It was the first question he was asked when arriving at the University of Alabama, and the one he heard so many times during the College Football Playoff that he finally responded with “about 20 pounds.”
As for “What’s the biggest difference between Bill Belichick and Nick Saban?” former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Brian Daboll never really had a good answer. Instead, he talked about how much they were alike.
“They’re smart. They work hard. They’re good leaders,” was one response from the man who had been a longstanding Patriots assistant until Saban hired him last year.
“Detailed, organized, demanding, expect you to do it the right way,” was another. “There’s no excuses to be made. You have a job to do, you go do it.
“I could go on and on about these two guys.”
Now their legacies are just as similar, albeit on different levels.
On Sunday, Belichick will have a chance to win his sixth Super Bowl, roughly a month after Saban captured his sixth national championship at the collegiate level.
Belichick already stands alone with five Super Bowl wins, while Saban is tied with Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most credited national titles.
This year we've seen Nick Saban and Bill Belichick smile. 2018 is the year for miracles.
— Joel Cobbs (@joelcobbs) January 22, 2018
The friends and former colleagues with the Cleveland Browns are currently riding dynasties that are unparalleled at their respective levels, and may never be matched.
The New England Patriots won Super Bowls 36, 38, 39, 49 and 51 and lost Super Bowls 42 and 46. Belichick is the only coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in four years, and a victory against Philadelphia in Minneapolis on Sunday would be his second round of back-to-back titles.
Belichick’s Patriots have been in the NFL playoffs every year since 2008. Previous to that, their last absence was 2002, and both times they finished second in the AFC East. His eight appearances in a Super Bowl are the most by a head coach, and factor in the two he won as a defensive coordinator with the New York Giants he’s participated in more than anyone in history.
Saban won the 2003 national title with LSU (oddly enough, it’s the only time they both won it all during the same season), followed by 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017 at Alabama. He’s also won titles three out of four years, and only a last-second loss kept him from being the first college coach to pull off a three-peat.
Alabama has been ranked No. 1 at some point of every season since 2008, easily a record. Over that same time period, the Crimson Tide have played in only three games when they weren’t in the running for the national championship.
Over the last decade, Alabama has an incredible record of 125-14 (.899). The Crimson Tide have been in the College Football Playoff all four years of its existence, winning twice.
|SABAN VS. BELICHICK||SABAN||BELICHICK|
|Record in title games||6-1||5-2|
|Record in conference championships||4-1||6-4|
|Playoff teams||4 (out of 4)||16|
|Overall winning percentage||.778||.685|
|Regular season record||199-52-1||250-118|
|Regular season winning percentage||.792||.679|
|Playoff record percentage||.714||.737|
* Saban had some vacated wins in 2007.
The way they almost mirror each other goes well beyond their legacies.
Belichick is the NFL’s longest-tenured active head coach. Saban is the dean of the SEC.
Belichick will turn 66 on April 16. Saban turns 67 on Halloween.
They’ve even had comparable rants. Saban has been known to blurt out, “You want me to do a Belichick on you?” to reporters when he doesn’t like the question.
They even split the four games in which they faced each other during Saban’s brief two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins.
Ironically, when they were coaching together, they had only one winning season, their last in 1994, when the Browns went 11-5 and lost in the second round of the playoffs. Saban left as defensive coordinator to become the head coach at Michigan State and Belichick was fired a year later by a franchise that was on its way out of town as well, to become the Baltimore Ravens coach.
Now they set the standard for football excellence.
Death, Taxes, Saban, Belichick
— Tucker Fox (@tucker_fox9) January 21, 2018
“Not two better mentors that I could have learned from, in a lot of things, not just football,” said Daboll, who was recently hired to be the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. “They’re brilliant X’s and O’s guys. They’re good men, they’re exceptional leaders. I’ve learned to, you know, really — how to run an organization the right way, that I believe is the right way, from two of the really unbelievable guys.”
Unbelievable is right.