Five reasons why Nick Saban decided the NFL meant "not for long,'' and opted for the University of Alabama on Tuesday, ending his tenure as the Dolphins head coach after just two seasons:
1. Saban discovered he couldn't fix the Dolphins' problems quickly. In fact, he's leaving with the program headed in the wrong direction. Instead of being the start of something big, last year's hopeful 9-7, second-place finish wound up being a bit of a mirage. Miami went just 6-10 this year, dropping into last place in the competitive AFC East. The Jets, Bills and Patriots all improved their win totals in 2006 by two games or more. The Dolphins were three games worse.
And the truth is, things could get bleaker in Miami in 2007. The defense is getting older by the minute, and the team isn't any closer to solving its post-Marino era quarterback problems. Saban bungled Miami's quarterback decision last offseason, choosing to believe DaunteCulpepper's knee was more likely to rebound than Drew Brees shoulder, and we all know how that call turned out. Brees threw for 4,418 yards, sparked MVP talk and led the resurgent Saints into the playoffs for the first time in six years. Culpepper played four games and underwent more knee surgery.
Miami next season could be looking at the same unappealing QB options that didn't work this year: a questionable Culpepper, Joey Harrington andthe unproven Cleo Lemon. No wonder Tuscaloosa was looking pretty good.
2. College football suits Saban's style. Those who know him best call him thorough in his preparation, almost to a fault. Others consider him a classic micro-manager, or control freak. In the college ranks, Saban found it possible to dictate and control every detail of his program, from the personnel decisions to the media's coverage of his team.
But that approach just doesn't fly in the NFL, and Saban's frustration with that part of his coaching assignment only intensified during his two years in South Florida. As one league source told me recently, "Saban spends a lot of time stressing about little things that don't necessarily help you win games in this league. From the smallest details of the game plan on. But that's the way he did it in college, and won, so that's what he knows.''
Saban had full personnel authority in Miami, but his ability to delegate and rely on others in the organization to manage their jobs was not among his strengths. Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller was virtually invisible during the Saban era, and sources say his skills for evaluating personnel were wasted because of Saban's penchant for trusting no one's counsel but his own.