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Miami's Saban will face new challenges as head coach

Posted: Sunday March 27, 2005 5:00PM; Updated: Monday March 28, 2005 1:40PM
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Nick Saban was 48-15 in five years at LSU and won the BCS championship two seasons ago.
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Seven thoughts on Nick Saban and his new empire, the Miami Dolphins:

1. Saban has access issues: The other day, on a veranda overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the NFL Meetings in Maui, I asked Saban: "What's the biggest change in the NFL during the 10 years you've been out of the pro game?"

It took him a split second to answer.

"Access," he said. "Everyone wants access."

NFL Films wants to mike Saban and/or his players during a game. The NFL Network wants to see the internal workings of his team. The beat reporters, the columnists and the Pro Football Writers of America want him to make assistant coaches consistently available to the media, which he's balking at. (Big mistake, in my opinion, because if you trust your assistant coaches -- and a head coach should -- why shut them off to the public and let them fly under the radar, hurting their chances for professional advancement?) Saban is striving to fashion his organization in a Belichickian way, to speak with one voice so the message is crystal clear and the leaks get plugged. He seems amazed with the strident calls to open his business to the outside world.

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2. Saban loves draft picks: He wants more of them. He is in mourning over the fact the Dolphins don't have their second-round selection this year (they dealt it for A.J. Feeley last year), and I see Saban holding out for a second- or a third-round pick for cornerback Patrick Surtain. Right now, the best offer out there for Surtain is Kansas City's fourth-round pick.

You can bet Miami will have at least one more first-day draft pick on April 23.

3. Saban's not exactly Belichick: There might be only one difference between him and Bill Belichick, his longtime friend and former offseason Xs and Os sharer. When Belichick is asked a question, he might answer it with a clipped, wiseass answer. When Saban is asked a question, his answer is most often well-considered and calculating.

Well, one other thing: Saban dresses like he's auditioning for GQ. Belichick, of course, dresses like a gym rat.

4. Jimmy Johnson on Saban: "I don't know Nick well, but I know what he's done, and I think he'll do an outstanding job. He reminds me a lot of Bill Belichick. Bill went through some growing pains as a head coach, but now he's the model coach and runs the model franchise in the NFL. Now, we know the downfall in Miami lately has been because of some questionable personnel decisions. That's what we don't know yet about Nick: How good of a personnel guy is he? No one knows yet, because he hasn't had to do it at a pro level. If he has a downfall, it'll be in personnel."