John Amis/Associated Press
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban served as Bill Belichick‘s defensive coordinator from 1991-94, when Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. The two have been friends since, and on a conference call Monday, the New England Patriots head coach sang the praises of Saban.
“There’s nobody I have more respect for in football than Nick Saban—period,” he said, per Andrew Callahan of MassLive.com.
“Look, of course it’s flattering to be compared with Nick and the great success that he’s had there. The way his team’s performed, I don’t think anybody’s done it better than he has. I think probably every coach in football is trying to do it as well as he does it and has done it. But they do a tremendous job there, Nick’s a tremendous coach.”
Belichick also spoke about the pair’s friendship:
“Certainly learned a lot from him during the time we were together. (He’s) been a great friend and a coach I have tremendous tremendous respect and admiration for. And whenever we get a chance to visit, it’s really a great opportunity to me to learn from somebody that I respect so much and know how much knowledge and—I would say just knowledge and application, real football application—he has.”
The pair have certainly had their share of success throughout their respective careers. While Belichick had mixed results as the head coach of the Browns, going 36-44 with one playoff berth, he has had enormous success with the Patriots, going 223-77 with 15 playoff berths, five championships and eight trips to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots are on their way to a 16th playoff berth and are among the favorites in the AFC as the partnership of Belichick and star quarterback Tom Brady continues going strong.
Saban doesn’t have the benefit of keeping his players for nearly two decades, like Brady in New England, but he routinely brings in top recruiting classes and coaches them to titles. In a college coaching career spanning Kent State, Michigan State, LSU and Alabama, Saban has gone 236-62-1 (13-9 in bowls) and won five national championships with the Crimson Tide.
Saban also spent time in the NFL, serving as the Houston Oilers secondary coach for two years, the Browns defensive coordinator for four seasons and the Miami Dolphins head coach for two years. His time in Miami was unsuccessful, as his teams went just 15-17 and he contributed to the ill-fated decision to trade a second-round pick for quarterback Daunte Culpepper rather than sign Drew Brees in free agency after Brees failed his physical.
Had he chosen differently, perhaps Saban would still be in the NFL. But he’s nonetheless left an indelible mark on the college game and on Alabama in particular.
“They win almost every game they play anyways, so it’s really incredible what he’s done there,” Saban said. “The program he’s built, how consistent he is and the way he does it with a lot of class and great discipline and great execution and passion.”