Tonight, Nick Saban makes his triumphant return to Miami, where he coached the Dolphins for two largely unpleasant and unmemorable years in 2005 and 2006. Saban's clearly a good coach—he bookended his 15-17 Dolphins stint with a 48-16 record at LSU and a 62-13 record at Alabama—but he never seemed comfortable in Miami. In late 2006, he assured the pro press corps that he had no interest in the Bama job, but then he took it two weeks later. Everyone wound up better off with things this way: Miami won a division title two years later under Tony Sparano, and Saban terminated Alabama's lost era under NCAA sanctions and rough coaches (Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, Mike Shula). But we remained wondering why exactly Saban took the Dolphins' job in the first place. The New York Times's Greg Bishop apparently has, too, and he may have gotten an answer:
"I'll say this about him: I don't think he really wanted to take that job," said Gil Brandt, a longtime N.F.L. personnel executive, Sirius analyst and a friend of Saban's.
The story Brandt heard, a story others involved with those Dolphins teams said circulated widely, is that H. Wayne Huizenga, then the owner, flew to Louisiana and presented Saban's wife with a check that contained a number and at least five zeros.
Huh. That sounds nice.
Strangely enough, it was also Terry Saban who gave the most illuminating statement on Nick's potential NFL future. In December, she told ESPN 97.3 The Zone in Birmingham, "As far as jobs go, this is it for us. I don't mean to be presumptuous. I would have to talk this over with Nick, but as far as I'm concerned, this is it." This is an admirably strong marriage. The Sabans wedded over 41 years ago. Presumably Nick recently filled his back with a caricature of Terry in a Greg McElroy jersey.