Nick Saban Bill Belichick and the Alabama Patriots

  • Another new year brings up the same old question: It’s a problem that has vexed the best of both college football and NFL. And it could reach absurd levels in 2017. Because this could bethe year Alabama and New England finally win it all in the same season.Believe it or not, that hasn’t happened once since Nick Saban took over Alabama in 2007. The in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday, and the Patriots enter the NFLplayoffs looking to defend their latest Super Bowl with the AFC’s top seed after a 13-3 record.MORE: Given the stranglehold Alabama’s Saban and the Patriots’ Bill Belichick have on their respective sports, it’s a surprise this hasn’t happened with their current teams. The Patriots did win a Super Bowl 38 under Belichick the same year Saban won a BCS championship at LSU in 2003.Now Alabama and New England arguably the two greatest dynasties in the history of their respective sports have another chance to do it in the same season. Belichick has won a record-five Super Bowls.Saban has six national championships including five at Alabama tying Bear Bryant for the all-time record.Gil Brandt the former vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-89 and a well-respected voice in both the NFL and college football has tracked Belichick and Saban through the years. He continues to be amazed at what he has seen.“I’m not sure we’ll ever have two coaches like this in history that are succe sful,” Brandt told Sporting News before Alabama’s latest national championship victory. "The similarity between the two from everybody else is this: Alot of people will say, ‘Well, we did this in 2016 or this is how we won a national title.’ The difference with Saban and Belichick is no matter what they did last year they are always looking for another way to get better."Consider this statistic: Belichick led the Patriots to a victory in Super Bowl 36 in the 2001 NFL season. If you count the 2009 SEC championship gameas a national semifinal which it was, consideringNo. 2 Alabama playedNo. 1 Florida then Saban and Belichick have been in the “final four” in their respective sports in 14 of the last 17 years.The only years where neither Saban nor Belichick was in that position fell on 2002, 2005 and 2010.Brandt, now the senior analyst at and a host on Sirius XM, points to a now-defunct retail store and grocery chain toillustratethat long-term succe s.“Montgomery Ward and A&P,” Brandt said. “Those are two companies that were the leaders in the field. Both of those companieschose to stand still. (Belichick and Saban) never stand still.“They have taken a hands-on approach. Brandt points out that Saban rides a stationary bike while looking at film of high school recruits. Brandt also remembers watching a practice before Super Bowl 49.”(Malcolm) Butler, an undrafted free agent on defensive day was beaten for a touchdown near the goal line,” Brandt said. "That was nearly the same as the play in the game. Some coaches might have just let that go and say, ‘You got beat, move on.’ Belichick showed him exactly the way to play that play."We all know what happened next. Butler delivered the game-winning interception at the goal line against Seattle a few days later.MORE: It’s not just the players. It’s the coaches. Both have managed to build football dynasties while handling coaching turnover on their staffs. Saban brought in former New England offensive a sistant Brian Daboll to replace Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator, and will face one of his former defensive coordinators, Georgia’s Kirby Smart, in the College Football Playoff championship game.“As long as Nick Saban is there they will be a top-five team,” Brandt said. "As long as he’s able to recruit and identify people the way he does with coaches he’ll be fine. He knows how to spot people who can coach."Brandt sees the same for Belichick. CoordinatorsJosh McDaniels and Mike Patricia are hot candidates on the coaching carousel, but Brandt believes Belichick already has some new candidates in mind.“He probably has them on his staff now because he does a great job of coaching coaches,” Brandt said. "He’s got to build a new regime over and over again. By and large, he does an outstanding job of identifying on-the-come coaches."The question isn’t if these dynasties will continue;New England and Alabama will likely be the preseason favorites heading into 2018. The question, then, is, “How long?” Belichick and Saban will turn 66 and 67, respectively, this year. But neither has shown any signs of letting the game pa s them by.“Eventually everybody hasto retire and I think they’ll wheel them out in wheelbarrows,” Brandt joked. “But that’s how much they care about coaching.”

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