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The Art of a Nick Saban Tirade

Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

“When he doesn’t yell at you and he doesn’t talk to you anymore, that’s when you need to be worried…” – Mark Ingram, Jr.

Consistency. Nick Saban preaches it – always has. It’s a part of his coaching philosophy he’s termed ‘the process.’ It encompasses not just the ability to win, but to play and coach the same way in every game no matter the stage.

The only thing Nick Saban is consistently better at than winning football games is his legendary ability to lay into people verbally. “Ass-chewings” as he once called them. Whether you’re a player, coach, reporter or fan, you too are a potential target to draw Saban’s ire. It matters not who or where, only when.

If you’re unlucky enough to put yourself in a position that can be used as a teaching moment, good luck. Every season, reporters, players, and coaches have to learn this the hard way. With each new edition of a televised Nick Saban rant, the line dividing those who like and dislike the 65-year-old head coach grows thinner and thinner. Ultimately, a question arises. A question that needs answers to be understood, but cannot be answered by the man himself.

Why does he do it?


The Art of a Nick Saban Tirade

The year is 2008. Nick Saban’s Alabama team had just finished off of an upset victory over the 9th-ranked Clemson Tigers. That win – which followed what was an extremely disappointing first season under Saban – was wildly celebrated and immediately heralded as the beginning of something new in Tuscaloosa.

However, Saban was having none of that.

In what would become one of the most memorable post-game rants in Alabama football history, he strongly reminded everyone that it was only just one game. Rather than hyping the team and riling up the fans at home, he told them to settle down. To keep their emotions in check and their expectations at a minimum.

“They need to remember how they got where they got,” he started, “rather than think we can just show up now and beat whoever we play.” He extended his already raised arms like a lawyer giving an emotional closing argument.

“We have a tendency to think that way around here…instead of kicking people’s ass like you’re supposed to.”

He wasn’t angry – or ‘pissed’ – at the reporter for asking whatever question he asked. He wasn’t angry at the players for winning, or the fans for celebrating. He was doing what he always does – coach.

“I like our players to play with confidence, and I think they played with confidence tonight. I didn’t see anybody scared out there…I didn’t see any fear.”

Instead of celebrating the win, he culminated expectations and looked ahead. The year before, he saw his team pummel Tennessee then come back two weeks later and lose to a bad Louisiana-Monroe team at home. He wasn’t planning on getting too excited just yet.

Regardless, that press conference – which has garnered over 270,000 views online – initiated what would become a trend. Type ‘nick saban rant’ into any search engine and you’re guaranteed over 160,000 hits and a slew of video suggestions. The longer you sit and watch the array of outbursts, the clearer one thing becomes…

Not all rants are created equal, but much like the rest of the process, it’s consistent. Whether at the podium or on the sideline, you never want to see his hand motions become slowly more emphatic in front of your eyes.

These tirades do, however, all carry the same message.

There was the public ‘spanking’ of backup quarterback AJ McCarron:

The spewing tirade on his special teams in the 2012 National Championship game – up 21-0:

Press conference rants like the infamous ‘talk to the Coke bottle’ response:

Nick Saban directs Kirby Smart coaching rumors to his bottle of Coca-Cola

Or the walk-off presser after being asked about D.J. Fluker:

Regardless of the circumstance or situation, when he sees an opportunity for a good teaching moment, he takes it. He knows his players go back to their dorms and flip the television on to ESPN or other sports networks. He knows they are online and connected through social media. That’s what makes these moments so great, we are watching him speak with his players through the lights and cameras.

He blows up on the sidelines to make a point. If he didn’t think the player capable, he wouldn’t waste his breath. He wants perfection from his guys, no matter how much time is left, what the score is or who they are playing against. He wants absolutely zero distractions, be it players suspended or coaches leaving.

Last season, a new video trend cropped up: his yelling at Lane Kiffin. This, of course, was only magnified when he said they were ‘no arguments’ and that they were called ‘ass-chewings’.

If you thought there were exceptions as to whom can be targeted, you were wrong. Even as recently as a month ago, when speaking to the media after the first day of spring practice, he asked a reporter if they ‘do what everyone else in the media does: just create some sh*t, throw it at the wall, and see what sticks?’

The question was based on the idea of hiring new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for ball control purposes. Nick made it known that the New England Patriots (Daboll’s old team) threw the ball over ’60-something percent’ of the time – more than even the Tide did last season under Kiffin.

The funny thing about this is that Nick was right. The general assumption was that Brian Daboll would bring back the ‘old-school’ offense that focused on time of possession despite little-to-no data to back it up. Yet, after amassing over 600 passing yards in the spring game, few still believe Daboll will run a conservative offense.

Behind each oration, that same message lies in wait. A message that defines the process, defines the philosophy on top of which the program is built.

“Everybody should take the attitude that we are working to be a champion,” said Saban on January 4th, 2007, during his inaugural press conference in Tuscaloosa. “We want to be a champion in everything that we do. Every choice, every decision, everything that we do every day, we want to be a champion. Everyone needs to take ownership of their role – whether it’s being a fan, being a booster – be a good one.”

In his world, nobody else should ever be able to define you. You create your own legacies. In order to do so, though, you can’t just do what you are supposed to do when you want to do it.

“Do the right thing. It’s that simple. Do the right thing when the right thing is not popular. Do the right thing when no one else is around. Do the right thing when temptation tells you otherwise. Do the right thing all the time.”

Everyone, at some point in their lives, needs an ‘ass-chewing’. In the chaos of life, we give up on chasing perfection. We give up on dreams and goals just to settle for what is easier – to settle for what is comfortable. Every now and again, we could use someone behind us that sees our potential and berates us when we falter and fail to live up to it. That’s the message he is sending his players and coaches every time he gets the chance.

At the end of the day, it’s not personal. It’s not an attack in the way many have coined it. It’s all a part of the process. It’s the only way to try and control the uncontrollable news media. It is an attempt to change the headlines circling around his team into something more favorable.

Most of all, it’s another part of the never-ending Process.

“You go out there and dominate the guy you’re playing against and make his ass quit.” – Nick Saban

Jake Weaver is a contributor for TD Alabama Magazine and Bama Hoops Hype. You can contact him via email at [email protected], phone at 205-612-5060, and follow him on Twitter for sports news/commentary @JAWeaver0

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