Alabama is a perineal championship contender for a reason. The program features a revolving door of player talent and strong coaching, leading to consistently impressive results year in and year out.
Key to the Crimson Tide’s success is head coach Nick Saban. So long as he is around, a title always seems feasible. That said, despite having a contract that runs to 2027, he is 70 years old.
It’s clear that sooner or later, Alabama will need to confront a Saban-less reality.
When that ultimately happens, college football insider Paul Finebaum believes there are four legit contenders to take over.
“I was in Alabama the other night talking to some ‘Bama people and the conversation came up about Saban’s future, and it was interesting,” Finebaum said, as transcribed by 247 Sports. “I’m giving you an anecdotal conversation.
“Yeah, they still love Kirby Smart over there. They respect him more than any other coach, other than Nick Saban, and that includes Dabo Swinney. Somebody brought up — a bunch of us were sitting around late, and Dabo Swinney’s name came up. These are all Alabama people. And I looked around this table, and there were about 10 of them — prominent Alabama boosters — and I didn’t see one who felt good about Dabo Swinney taking over for Nick Saban.
“Four years ago, I would’ve told you he’d be the overwhelming pick to be, of a group like. He’s not anymore. Now, what’s happened? I don’t know. A lot of things have happened. But the answer was there really isn’t an answer right now. And timing is really critical.”
Swinney, Clemson’s current head coach, has been in the news quite a bit over the past few months. Which is fine when you’re winning National Championships. But when you’re not, it just comes off as irritating.
Many believe that’s why Swinney ultimately lost out on Arch Manning.
Lane Kiffin, Billy Napier and Mario Cristobal all also seem to be in the running.
“If there were time and Saban announced in October, ‘This is my last year,’ then who would emerge? I think you always have to talk about the X Factor,” Finebaum continued.
“Somebody mentioned Billy Napier, if he has success. Billy Napier is well liked. But three years ago, Jeremy Pruitt was well liked and considered to be a favorite. He’s now persona non grata. So you just don’t know. Things change very quickly. People emerge, people come and go.”
Nothing speaks to the respect Napier elicits nowadays better than the fact that he single-handedly put his program in the running for Arch Manning.
And Kiffin, well, that one is self-explanatory.
“I’m not saying he wouldn’t be (the guy), because I’m in total agreement,” Finebaum acknowledged. “As a football coach, Lane Kiffin is terrific. He’s outstanding. I think what you have to accept is Lane Kiffin has some sideshow in him, but it shouldn’t take away what he’s capable of doing. And at Alabama, he wouldn’t have to do all that. Why would Lane Kiffin need to spend a lot of time tweeting emojis when he’s the Alabama football coach?”
Kiffin is something of a polarizing personality, obviously. But as Finebaum said, his credentials are top-notch.
Finally, don’t sleep on Mario Cristobal.
“Another name that has come up, that I think is somewhat out of the contention, is Mario Cristobal,” Finebaum noted. “He’s well liked at Alabama, too. It’s hard to imagine, after leaving to go to Oregon and now coming to Miami, it’s even conceivable he could make another move.”
Paige kept it real.https://t.co/KnIh7eFwgD
— Game 7 (@game7__) April 26, 2022
That said, he won’t coach forever.
And when he does finally decide to call it quits, Alabama would be wise to have a succession plan in place.