Former Browns coach Nick Saban never failed in the NFL, his team failed him

News broke on Wednesday that Nick Saban, who was on the Cleveland Browns staff in the 1990s, is calling it a career — but his final run in the NFL should have been much better

Cleveland Browns, Nick Saban
Cleveland Browns, Nick Saban / Jamie Mullen/GettyImages

On Wednesday, a legend decided to call it a career. Nick Saban, who won six titles with the Alabama Crimson Tide announced his retirement. He rose to prominence in the collegiate world winning a title with LSU in 2003 before his run with Alabama. But he also spent time in the NFL including a stint with the Cleveland Browns from 1991 through 1994 as their defensive coordinator.

Saban isn't often remembered for that stretch but instead, when anyone thinks of him in the NFL, they think of his two years with the Miami Dolphins. They also constantly call that tenure a failure — which is fair since they were 15-17 but it wasn't Saban who failed. Instead, it was Miami who failed him.

Nick Saban should have succeeded in the NFL, if Miami let him

Saban led the Dolphins to a 9-7 record in 2005 with Gus Frerotte and Sage Rosenfels as his quarterbacks. He then went into free agency in 2006 and landed Drew Brees. Or at least he thought he did. Brees, who was coming off a shoulder injury, wasn't cleared by the team doctors in South Beach and ended up going to New Orleans.

"We were going to sign Drew Brees as a free agent. Dr. (James) Andrews operated on him and I went to Birmingham to see Dr. Andrews, and he said it’ll be fine. Our doctors failed him on the physical. (Drew) was there to sign with us."

Frustrated with how things fell apart, Saban says the loss of Brees was why he left. He said if he didn't have his quarterback he couldn't win — and added some words for the doctor who failed Brees:

"That doctor didn’t know his (rear end) from a handful of sand. Drew Brees plays 15 more years, wins a Super Bowl, goes to nine Pro Bowls."

In all, Saban was 15-17 in two years with Miami. When he left, they fell apart and were just 1-15. Again, he knew how to coach but the problem was with the personnel decisions. That's why he went back to the NCAA, where he had full control.

Browns staff in the early 1990s was insanely talented

As for his time with the Browns, Saban was part of an incredible coaching staff led by head coach Bill Belichick. Kirk Ferentz, who went on to coach Iowa, which is where he's been since 1999, was their offensive line coach. Jim Bates, who was a long-time defensive coordinator, coached their linebackers. To top it all off, Jim Schwartz was a personnel scout there as well.

They never truly put it all together but they were on the verge before the franchise moved to Baltimore — which is where the Ravens (not the Browns) fired Belichick and his staff. Looking back, Saban said these were the worst four years of his life. Considering Art Modell owned them still, that seems accurate.

Saban ends his career with an NCAA record of 292-71-1. For Alabama, he was 206-29. He was truly one of the best and even if though hated his time in Cleveland, he's in the conversation for the greatest ever.

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