Paul Finebaum: It Feels Like Nick Saban is Close to Retiring

Paul Finebaum
Paul Finebaum /

There were many, many people who did not believe Nick Saban's Alabama team belonged in this year's College Football Playoff. None of those people reside on the CFP committee, so the Crimson Tide took on Michigan in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. It was an exciting game that ended on the final play of overtime, but the quality of football was not particularly high. It was crystal clear that this Alabama team was far from the best Saban has coached and in fact may very well be his worst ever. An idea supported by the fact that they were never ranked No. 1 overall, which hasn't happened to any Alabama team since 2008.

All that combined with Saban being over 70 years-old means it's time to have a conversation about when the legendary head coach would retire and if it could be very soon. Like, this offseason kind of soon. Paul Finebaum was asked about the matter on Get Up this morning and said it sure feels like we're finally reaching the endpoint of Saban's career (from the 6:56 mark below):

"It's possible, Greenie... It's now been three years since Nick Saban won a national championship. Why is that relevant? Because that's the longest stretch he's gone in his career. He won in the COVID year but other than that he hasn't won a title since 2017. This is a career for Jim Harbaugh or for any other coach but for Nick Saban it feels like he's very close to the end. I know a lot of people in Tuscaloosa are worried right now.

Saban's back in town after the trip to California. What is he thinking about? Yes, he just had a great recruiting year, but he can't stand the portal. He can't stand NIL. You just have to wonder whether that was his swan song the other night."

This entire conversation really shows the ridiculous standards to which Saban is held. He "only" won 12 games this season with an SEC Championship win over the two-time reigning national champs, but no national championship means the season is a failure. And because he hasn't won a national championship in three whole seasons we start to collectively wonder if the losing (five games across three full seasons) is starting to get to him. Yet Saban's success has been so other-worldly that he gives us no choice but to use those obscene benchmarks.

It is because of those same benchmarks that it feels difficult to believe Saban would go out sad like this. It would not be unfair to say Alabama was lucky to have the lead as late as they did against Michigan and if that game was played nine more times then the Wolverines would wipe the floor with them nine straight times. If it were a hard-fought battle filled with spectacular plays and Alabama came up short, that would be one thing. But they weren't really winning the game as much as Michigan was losing it, and Saban's standards of excellence might be too much for him to leave that as his final coaching performance.

Plus, while Finebaum isn't reporting anything above, the stuff about NIL and the transfer portal is spot-on. College football is undergoing an incredibly drastic transformation the likes of which not even Saban has seen. He's been right at the center of the game's biggest changes over the decades but they've been much more gradual. Between all the money and the conferences realigning, the college football world five years from now could be completely unrecognizable from the college football world of five years ago. It's no wonder Saban is openly complaining about it and that, more than anything, would drive him to finally hang up the whistle.

As with Bill Belichick and similarly great coaches who seem immortal, it'll be impossible to believe Saban is done until we don't see him on the sidelines come fall Saturdays. But Finebaum is right. It sure feels like the end is near.