Sixty minutes were all the Crimson Tide needed to remind college football that they’re still an apex predator on Saturdays.
Two days later, they issued a memo on why they’re unmatched the other six days of the week: A support staff unrivaled in maybe any sport.
Hiring Steve Sarkisian gives Nick Saban at least eight off-field analysts on his staff, and that’s in addition to 12 officially listed football operations, player personnel and program coordinator employees, and a special assistant to the head coach (Bobby Williams).
Between that group and Saban’s nine assistants, there are now five former head coaches working at Alabama (Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin, Mario Cristobal, Bobby Williams and Mike Locksley — h/t Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman).
That’s an astounding number, and it’s yet another example of just how shrewd Saban is when it comes to personnel.
Sarkisian finds himself in the exact same place Lane Kiffin said he was in 2013: rock bottom. USC fired Sarkisian amid allegations that he was drinking on the job, this after he apologized for erratic behavior while addressing boosters at a preseason Salute to Troy event. He checked himself into a treatment facility after USC announced his dismissal.
None of that changes Sarkisian’s sharpness as an offensive coach and recruiter.
He has serious problems that came to light within the past year, sure. Not many programs would risk hiring someone who’s stability has been under such scrutiny. Then again, not many programs are Alabama, where The Process or whatever you want to call it has created a rock-solid foundation that can handle coaches like Sarkisian and Kiffin. Either they conform to Saban’s system, or they’re spit back out.
In this case, Alabama is a coaching treatment facility. Check in, get better and soon enough you’re on your way to a better place.
Kiffin is the success story. His head coaching tenures at Oakland, Tennessee and USC were littered with controversy. In two-plus years at Alabama, where Saban has been able to insulate Kiffin and keep him focused, he’s been one of the top-five play callers in the country.
Sure enough, those 2017 head coaching rumors are already surfacing.
Sarkisian can be groomed as Kiffin’s replacement if he leaves. He already comes from the same offensive background, so the transition wouldn’t be difficult. At the very least, Alabama has a guy that knows quarterbacks. Having him around to evaluate Jalen Hurts and Blake Barnett should scare the rest of the SEC.
If the coaching carousel was a stock market, Saban would be filthy rich — or richer than he is, at least. This is a classic low-risk, high-reward move for Alabama, especially considering the infrastructure already in place.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Saban has the clout to make these types of hires happen. After all, Alabama is the same school that fired Mike Price for his extracurricular shenanigans. What Saban has built is akin to the Patriots under mentor Bill Belichick, who often acquires “troubled” players like Randy Moss and reaps fantastic results.
Or you can compare it to the Arizona Cardinals drafting Tyrann Mathieu with Patrick Peterson already on the roster. With Kiffin in Tuscaloosa, Sarkisian has a friend and colleague who can help him stay on track and get his life back together as he battles reported alcoholism.
If Sarkisian can do that, he’ll have his career revived in no time, courtesy of the Alabama doctors at Last Chance U: Coaching Edition.