- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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Nick Saban to Cleveland may make sense for the Browns. But a return to the NFL doesn't make sense for Nick Saban.
The annual pressure of battling for national championships may be wearing him down, but at Alabama, Saban is a king who controls his own destiny. He can recruit the best of the best and annually stay in the top-five rankings. But he learned about a tougher pressure during his two-year stint as Miami Dolphins head coach.
A tougher pressure is finding a quarterback, because success in the NFL is all about the quarterback. In college, Saban can go 11-1 or 12-0 as long as his quarterback is competent. In the NFL, you're 6-10 or worse if you don't have a top-level quarterback.
Saban is 61 and at the top of his game. You can't tell me he's going to give up being one of the most dominating college head coaches of his time to put his fate in the hands of a 29-year-old rookie quarterback. As expected, Brandon Weeden shows potential as an NFL starter. The youngest offense in football is coming together as a group with Weeden behind center.
But if Saban were to return to the NFL in Cleveland, Weeden would be 32 by Saban's third season with the Browns. Would the Browns be better than the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals by then? Before he'd find that out, Saban might have to endure more losses than he would suffer through for the rest of his career if he stays at Alabama.
One thing I know about Saban is that he hates losing. I go back with him to when he was recruiting college players in northern Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He hated losing in recruiting. He hated losing games. The other thing I know about Saban is that he usually wins.
In the pros, Saban learned a lot from Bill Belichick, who has established himself as the best head coach of his era. Belichick has established his own dynasty in New England, thanks to his coaching and the play of Tom Brady.
One of the great NFL questions involves the value of coaching compared to the value of a quarterback. I like this long-recited question:
"If Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were on an island, but a plane can only take one of them off the island, which guy gets the seat on the plane?"
The answer: "Mr. Belichick, keep your hoodie because it could get cold in the winter. Mr. Brady, what beverage would you like before we take off?"
At 61, I can't see Saban giving up his seat for Weeden.
Having experienced the unique pressures of the NFL, why would Nick Saban vacate his Alabama throne for Cleveland?