Taking Blame, The Nick Saban Way

Kevin StricklandCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2008

In the aftermath of the SEC Championship game loss, a somber Nick Saban shouldered the blame for the loss, taking full responsibility for his team not finishing the game and the season the way he and the fans had hoped.


Well, that’s how fawning media in the state of Alabama tried to spin it, anyway.


If Saban’s post-game comments are indicative of how he takes the blame, remind me not to be near him when things go awry.


Here are Saban’s blame-taking post-game comments.


"My feelings, it's not about me," he said as he shut down a long and winding response. "My feelings are about everybody else. I serve them in what I do, and I feel like I failed them by not doing enough to help them get what they really wanted."


Okay, so far so good.  Saban says he failed the players and the fans. 


"I feel badly that I could not have done more to affect our players to be able to play with more consistency, play better, not make some of those mistakes," he said.


Uh-oh, that one feels a little like finger pointing.  He’s calling out player mistakes under the guise of blaming himself.  Oh, well, at least he’s not singling out certain positions.


"You know, coach the corners better so they wouldn't have got beat. You know, help the offense be able to do the right thing so we wouldn't have gone three-and-out in the fourth quarter.”


Hey, wait a minute.  What about taking the blame, Nick? You’re talking about corners getting beat and offenses not making plays. That sounds a lot like finger pointing.  Thank goodness you’re not naming names.


"Done something to help Javy (Arenas) not catch the ball when it would have went out of bounds and it would have given us the ball on the 40-yard line."


Now hold it right there, Nick. People who accept blame don’t bring up what everybody else did wrong. We’ve all heard coaches take the blame for losses. This isn’t how it’s done. Coaches who take the blame say things like “It was my responsibility, I didn’t do enough to have these kids prepared.” 


"I feel responsible for everything that didn't go right."


Okay, there you go. That’s where you should have stopped and started, Nick. But you didn’t. Before you got there, you tossed the players, the offense, the corners and Arenas out in the cold.


Coaches who follow the ancient ritual of crediting players and assistant coaches for wins while accepting full blame for losses don’t throw individuals or groups under the bus with them.  That’s just not how you man up.


Saban’s way of taking the blame is a lot like what we hear from our kids. 


"Yeah, mom, it’s my fault I was late. I should have told Amy not to stop by the ice cream store when we passed by the mall, and I shouldn’t have let Taylor talk to me for an hour outside The Gap. It’s all my fault.  I take the blame. Except for what can be hopefully passed off to Amy and Taylor, that is."


What if other leaders followed the Saban example?



John McCain


The loss in the presidential race was entirely my fault. If I could have just made Sarah Palin become a man with foreign policy experience or at least gotten her to develop a plan that would pull America out of its economic slump, we’d have been right there, you know.


Maybe if I could have showed her more about how to avoid those Katie Couric interviews that doomed the campaign. All my fault. It’s on me.




LaDanian Tomlinson


Man, this season is my fault completely.  If I could have just gotten the defense to be a little more inspired and maybe stop some people. I wish I'd waved a few more towels to incite the crowd. Or if I could have boosted the spirits of the kicking game, we’d be in the Super Bowl. It’s all my responsibility.




Robert E. Lee


Civil War is all on me. It’s my fault entirely. I feel bad for everybody who believed in us.  I should have done a better job of teaching Pickett not to charge. I should have worked with those soldiers and showed them how to shoot so we don’t go one and out at Petersburg in 1865. If they’d just shot better, we would have won.  That’s on me.




Random CEO


It’s my fault the business failed. I should have done a better job of teaching the salesmen to sell. They really dropped the ball in the fourth quarter. Those guys couldn’t give away water in the desert.


The analysts? I should have trained them better. And Wes from accounting?  Yeah, I should have done a better job with him, working on the numbers and stuff. My fault. All my fault.




Christian Slater


Hey, the TV deal didn’t work out. The ratings weren’t there. I take all the blame for it. If I could have just gotten the camera guys to do a better job focusing on my face. If I could have just worked with Alfre [Woodard] and Saffron [Burrows] and gotten them to emote more, to put some energy in it, maybe we’d have been picked up for a second season.


But hey, we weren’t. They didn’t do what I hoped they’d do and we didn’t make it.  My bad. You want to blame somebody, blame me for not getting enough out of everybody else.




Maybe Saban’s finger-pointing method is the way people shoulder (and shift) blame in today’s me-first society. But it’s certainly not the old-school way.  It’s not the way great coaches from the past did it.


As often as 'Bama fans are want to compare (unfairly) Saban to the iconic Bear Bryant, it’s not the way Bryant would have done it either.