Has Nick Saban put together the best staff of all time?
Any team he works for deserves warrant of this question, though, because he might well be the best head coach of our generation (he is) and maybe even of all time (at least in college football).
It also deserves warrant because there is so much previous head-coaching experience—from offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin (USC, Tennessee, Oakland Raiders) to linebackers coach Kevin Steele (Baylor) to tight ends/special teams coach Bobby Williams (Michigan State) to offensive line coach Mario Cristobal (Florida International).
So let's talk a bit about his subordinates.
Whether Saban has put together the best staff ever would have been a better question last year than in 2014.
Kirby Smart is a special coordinator. He's the kind of guy who, in 20 years, we won't remember as a mere coordinator. He'll be a real coach. And he'll be a good one. He'll be remembered as a real coach and a good one. So Alabama basically has two really good head coaches.
But that doesn't make it the "best staff ever."
In fact, Alabama might have had a better staff last year than this year. It had Doug Nussmeier running the offense instead of Lane Kiffin. It had a game-planner instead of a recruiter. It had a schemer instead of a Schemer.
Which isn't to say Kiffin can't succeed. Au contraire, he can. He can succeed to a memorable degree. And given the talent at his disposal, he very well might.
Until he does, however, he cannot be regarded as a part of the best staff in college football history.
Fair or not, Kiffin has some work left to do, some proving. He has a redemption story in the works that might be Oscar-worthy but can't be rightfully assessed until at least the end of this season and maybe (probably) even longer than that.
I will be rooting for him and sincerely hope I'm wrong. I'm not an Alabama fan, but I'm a man capable of recognizing greatness. I know how rare it is to see.
I want to be proven an idiot.
But why are we even asking this?
Instead of "all time," shouldn't we be asking if Alabama even has the best staff in the SEC? In a conference where Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee roam the same sidelines with the same gait in the same blue and auburn sweater vest, and just nearly won a national title in their first year after inheriting a team that went 0-8 in the SEC in 2012.
Shouldn't that at least be a discussion?
It's normal to contextualize, especially in the face of a potential dynasty. And make no mistake: Despite what happened in the last two games of last season, that's what Alabama is. It's a very real and very important dynasty. It's a program we'll remember for decades.
So it's almost reflexive to compare it with the best staff's in college football history. Any team that's the best, after all, deserves to be a part of that discussion.
There's a chance Alabama is unbeatable next year, for the next few years and makes this thesis look ridiculous in hindsight. The potential is there for that to happen. For all we know, Kiffin might be the best offensive coordinator in the history of the SEC.
Until he proves that, however, I hope that this skepticism is understood. That my distrust of a staff that employs a man who was fired last season makes sense.
Alabama has some of the best positional coaches in America—no doubt. Even a guy like Cristobal might potentially head coach another team at some point in time.
Again: That doesn't make this the best staff ever.
Alabama has a good staff, a strong staff, a staff that can keep it relevant in the national title discussion for the next many years. It has a staff that should annually compete for an SEC championship.
Guys like Kiffin and Steele and Williams and Cristobal offer Saban invaluable council, the musings of men who have been in his position before. There's no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen.
Is this really in the conversation for the best staff ever, though?
That's a question for a later time.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT