This is not saying the man who has already won two BCS national titles with the Crimson Tide and is on track for a third is going anywhere further from Tuscaloosa than you can throw him.
However, the chatter is beginning to grow a bit louder with each passing day.
A lot would have to happen to make what would ultimately be the ground-shaking move happen, but if a few dominoes fall into place, Nick Saban, who already has a statue of himself on Alabama’s campus, could be once again taking the plunge into the shadowy depths of the NFL.
Why, you ask? Why leave what is perhaps the cushiest coaching job on the planet for the League’s perennial bottom-feeders?
It won’t be the money, as Saban is currently making $5.5 million annually. Nor will it be past success, as Saban famously flamed out with the Miami Dolphins. Saban bolted LSU after winning a national championship there and then returned to the friendly confines of the SEC after posting a 15-17 record overall and enjoying a diminishing level of success in each season in Miami.
So what might be the domino that falls that eventually pries Saban from Bama and onto the sidelines for the Cleveland Browns?
Right now it is sounding more and more like a desire to return to a working relationship with Michael Lombardi.
“Saban could well be looking for his next/final NFL opportunity if he wins his fourth national championship next month in the BCS title game against Notre Dame,” Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe wrote. “If the Browns (Saban is from northern West Virginia, played for and coached at Kent State, and was a Browns assistant under Bill Belichick) and (potential general manager Michael) Lombardi are dangled, he may indeed take the plunge again.”
Currently an analyst for NFL Network, Lombardi has served as an executive with five different organizations. New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is an SEC man, as an alum from Tennessee. Haslam first told the world he would bring in Joe Banner as his new team president and the two would then attempt to bring Lombardi back into the fold as the team’s general manager.
Haslam, Banner and potentially Lombardi would then lobby Saban to rekindle the days of Cleveland Browns’ lore, when Saban worked under Bill Belichick.
The Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning coach was fired from Cleveland, as was Scott Pioli. The two were reunited in New England, with Pioli as the general manager, but Belichick having final say over all personnel decisions made.
If Saban were to return to the NFL, it would be with a similar working relationship with his general manager. And it would only be with Lombardi, whom Saban has said is the only man he would leave Tuscaloosa to work with.
Thus, there are still quite a few dominoes that must fall to make such a coaching decision a reality.
However, after all the losing the Browns have done since firing a slew of great coaches who have gone on to win championships, don’t think for one second Cleveland — and its new owner who wants to make a huge splash — won’t do whatever it takes to start winning football games.
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