press

Carroll flamed out in New York and New England, but he never left with his name in disrepute. According to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in 2000 that firing Carroll was one of "the toughest decisions he has had to make since buying the team."

Following the legendary Bill Parcells in New England, Carroll may have always been destined for failure. Having Bill Belichick as a successor even further impugned his name. Sandwiched between two of the 10 best coaches in NFL history, it is easy to forget that Carroll actually went 27-21 with the Pats.

In reality, he wasn't all that bad. But given the context around him, it seemed like he was the only thing holding New England back.

Saban was exactly as bad as history says he was in Miami. He coached fully contracted adults like they were college kids, demanding authoritarian respect in the locker room and seeking to control each facet of the city of Miami, as if it were some pliable college town and not a major metropolitan area.

Those things work in the NCAA, and just because they don't work in the NFL does not make Saban any less of a college coach. He's one of the best there's ever been. But Carroll's temperament—his jovial, player-endearing charm—was always better suited to succeed in the league than Saban's, despite his poor first stint.

No part of that has changed.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Also important is that Saban has no reason to leave.

Even the staunchest, most naive supporter of Carroll cannot deny the suspicious timing of his departure from USC—right before the school was levied with massive NCAA sanctions for improper conduct.

Part of Carroll must have always wanted to be back in the NFL, and it's impossible for anyone but him to say how big that part truly was. Clearly, he had something left to prove and the talent to prove it. So far, it's been more than a resounding success.

But would he really have left Los Angeles without the extra impetus of the sanctions? He had a very, very, very good thing going with the Trojans, winning 82 of 91 games between 2002 and 2008, though some of those would later be vacated. Even after a bum 9-4 season in his final year of 2009, the team was a perennial favorite.

That is the same as Saban's current situation—the only difference, as far as we know, being that Alabama is not in trouble with the NCAA. Assuming that's the case, it's hard to see a reason for Saban to leave. He's built a self-sustaining powerhouse with no signs of slowing up.

As Saban himself said in September, when his name first popped up as a candidate for the Texas job, per Andrew Gribble of AL.com:

We live in a culture of imitation, of copycats following pioneers.

After seeing him jump and cheer and hug his way onto the podium in MetLife Stadium, after watching him hoist the Lombardi Trophy, it makes sense for the NFL to want to find the next Pete Carroll. And given the similarity between their careers and situations, it makes sense for Saban's name to come up as a candidate for that role.

Should Saban Consider Leaving for the NFL?

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But the NFL treated Saban as poorly as Saban treated the NFL, almost to a poetic magnitude. They were a match made on the sixth ring of hell.

Some divorced couples, when you hear they've gotten back together, make you happy and optimistic, excited to see how they treat their second chance. Others make you brace for the inevitability of the worst, require that you steel yourself for the same tired arguments and fights.

Carroll always kind of felt like the former. Saban definitely feels like the latter.

Why should he ever leave the college ranks?

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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