It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility to think that before Wednesday afternoon, Nick Saban was actually a robot — a computer-generated, emotionless computer that ran on X’s and O’s.
Alabama’s eat-drink-and-breathe-football coach has 5 National Championships. He’s been in the running for Coach of the Year at the end of each season for essentially a decade. Saban has it made, and he’s the best coach in college football.
On Wednesday, we learned that the 65-year-old coach was, in fact, human.
Alabama was on the cusp of making it two straight National Championships over the Clemson Tigers in the latest College Football Playoff title game. Instead, the late-game heroics of quarterback Deshaun Watson sent the Tide packing with back-to-back titles for Alabama an afterthought.
Big deal, right? All Saban had to do was get over the loss and prepare for a potential No. 1 ranking to start the 2017 regular season; if he was fortunate enough, maybe more 5-star recruits had pledged to Tuscaloosa while the team was on the field.
Except Saban hasn’t gotten over that loss on January 9. He hasn’t gotten over the handful of heart-breakers he’s endured over the years.
“I’ll never get over it because you never do with those kind of losses,” he told ESPN. “I never got over the returned field goal at Auburn. I never got over playing poorly against Ohio State and losing that game late. And then in this game, we didn’t play very well, and Clemson did when they had to. That’s what eats at you.”
Saban’s a tricky subject in the current college football landscape. Straight-faced coaches with a rigid demeanor have been traded in for high-energy, vocal coaches that express enthusiasm. Perhaps at times the college football world yearns for Alabama’s head coach to adapt to the Dabo Swinneys or Kliff Kingsburys of the emotional coaching tree.
Saban runs on cliche quotes and lets the product on the field do the talking — it’s just the way he runs his business. Should he crack a smile during a postgame press conference, it’d create a bigger story than the actual game played.
If we’re all looking for Saban’s walls to come crashing to the ground, we found it. At least for a moment.