December 21st 2006. The Miami Dolphins head coach at the time, Nick Saban, uttered the following words:
“I guess I have to say it. I’m not going to be the Alabama coach…I don’t know how many times I’ve got to respond to rumor and innuendo. I have no control over that. I’ve stated what my intentions are and they really haven’t changed, so I don’t know what the issue is. And I don’t know why people keep asking about it. What they talk about over there is their business. But what’s happening here is my business and our business, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Fast forward to January 3, 2007 and Nick Saban was, indeed, the Alabama coach. His departure from Miami spurned South Florida and left hard feelings that, for many Dolphins fans, still linger to this day even as the Dolphins look to finally shake the ghost of Dan Marino with one of Saban’s prized pupils, Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback.
Saban’s departure has often been tied back to the team’s decision to sign (or rather, not sign) quarterback Drew Brees in free agency; a decision that Saban has often times asserted helped to push him back to the college ranks once it was apparent that the team’s audible at quarterback, Dante Culpepper, wasn’t going to work out. But new comments made by Saban seem to paint a very different picture than his previous explanation for his two-year tenure in Miami — and make those comments from December 21st of 2006 sound even worse.
“Look when the Miami Dolphins were going to sign Drew Brees, Drew was coming to Miami when I was the coach there. He was going to be the quarterback. That’s all we needed. We just went 9-7 and all we needed was a quarterback to be a playoff team. We were going to sign Drew Brees as a free agent. Dr. (James) Andrews operated on him and I went to Birmingham to see Dr. Andrews, and he said it’ll be fine. Our doctors failed him on the physical. (Drew) was there to sign with us. I actually made a deal with his agent that he wouldn’t tell anybody for 72 hours he failed his physical until New Orleans signed him. That’s how he ended up in New Orleans.
So, I decided right then when that happened that we don’t have a quarterback in the NFL, we’re not going to win. I’m getting out of here. I’m not staying here. I’m not going to be responsible for this. That doctor didn’t know his (rear end) from a handful of sand. Drew Brees plays 15 more years, wins a Super Bowl, goes to nine Pro Bowls. And we didn’t take him in Miami, where he wanted to go. Some things you can’t control. When we left there nobody understood why. Well that was why. There’s always a reason.” — Nick Saban via 247 Sports
Here’s the thing: Saban deciding to opt for a career path that gave him more control over his product is one thing. That isn’t hard to respect. But this all doesn’t compute. Because if Saban did indeed decide when the team doctor vetoed the team’s signing of Brees that he wasn’t going to be able to win and that he was “out of here”, then the terms of Saban’s departure at the end of the 2006 season are even more disheartening to know.
Of course, this is all water under the bridge and Miami appears to have found a coach invested in the Dolphins via Brian Flores. Perhaps the terms of the last fifteen years will make it even more sweet for Dolphins fans when Miami finally returns to the top once more.