From the moment the clock struck triple zeros at University of Phoenix Stadium, the confetti fell all over the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban began drying off after getting doused with Gatorade, you could sense what was coming next.
The offseason, and the annual event known as "Saban Watch."
Saban just wrapped up his fourth national title in nine years in Tuscaloosa (fifth overall counting the 2003 title at LSU) and, as my colleague Adam Kramer noted from Glendale, Arizona, etched his name as perhaps the best coach in college football history.
There's only one thing left for Saban to do, right? After all, his 15-17 record with the NFL's Miami Dolphins from 2005-2006 sticks out like a sore thumb on his otherwise sterling resume.
Does fifth NCAA title nudge Nick Saban back to the NFL? https://t.co/SkLv3UIwGi— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 12, 2016
Say it with me, say it with feeling and say it over and over again until you can't get it out of your head: Nick Saban isn't going to the NFL.
And here's why.
Yes, Saban failed at the NFL level.
Do you think he cares? If you do, have you seen Saban lately?
He ditched the process-oriented robot that won titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012—while lamenting the fact he missed out on a few recruiting days—in favor of the happy, smiling, dancing T-Rex that seemed to enjoy the conclusion to this season more so than any other title in his career.
"I'd just like to reiterate once again how proud I am of our team, everybody involved in the team, the players, number one," Saban said after the 45-40 win over Clemson, according to postgame quotes released by the CFP. "This was really about doing the best we could to help them have a chance to be successful and have an experience of winning a championship."
Of course, he's always going to be concerned with what's next, the players coming in, the fight against complacency and making sure everybody buys in to "the process." What has changed with Saban, though, is that he seems to enjoy that much more than he did just a couple of years ago.
The Kick Six, the Oklahoma loss and the semifinal shocker to Ohio State over the last two years humbled him, and his response is clear.
He no longer fears losing more than he enjoys winning, which seems to have quelled any desire to welcome the final challenge. As my colleague Lars Anderson wrote last week on Twitter, he's fine just where he is:
As someone who lives in Alabama, writes from Alabama, teaches at Alabama and has written a book about Alabama ... Nick Saban ain't leaving.— Lars Anderson (@LarsAnderson71) January 5, 2016
This challenge—the challenge of building and sustaining success at an elite level in college—is good enough.
He's Not a Job-Jumper Anymore
Saban was labeled as a "job-jumper" after leaving LSU for the Dolphins in 2005, only to jump to Alabama two years later after repeated denials of his interest in the opening in Tuscaloosa.
Newsflash: That was nearly a decade ago, and people change. Especially 64-year-old men who have recently become grandfathers and put down roots in a location working in an industry like coaching that's inherently nomadic.
Yes, 54-year-old Saban would likely be all for the next big challenge, notice that grass that's always greener on the other side and throw his hat in every ring imaginable.
The only one he's thrown his hat into over the last couple of years is Texas, and all that did was earn him a $6.9 million-per-year contract through 2021 along with the reassurance he can retire in Tuscaloosa if he wants to and make enough to set his family up for generations—plural.
Saban spoke about his life outside of football prior to the game, according to the CFP:
I like to spend time with my family. I like to get away. We have two places that we sort of escape to. One is in Boca Grande, which is in Florida, and one is Lake Burton, which is in the mountains on the Georgia-North Carolina border. We have a lot of good relationships, a lot of good friends. I enjoy playing golf and spending time with those people and our family.
Could he cash in at the NFL level? No doubt about it.
His current income would be near the top of the NFL pay scale, according to CoachesHotSeat.com, but he wouldn't have that stability and the family structure he has built in Tuscaloosa would be uprooted in order to scratch that one remaining itch.
As Phil Savage of the Alabama radio network and SiriusXM noted after the Cotton Bowl, Alabama is Saban's life:
At his age, another move is just not worth it.
Knowledge is Power
If Saban would even consider a move up to the NFL, he would almost certainly require 100 percent control of personnel moves.
Teams could certainly offer that, but as we saw with Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles, that places the coach in much more peril if those decisions don't pay off quickly.
Where is Nick Saban's next move?
He has all the power he needs in Tuscaloosa, has reeled in five straight top-ranked recruiting classes and has assembled some of the most impressive coaching staffs in college football history.
Even if he gets full control over an NFL franchise, he's never going to have more power anywhere in the world of football than he has right now. After all, his boss—athletics director Bill Battle—knew how important it was to keep Saban happy from the moment he got his job in 2013.
"I want to learn from that guy," Battle said, according to Ken Rogers of the Dothan Eagle. "He’s good. I mean, he’s really good."
Why would Saban bother messing with success?
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.