“I always find it interesting when schools believe the best way to beat a guy is to go hire the guys who worked for him and know all his systems,” said Bobby Bowden, the retired FSU head man who has a coaching tree that branches throughout college football but was ultimately replaced by Jimbo Fisher, who spent time under Saban. “I loved it when rivals hired those guys because, first, it was an opportunity for one of my guys. But second, did you really think I’d taught him everything? He’s gonna beat me with my system? I like the teacher’s chances when he’s matched up with the student, don’t you?”
That hasn’t stopped desperate SEC programs from plucking fruit from the Saban tree, from Will Muschamp’s stops at Florida and South Carolina to Jim McElwain at Florida to, most recently, Kirby Smart at Georgia. No doubt there will be more plucked away in the quest to crack “The Process.” But none of those apprentices has beaten him. Smart’s “we’re still great friends” speech at his UGA introductory news conference nearly one year ago has since given way to a slightly more tense tone as ties have been pulled taut along the recruiting trail.
But I do feel like a clarification needs to be made here. There would seem to be a notion making the rounds that the once-proud, non-Alabama members of the Southeastern Conference are now cowered into the corner in a fetal position. To quote Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy: “That ain’t true!”
“Yeah, I read that, and hell no, it Kevin Williams Jersey isn’t true,” an LSU staffer said while standing with a group of fellow coaches who paused to stand outside the tunnel and watch a few seconds of the Tide’s celebration before following their team into the locker room. “What they are is a target, a goal. And we’ll get there.”
History says yes, they will. Bear Bryant, Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi don’t just have winning in common. They also all experienced the pain of seeing their machines slowing down and their dynasties coming to a close. It’s not a question of whether the Saban era will end. It’s a question of when. What makes this current run even more impressive — demoralizing, if you’ve been on the schedule — is that it is really a second chapter. This current run of back-to-back SEC titles and College Football Playoff berths is coming on the heels of what looked to possibly be the beginning of the end just three years ago, when back-to-back two-loss seasons and the coinciding gap between national titles felt like cracks in the crimson armor. But Saban reinvented his offensive mindset and recharged his legacy.
Now the search is back on to Luke Willson Jersey find leaders who can do what Auburn, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Ohio State did during those brief moments of defeat. If one goes through the roster of coaches who led those teams — Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin, Bob Stoops, Hugh Freeze, Urban Meyer — they all have one factor in common, and it isn’t time spent learning at the foot of the same master. They didn’t just come from a different tree. They hailed from a different forest.