Nick Saban is 64 years old. He’s been coaching football since 1973. In those years, Saban has won five national titles and 191 games as a head coach — dozens more as an assistant.
Pretty good career, right? That’s what ESPN’s Paul Finebaum was thinking when he appeared on the USA TODAY Football Four podcast and told Dan Wolken that Saban was considering hanging ’em up after the 2015 season.
“You start wondering I think when you get to his point, ‘What am I really doing now?’ I thought he should have retired. Again, I made that pretty clear,” Finebaum told Wolken. “I believe he thought about it … I think he nearly did. I think he gave serious though to walking away and he just couldn’t pull the trigger.”
Saban was coming off a thrilling 45-40 win over Dabo Sweeney and Clemson to bring his fifth national championship to Tuscaloosa. His right-hand man, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, had just taken a job at Georgia.
Between his assistant of eight seasons leaving and players focused more on their draft stock than the program, the time since the National Championship Game on Jan. 12 has been a “fairly disorienting” one for Saban, Finebaum said. He called it “the second consecutive bad offseason.”
But money talks.
“When you make that kind of money, you hate to leave it on the table,” Finebaum said on the podcast. “I think Saban looked around college football. With all due respect to Dabo Sweeney, I think he said ‘I just beat Dabo Sweeney, I can do this again, and again, and again, and again.’ ”
Finebaum predicted the loss of Smart will take a bigger toll on Saban and the Crimson Tide than anyone inside the program wants to admit.
“I do think losing Kirby Smart may be more important than the typical Alabama fan wants to make it out to be,” Finebaum said. “This is a guy who was really there — his right-hand man, so to speak — though you’d never know that now talking to people in Tuscaloosa.”
Saban is in the middle of a contract that runs through 2022. He inked an extension in 2014 that raised his annual salary to $6.9 million a year, the highest of any coach at a public university.