Alabama Team News

Nick Saban says he could’ve handled things better at end of 2016 season

Alabama coach Nick Saban
Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

This is not automatic. And more often than not, it is built from the ground up by the players.

“The championship teams we’ve had here all believed in having ownership of the team and doing things the right way,” Saban said.

But when Saban evaluated the 2016 season, he had to admit that, for all of the intangible qualities that team had, it did not play as well in the playoffs as he would have liked or expected. The Crimson Tide offense had a bunch of negative plays in the 24-7 semifinal victory over Washington. The offense scored only 17 points and two of those scores came when running back Bo Scarbrough simply ran over people.

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Then came the drama of Saban’s decision to let offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin go and replace him with offensive analyst Steve Sarkisian before the national championship game on Jan. 8.

While the decision by Saban sparked some second-guessing (which always happens when you lose), Alabama did score 31 points against Clemson with Sarkisian calling the plays. But that was not enough because of Watson’s brilliance. Alabama’s defense was on the field for 99 plays, and that was one play too many.

Looking back, Saban said he feels he could have done a better job guiding his team through some choppy waters at the end of the season.

“I didn’t think we played great in the championship game because some of our guys didn’t play up to our standard,” Saban said. “That’s my fault. (Those are) the kind of things you have to manage well at the end of the season. I didn’t do something at the end.”

But the page here in Tuscaloosa long ago has been turned. If there is one core value in Saban’s “process,” it is that you learn as much as you can from victory or defeat, then you move on.

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Sarkisian took an opportunity to become the offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons for his good friend Dan Quinn; he was replaced by Brian Daboll, a former offensive coordinator with three different NFL teams and most recently the tight ends coach for the New England Patriots.

There was speculation that Saban hired Daboll to step away from some of the spread concepts Alabama used under Kiffin and to once again be a heavy run-oriented attack. Not so, Saban said.

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