Alabama football: Will 2023 Crimson Tide be the last of Nick Saban era?

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /
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Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher and Alabama coach Nick Saban shake hands at midfield after their game at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.Bama618
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher and Alabama coach Nick Saban shake hands at midfield after their game at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.Bama618 /

This is a very heavy (and controversial) question to tackle

Such a question is not asked out of fear that Alabama will be bad anytime soon, as the program has hit a level of success so consistently elite that it would probably be difficult to kill quickly. In other words, this is simply a discussion that revolves around when Nick Saban should call it quits, not when he must.

With that said, if he sees another season like this last one — one that was impressive, yet saw him hit new lows and miss the CFP—it would arguably be a note worthy of ending his tenure on.

Think about it: In a perfect world, a coach would have the opportunity to cap off his/her career on a run that was both objectively strong and indicative of decline, and that is actually a perfect way to describe the 2022 Tide.

Blowing out Kansas State (a conference champ) in the Sugar Bowl en route to an 11-win season is a year that no one should cry about, but Bama fans have seen their team’s ceiling reach much higher than that. So, if we were to see another run like it, why wouldn’t Saban at least consider taking the hint at that point and walking away while having the comfort of knowing it was still a relatively happy ending? It makes sense to me.

However, a rebuttal to that would be one that we addressed just the other day: Who cares? A short stretch of underwhelming-yet-still-impressive football isn’t enough to decide the future of anyone, much less the Nick Saban. This goes noticeably beyond one slight dip in performance, though.

Along with leaving a lot to be desired with how these past couple of seasons have concluded, Saban’s Tide has seen first-time lows that would make anyone raise an eyebrow. This has mainly been the case in regards to who all it’s lost to.

Entering the 2021 season, Saban had never lost a game to any of his former coordinators/assistant coaches. But, by the time it was all said and done, he had lost to two (Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Georgia’s Kirby Smart). Heading into the season after that, Saban’s Tide had never lost to Tennessee, but that streak came to an end as well.

That’s what brings us to 2023 which, as previously established, has a rather menacing slate in store for the Crimson Tide. Something that makes it even more menacing, though, is how it also has multiple ”trap games” of its own that are set against other typically inferior opponents.

Said games include at Mississippi State, Arkansas, and at Kentucky. These matchups stand out when combining the teams’ struggles when facing Alabama with where they’re placed on the schedule.

Just how dangerous do these games look?

Mississippi State — a team coming off of a 9-win season that hasn’t beaten the Tide since 2007 — will be hosting their meeting between the latter’s games against Ole Miss and at Texas A&M. As for the Razorbacks, who have never beaten Bama in its time under Saban, they have the misfortune of having to face the Tide in Tuscaloosa, but it has been shown as recently as 2021 (the last time they played there) that it would be unwise to overlook them. The match being between the aforementioned A&M road trip and a home game with Tennessee also adds to the heat of it all.

That just leaves the Kentucky Wildcats, who have the least amount of success against Bama all-time, as they have only beaten the SEC powerhouse once since the Great Depression (1997). They will be hosting the Crimson Tide following its battle with LSU that is sure to be a hassle.

In short, history alone has proven that Alabama shouldn’t struggle too much with any of these opponents. However, on the off chance that it does (or worse, if it actually loses to any of them) in the middle of a run that sees it miss the CFP again, there will be virtually nothing that can stop us from having this talk.

Speaking of which, it is worth addressing the fact that these undesirable conversations only grow in volume when Georgia, not Alabama, is widely recognized as the best team in the SEC until further notice.

Remember, Alabama is far from being in bad shape today, and that is exactly why I brought this discussion into the light. If Nick Saban can lead his Tide to another admirable finish while once again failing to regain his grasp on both the SEC and CFP, it would not be ridiculous to wonder if departing then would be fairer to him than if he were to do so any later.

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