Nick Saban, Paul Finebaum
Left: Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images, Right: Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Paul Finebaum Once Said "Time's Running Out" For Saban's Legacy, Then He Won Natty No. 7


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Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban is 70 years old, and plenty of rumors over the years about when he might retire have been used in negative recruiting tactics against him and the Alabama football program. With the ongoing success in Tuscaloosa, though, it sure doesn't seem like Saban is planning on leaving any time soon.

However, iconic SEC supporter and sports columnist Paul Finebaum believed that Saban's day of retirement is coming sooner than you think, or at least he did in June of 2020.

On ESPN's Get Up, Finebaum joined host Mike Greenberg and college football insider Laura Rutledge to talk about the Crimson Tide program under Saban's guidance, and more importantly, how vital the upcoming 2020 college football season will be to the Alabama football coach's legacy.

Paul Finebaum on Nick Saban's Legacy

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"I don't want this to sound blasphemous, but time is running out on Nick Saban. It's been two years since he's won a national championship, two seasons. That's a long time. He hasn't gone that long at Alabama since the early part of his career there. I think this is his best team. The season is unknown at this point.

"However, there are many other programs catching up a little bit. You can no longer make a blanket statement 'Nick Saban is going to win a bunch of national championships.' I think he needs to win one this year or that hour glass is going to be become very dangerous for him."

If Saban had led the 2020 Crimson Tide, with an offense helmed by quarterback Mac Jones, powered by running back Najee Harris, and a top-tier defense led by senior linebacker Dylan Moses, Finebaum believed there's no questioning Saban's place in history.

"[A seventh championship] would mean he stands alone atop of college football, and it's not debatable," Finebaum said.

Earlier that year, Finebaum picked Alabama to win the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship, a prediction that ended up being correct. In the 2021 National Championship game, Alabama demolished Ohio State, 52-24, earning Saban his 7th National Title. That following June, Alabama offered Saban an extension that will keep him in Tuscaloosa until 2028.

Saban's Legacy: Does He Still Need "One More" National Title?

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on following the College Football Playoff National Championship game win over the Ohio State Buckeyes

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This isn't Finebaum's first prediction on the end of Saban's career, either. He told SEC Country back in 2018 that he expects a retirement before the future Hall of Famer turns 70.

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"I happen to believe he won't be there significantly longer. Now, if you force me to say, 'What does that mean?' I don't know what that means. We talked to somebody the other day, and he said, 'He's going to be there until he's 70.' I just don't [believe that].

"I mean, I think he has two or three more years. I think he'd like to win another title, and I think he will. But I think there becomes a point where he looks at the situation and goes, 'Really, what else do I have to prove?' And I know it's still fun for him, and I know he's still energized.

"But it's usually the little things that push coaches over the edge. With Saban, I couldn't predict what it will be. It won't take much for him to say, 'You know what? What do I need this for? I'm the greatest coach of all time. I've got six, maybe seven, national championships. Why am I doing this?' This idea that some Alabama fans [have] that he'll just coach forever, I just don't subscribe to."

-- Paul Finebaum, h/t SEC Country

That has proven to be a miscalculation, considering the legendary Alabama head coach is prepping for the 2022 season, in which he'll blow out 71 candles on October 31st. But still, Finebaum keeps beating the replacement drum for Saban.

The rumors of Saban making a return to the NFL randomly surfaced over the years, but obviously have not come to fruition. He's very unlikely to go back after his stint with the Miami Dolphins as most sane people believe he is going to finish out his career with the Crimson Tide.

After seeing his own coaching legacy mangled by an unsuccessful stint in the NFL as well as that of Urban Meyer in Jacksonville, why would he leave Tuscaloosa with six national championships in his pocket?  Not to mention leaving a historically great program that's reached the College Football Playoff every year it's been in existence except 2019?

Saban is the unofficial Governor of College Football, so leaving at this point in his career makes absolutely no sense. Then again, his age is becoming a factor, so maybe it'll be time for Saban to walk off into the sunset sooner than everybody thinks?

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Nick Saban takes a moment before an Alabama Football Game

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

While Finebaum's questioning of Saban's legacy makes sense, the easy rebuttal is, what more does Saban need to do in order to cement his status as a legend? Alabama has won seven national championships under his guidance, one more than Bama's legendary head coach, Bear Bryant. Alabama already has more National Championships than any other football program in NCAA history, so at this point, who cares when Saban hangs up his whistle?

We spend so much time wondering if Nick Saban's run of dominance is over, that we fail to ask questions like why hasn't Lane Kiffin's rise to stardom begun? Or, is Kirby Smart destined to be an also-ran in the pantheon of SEC coaches? We learned very quickly that Ed Orgeron's success was based on recruiting stars like Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, not his coaching prowess. And yet, we're still hung up on when Saban's castle will crumble.

Perhaps it's time to stop wondering when Saban's legacy will be cemented in history and start appreciating the greatness in front of our eyes. That seems like a much better use of our time and of the time we have left with Saban leading Bama.  After all, the longer we keep saying Saban needs one more win, the more time he'll have to keep racking them up for the Crimson Tide.

MORE: Nick Saban's Won a Bunch at Alabama, But Which is His Favorite?

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