Guerry Clegg commentary: Don't expect anything new from Saban interview

sports@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 2, 2013 

The laser glare of Nick Saban could serve as a physician’s tool. It pierces with surgical precision. Everyone who encounters him in football — players, coaches, officials, media members — has felt that invasive procedure. Without the benefit of anesthesia.

Volumes have been written on what drives the most successful coach in college football. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, even GQ (which produced probably the definitive Saban biography) have delved into the background and psyche of the only coach has even come close to being compared favorably to the saint of Alabama football, Paul "Bear" Bryant.

Tonight, CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" will air a 13-minute special on Saban, accurately titled "The Perfectionist."

Expect it to be interesting. Don't expect it to be revealing. The CBS tease promises to "show sides of Saban rarely seen before." I doubt that. There's not much to reveal about Saban that hasn't already been thoroughly dissected.

Still, it says something that a news program whose subjects include world leaders would devote a segment to a football coach, without the added angle of a disgruntled former player stuffing a tape recorder in his sweatpants to expose cheating.

Some might paint Saban as a complex man. He can be kind and callous, warm and cold.

In truth, Saban is amazingly simple. He is obsessed with perfection, whether it's in lining up for team stretching or converting a fourth-and-1.

CBS viewers certainly won't hear the profane tirades. My guess is they probably won't even be subjected to the bleeps that would make Jersey Shore seem like wholesome family television. Saban is too calculating for that. He knows his character will be on display for a national TV audience.

He knows recruits -- and, just as important, their parents -- will be watching. Every step Saban takes, every word he utters, every glare he aims, has the single intent of gaining an edge, whether at practice, on the recruiting trail, in front of the media, or in a game.

He talks about "The Process" of success and views it almost as a medical procedure. Recruit, sign, develop, win, repeat.

After the win over Tennessee eight days ago, Saban was asked if this year's team was starting to develop a personality. And that personality is simple.

"Every player needs to dominate his man on every play."

That pretty much sums up Alabama football since Saban's arrival. It's what makes the Crimson Tide more than just the premier program in college football. There's not a close second. Oh, there may be individual teams that can rise up and go toe-to-toe with them. But no program has been as consistently dominant. We might not witness anything like it for decades.

Chances are we're seeing just the beginning. Yeah, he could get bored and want a new challenge, whether at Texas or in the NFL. But that's not likely to happen. My guess is he will stay at Alabama for the rest of his career.

How long will that be? Until he gets tired of winning.

He just turned 62 but has the health, energy and drive of a man half his age. If he stays at Alabama another 10 years, he could win another five national championships. And that's being conservative. The four-team playoff system goes into effect next season. It's hard to imagine many scenarios in which the Tide would not be one of the top four teams.

After a little sketchy start to this season, the Crimson Tide is rolling again. LSU, which they play Saturday in Tuscaloosa, and Auburn are the only legitimate threats remaining on the schedule until the SEC championship game. No team in the East appears strong enough to upset the Tide.

So chances are, Alabama will be playing for its third consecutive national championship and four out of the last five seasons. That's as close to perfection as a team can get.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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