Not after his latest and most definitive remarks on the subject, and not if the Alabama coach ever wants anyone to believe him again.
Speaking during Saturday’s Bowl Championship Series final media day, Saban went after the question like an Alabama linebacker. He form tackled the pillars on which perceptions of his career thinking are built.
“I don’t have any unfinished business in the NFL,” he said quickly, as if the question was a snap from center and he was a blitzing cornerback. “You know, I have a job right now, and I want to do the best job that I possibly can for this team right now to do all of things that we need to do to take advantage of the opportunities that we’ve created for ourselves in what’s going to be a very, very challenging game for us.
“So, that’s not something that I’m concerned about. It’s not something that I’m thinking about. It’s not even something that I want to do. I want to be a college coach. We have a successful program, and, at this juncture in my career, I’m not looking for new challenges.”
Does that about cover it?
OK, so there were “right nows” and potential rhetorical forks like “at this juncture in my career.” Skeptics can say it’s a statement designed to sunset like a Social Security tax break, and sunset could come as early as Tuesday.
That’s the day after Monday’s BCS final showdown between Saban’s sixth Alabama team and Notre Dame.
Also, we all know Saban’s history. He rebuilds program but doesn’t stay. He’s already been at Alabama longer than anywhere else. He left the NFL’s Miami Dolphins after two years for Alabama, despite persistent and forceful denials.
But consider that the Cleveland Browns job looks to be Chip Kelly’s to turn down. That’s the job with which speculative reports connected Saban, and those reports started the latest round Saban-to-the-NFL chatter.
A number of NFL jobs remain open, but Saban was never thought to be an any-job leaper. It would have to be the right setup with the right general manager, and that early December report in the Boston Globe said it would most likely be Cleveland.
With the Browns connection apparently graying, he could sit before local and national media — in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, of all places — and calmly shoot down the expected questions as they kept coming.
“I think any time anybody considers you for a position, it’s somewhat ego-gratifying, but, you know, I think that I just know myself,” he said. “I know myself.
“I learn things about myself through the experiences that I’ve had in the past, and I know the best path for me. And, you know, I think my wife’s in agreement with that. I think my family is in agreement with that, so we’re happy on the path that we’re on, so there’s really nothing to talk about.”
That’s Saban, speaking in the very market that feels most aggrieved by his departure, saying he’s a different person now. It comes on the heels of several groundwork statements where he acknowledged that he made mistakes in how he handled his departure from Miami.
From saying he’s a different person now, he rounds back to a forceful endorsement of the status quo, with an ever-so-slight out: “We’re happy (right now) on the path that we’re on.”
And, by the way, Miami, Saban says he’s not an ambition-obsessed demon. He talked about life being a balance of career and family. He went on about being a husband and father.
He twice mentioned his work with Nick’s Kids, a charity started by Saban and named for his dad. For those who didn’t know, he mentioned that Nick’s Kids was active in Miami during his time with the Dolphins, though it’s become bigger since he moved to Alabama.
“We’ve built 14 houses for tornado victims,” he said. “We give about a half a million dollars away to kids organizations every year.
“A lot of people contribute to it. We contribute a significant amount to it. My wife Terry does an unbelievable job of committing her time and energy to trying to help other people.”
And just in case that’s not enough to get the Miami market over a 6-year-old grievance, Saban even granted that past criticisms of him might be fair.
“We like to have honesty and integrity in everything that we do,” he boldly said, right in the very stadium serves as the Dolphins’ home field. “I’ve obviously been accused of not having that before, and maybe rightfully so.
“I certainly wish that wouldn’t have been the case. … So, no one is perfect. A lot of circumstances come up in life that are tough decisions, and we just try to make them the right way.”
Add up all that Saban said at BCS media day, in the very arena where his past has occasion to resent his present and smell a repeat, and it’s quite a mouthful. Yes, there are those nagging little outs, but his answers should resonate in Alabama as much as Miami.
He tried to give Miami folks more reason to forgive, but he gave Alabama fans more reason to believe. If he lets another fan base down after saying all of that?
Well, then Tide fans will no doubt thank him for all he’s done to restore their beloved program, and rightfully so. Then they and everyone else, for that matter, can consider any reason to believe him in the future to be finished business.