Here’s what Nick Saban said on ESPN about Lane Kiffin’s dismissal
Alabama coach Nick Saban dropped a bombshell on Monday afternoon when he announced that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will move on from his role with the program and on to FAU effective immediately.
Replacing Kiffin for the Crimson Tide’s national championship game against Clemson will be new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
Saban joined a live interview with the ESPN’s College GameDay crew moments after the news broke. Here’s what he had to say about Kiffin’s dismissal:
Question: “What led you to make this decision going into the Clemson game?”
Nick Saban: “Well, we recognize that this is a very difficult circumstance in terms of the sort of distractions that you have. I’ve been through it myself when I was with the Cleveland Browns taking the Michigan State job. I think it’s a really tough management. We just thought it was in the best interest of our players, our program and for Lane to assume his responsibilities of Florida Atlantic. It’s our goal as a program to always give our players the best opportunity to be successful, whether it’s personally, academically or athletically, which means on the field. This decision was made after we mutually agreed that this would be the best thing for both parties.”
Question: “What were the circumstances that led the two of you to change in mutual agreement?”
Nick Saban: “I think the way we went about the last game, whether it was the preparation, the practice, being able to focus on what we needed to do for our team relative to the distractions that occur when you’re trying to hire a staff and recruit another place and all these types of things. Hey, Lane did the best he could. It’s a difficult circumstance. We certainly wish him well. We both had a meeting yesterday and again this morning that we thought this would be in the best interest and mutually agreed for both parties to move on.”
Question: “I assume that Sarkisian is going to call the plays in the championship game?”
Nick Saban: “Yeah, Sark has already been named offensive coordinator. He’s been with us all season long and really knows the offense and players really know him. We’re hopeful that this will be a really smooth transition for us, and Sark will just assume this responsibility.”
Question: “So what is it that you see that is the primary challenge having a different voice actually making those play calls on game day on a stage like this in such a short-notice situation?”
Nick Saban: “I think the most important thing is that we do a good job of preparing our players for what to expect in the game, what we’re going to do in the game, how we’re going to execute it, get the repetitions on it. We all need to focus on what we need to do a week from today in terms of playing Clemson, which is an outstanding team, probably the way they’re playing right now as good as any in the country, offense, defense and special teams. We thought this would give us the best opportunity, our players the best opportunity to be successful. We’re looking forward to the challenge that we have in the national championship game.”
Question: “As far as what you see from them, round two, are there similarities or differences between this team and this matchup this year?”
Nick Saban: “Well, they have a lot of good players on both sides of the ball. They had a lot of good players last year. They have a lot of the same players. It obviously starts with the quarterback, who I think may be the best player in college football right now, especially with the way he’s playing, the way he can execute the passing game as well as extend plays and be a runner. They’re a very well-conceived offensive team. Some small differences in what they do now relatively to what they did but philosophically pretty much the same. Defensively, they got great players up front, great size, very athletic. Their linebackers are very active. Very similar philosophically to what they were a year ago, some different players in different spots but still a lot of really good football players.”
Question: “What would you say would be the most significant difference we’ll see in the way the Alabama offense operates with Sark calling the plays as opposed to when Lane Kiffin was calling the plays?”
Nick Saban: “I think that what you guys sort of miss here is, you know, you really plan what you’re going to do and what plays you’re going to call by what formations and what situations in the game, whether it’s in the red zone or third down. I mean, that stuff all gets planned during the course of the week so the players have an expectation of what you’re going to call and what you’re going to do in every situation in the game. That’s what we’ll practice, and that’s what we’ll get our players prepared for. I don’t think that we’re going to change our offense, we’re not going to change our terminology. We’re just going to have a different guy choosing what to dial up in each one of those situations, but those things will be practiced so that our players are prepared to be able to execute the best that we can.”