Will Nick Saban’s Career End Like Bear Bryant’s?

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Old age.

Staff turnover.

Young, hungry former assistants seeking to slay the king and claim the kingdom for their own.

These are some of the issues which plagued Paul “Bear” Bryant in the early 1980s, at the end of a legendary tenure as head coach of Alabama football.

Nowadays, the other king of Alabama football, Nick Saban, is facing similar obstacles in the wake of the Crimson Tide’s shocking national title championship loss to Clemson.

The comparison between Bear Bryant and the 67-year-old Nick Saban is something Paul Finebaum, longtime SEC football radio host, recently delved into.

“I covered the end of Paul Bryant’s tenure, as one of my first big responsibilities as a reporter. He was sick, he was 69 years old.

But what also hurt him his last year or two was staff turnover, the rumors of his age working against him and competing in state against a younger, aggressive coach who knew his blueprint.”

Finebaum here is referring to Pat Dye, who’d coached linebackers under Bryant from 1965 to 1973 before head coaching at Auburn. There are two Nick Saban-era equivalents to Dye. First, Jimbo Fisher worked under Saban at LSU as an offensive coordinator.

Second, there’s Kirby Smart, who was Saban’s longtime right-hand man and defensive coordinator at Alabama. Smart has already built a powerhouse at Georgia, a program that in the last two seasons has given the Crimson Tide more trouble than any save Clemson.

Pat Dye ended up stealing some high-caliber players from Bear Bryant and Alabama. “Bo Jackson wasn’t the one everybody thought was going to hurt [Bryant],” Finebaum said. Nope, that was lineman Ben Tamburello, a Birmingham area native whom Bryant badly wanted.

These kinds of forces of atrophy “are usually what gets a good coach,” Finebaum added. “I’m not suggesting Saban is anywhere near the end, although he’s had a pretty bad week.”