With new ownership and a fresh approach taking over the front office of the NFL'sCleveland Browns, is there a chance a new era of football could be led by one of the biggest names in college football?
Rumors are starting to spread (they have since been denied) the Browns may be interested in targeting Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who was an assistant with the team from 1991 through 1994. Saban would make sense to be included on a short list for the Browns, as Saban has shown to be a successful coach with three BCS championship rings and a good chance to add a fourth this season. Saban has been on NFL sidelines three separate times, first with the Houston Oilers in 1988 and 1989 as a defensive backs coach, followed by four seasons as a defensive coordinator under Bill Bellichik and most recently with the Miami Dolphins as a head coach for just two seasons. After leading LSU to a BCS title in 2004 Saban accepted the offer to become the head coach of the Dolphins. After two disappointing seasons, and perhaps after realizing the college game had more to offer him, Saban returned to the SEC to return Alabama to championship caliber.
Saban is a man who never backs down from a challenge, and he rarely makes the same mistake twice. Will Saban return to coach in the NFL someday? Perhaps he might, but Cleveland probably is not the right situation right now.
Why Saban would leave one of college football's top jobs for a reconstruction project in Cleveland would be anyone's guess. But forget about what Saban might have to think about, because there is one man who will have more of a say in the entire process than Saban, if you can imagine that.
His name is Joe Banner.
The new CEO of the Cleveland Browns is a moneyman. Working budgets and signing the checks that best fit the team is what made people notice Banner in Philadelphia. Banner helped the Philadelphia Eagles work through their rebuilding process in the late 1990s and the turn of the century by putting in place a staff and having the support of ownership that supported his NFL version of Moneyball tactics.
Saban makes $4.83 million per season right now at Alabama. Andy Reid, after 14 seasons in Philadelphia, is being paid $5.5 million. After putting together one of the most successful stints in Eagles franchise history that included five separate trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl, Banner made sure to budget the franchise's all-time winningest coach for $5.5 million, just $700,000 more than Saban.
Does this sound like a man who will go out of his way to ensure Saban would make the same kind of money Pete Carroll is making at Seattle ($7 million)? Of course not.
Banner likes control, which is part of the reason he left his position in Philadelphia. It seemed as though Banner and Reid were starting to differ on their opinions on how the team should be formed (who is right or wrong is still up for debate) and Banner saw an opportunity to try something new in Cleveland which would give him more responsibility, and thus more of a say in how things are run.
In Philadelphia, Banner was the man asked to work the payrolls. Under Banner's system the Eagles hired a rising offensive assistant coach from Green Bay rather than make a play for a hotshot head coach from another NFL team or the college ranks. The decision paid off for he and the Eagles in the long haul.
Even if it was just floated out by the Browns organization to be considering Saban, it is nothing but a smart business move to keep the PR machine working and suggesting the new leadership is out to bring in the best available candidates. Saban may be one of the best available candidates, but expect Banner to spend that money a little more carefully than it would take to lure Saban away from Tuscaloosa.