Bill Belichick, Nick Saban exits leave gaping emptiness after legendary runs
An awful lot of talent walked out the door this week. It is exactly 1,222 miles from Gillette Stadium to the football offices at the University of Alabama, but for so much of the past 17 years its as if the two main occupants were sitting just across the hallway from each other, two titans of the football industry sharing the same building, the same floor, the same suite.
It goes beyond the fact that Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have been friends for years, football savants bonded by a shared history of being sons of coaching fathers, of being able but unremarkable college players, and of being relentlessly and unapologetically excellent at the job of coaching football teams and winning championships, in multiples.
There was always something almost mystical about the dual paths the two men took. Neither much cared even a little bit about how they were perceived, and that plus the fact that their teams mostly steamrolled everything in their path led to them being universally detested by most precincts outside Greater New England and Greater Tuscaloosa.
5Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, pictured in 2020, are both sons of coaching fathers. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConAfter a while, if you didnt root for the Patriots, if you didnt root for the Crimson Tide, you didnt just revel when those teams lost, you rejoiced in how miserable those defeats were going to make Belichick and Saban as they retreated to their football laboratories to try to rectify whatever had befallen their teams.
They both left hard feelings in their path. For Belichick, it started with the unceremonious benching of Bernie Kosar early in his tenure in Cleveland and, of course, reached unparalleled heights when he accepted then bailed on the Jets in the same day in 2000.
Saban? He left the Dolphins for Alabama after repeatedly dismissing rumors of it. But if you really want to see loathing, find an LSU fan (I was lucky enough to marry into that ardent group) and ask how they feel about Saban doing what he did at Alabama after bringing LSU back to prominence after 40 years in the wilderness, and having to watch, up close, Saban these past 17 years not only in the same conferences but the same division, the SEC West.
5Nick Saban helped Alabama become the type of program that Bear Bryant had built. Getty ImagesAgain, didnt bother either of them a bit.
How Bill Belichick’s Patriots reign should be remembered
You may have publicly detested them. But, man, over the better part of two decades you privately had to concede: Youd have given your left arm a lot of times to have them coach whichever team you happened to care about. Belichick was 266-121 for the Patriots beginning in 2000 (with 11 of those losses coming his first year), and he won six Super Bowls, finished runner-up three other times. Saban was even better: 206-29 (seven of those losses in 2007, his first year), seven national championships, four other trips to the football playoff final four.
They both inherited very little when they arrived. The Patriots had been to (and lost) two Super Bowls in their history before Belichick showed up, but theirs was a mostly forgettable and nondescript history before he came aboard. Belichick altered that forever.
And though Alabama had been the college gold standard for many years under the stewardship of Bear Bryant, by the time Saban showed up, it had fallen into disrepair either scandal or mediocrity handed down from Gene Stallings to Mike DuBose to Dennis Franchione to Mike Price to Mike Shula. Saban altered that, forever.
What we know about the split between the Patriots and Bill Belichick
The Patriots and Bill Belichick will reportedly part ways on Thursday after 24 years and six Super Bowl wins.
Rumors had swirled around Belichicks future all season as the Patriots finished with a 4-13 record and missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Belichick met with Patriots owner Robert Kraft over the past several days before reaching the mutual decision.
5Bill Belichick and the Patriots parted ways in January 2024 after 24 seasons. Getty ImagesBelichick notched a 266-121 overall record with the Patriots and has another 31 playoff victories.
The 71-year-old has no plans to retire, and needs just 15 more wins to match Don Shulas all-time wins record regular season and playoffs by a head coach in NFL history.
Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo — who was the heir apparent — has taken over the job and become the next New England head coach.
beyond the back page### Bill Belichick’s Patriots exit caps the end of an era of football coaching titans
And because they were both empowered with absolute control, they could boldly make decisions that might petrify lesser men. Belichick was roasted for the Kosar benching, but Vinny Testaverde blossomed under him, led the old incarnation of the Browns to their last playoff bid in 1994. He was the one who stuck with Tom Brady in 2001 even after Drew Bledsoe fully recovered from the Mo Lewis hit.
Saban, of course, had the audacity to switch quarterbacks in the 2017 title game against Georgia, subbing Tua Tagovailoa for Jalen Hurts at halftime.
Mostly, they were both very, very good at a very, very hard job, and their departure leaves a gaping hole not only for the men walking into the doors theyre walking out of Jerod Mayo and Kalen DeBoer but the sport itself.
Maybe theyll be back elsewhere. Maybe theyll replicate what theyve done. It still isnt likely to be the same. When giants leave the room, you notice their absence every bit as much as you did their presence.
5Bill Belichick, pictured after winning the AFC Championship game in 2015, went 266-121 for the Patriots beginning in 2000. AP## Vac’s Whacks
There wasnt a lot that was funny about the Jets season. But Aaron Rodgers actually saying these words with a straight face The bullst that has nothing to do with winning needs to get out of the building is more hilarious than all three Hangover movies combined.
I know its more fun to be on the winning end of a one-sided trade. But early on the Knicks-Raptors deal involving RJ Barrett-OG Anunoby-Immanuel Quickley really does look like the quintessential deal that helps both teams, a lot.
5The Knicks-Raptors trade involving OG Anunoby has helped both teams so far. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConCould there be another Agbayani in the Mets lineup someday? Bruin Agbayani, 16, son of Benny, is the best prospect in Hawaii and is committed to South Carolina. He wants to be a Met, his pop says. I told him how great New York is. If it happens that would make me proud.
Farewell Cindy Morgan, who, as Lacey Underall (below), taught an awful lot of young fellas roughly my age that there was definitely more to life and also to Caddyshack than golf.
Whack Back at Vac
Lenny Moschitto: Bill Belichick was a great coach, but he cant hide behind his 48-59 record without Tom. Brady Or is that: HC w/o TB = 48-59.
Vac: The statute of limitations on Belichicks abbreviations no longer being funny probably lasts till 2099.
Thomas Cooney: As soon as I was getting prepared to give up on the Mets 2024 season, lo and behold! Let the Yacksel Rios era begin!!
Vac: Its good to see Mets fans in midseason saltiness!
@11olv77: Enjoy watching the playoffs on TV again. The Giants and Jets are in New Jersey anyway.
@MikeVacc: Salty Eagles fans are my favorite Eagles fans.
Elon Semanza: After roughly half a baseball season (83 games), Joe Douglas record as JetsGM (27-56) is four games better than the 62 Mets were (23-60) after as many games. Hes up four on the worst team of all time at the All-Star break. I think he can catch them.
Vac: Of course, Jets fans own the Mortons Salt factory.
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