Paul Finebaum explains why this season may be Nick Saban's best coaching job
Even with Alabama’s runaway success under coach Nick Saban, there’s a prevailing sentiment that Saban has not gotten enough credit in the postseason Coach of the Year awards.
That may change, this year. Saban is a finalist for the Associated Press National Coach of the Year award, alongside Central Florida coach Josh Heupel and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. Saban is one of two coaches (TCU’s Gary Patterson) to receive the award twice (2003, 2008) since the award began in 1998.
Heupel and UCF are 12-0 in his first year, with it being the second straight unbeaten season for the program. UCF will play LSU in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Kelly has led Notre Dame to a 12-0 record, and the Fighting Irish are set to play Clemson in the Cotton Bowl national semifinal.
Saban has now led Alabama to the playoff for the fifth straight season, and the Crimson Tide are 13-0 after they beat Georgia to win the SEC Championship. They play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl national semifinal.
Last year’s winner of this away was Scott Frost, who led Central Florida to a 13-0 record before he left for Nebraska.
During his regular weekly visit with Birmingham-based WJOX 94.5 FM program “The Roundtable,” ESPN and SEC Network host Paul Finebaum spoke to the complaints from Alabama fans of the lack of recognition for Saban. This year, the quarterback management may be the difference as Saban handled the change and insertion of Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts well, from the beginning of the season, to the end.
“He probably should win it this year, don’t you guys think so?,” Finebaum said. “I think the way he handled that versus other people. Brian Kelly manages a quarterback situation, as well as Dabo Swinney, but nobody had more pressure on him. We weren’t even sure Jalen Hurts would make it to the first game this year. I didn’t like it at the time, but he put himself in front of the bullet so to speak.
“He took the heat during that famous interview with Maria Taylor. But in the end, he was doing all that, he didn’t have to do it as harshly, he was doing that to protect Jalen Hurts. Which maybe he knew that day was coming and ultimately and eventually it did against Georgia. But I think for those reasons, you have to consider Saban as National Coach of the Year more this year that I can remember, at least since the beginning of his tenure.”