By now, Nick Saban talking about Drew Brees in the middle of July is old news. But it was old news back in March when he mentioned it in a Bryant McFadden interview until he brought it back up in May. So, it’s only a matter of time that the same topic will be at the forefront of a Nick Saban interview in a couple of months. But fans of his former team in South Florida are yet to be sold on the Nick Saban-Drew Brees swift departure explanation.
There is no denying that most Miami Dolphins fans have a severe disdain for Nick Saban. Even after apologizing for the way he left Miami in a Sporting News interview conducted by Steve Greenberg in 2010, many Dolphins fans still find his actions unforgiveable. It is hard letting go of the fact that a former Miami Dolphins head coach literally told the entire world that he was not going to be the Alabama head coach only to find himself coaching the team he said he wouldn’t the next season.
It is also hard accepting the fact that Nick Saban said he left Miami when the Dolphins’ doctors failed Drew Brees in a physical when many fans believe it was Saban’s choice to not take Brees. It is also hard as a Miami Dolphins fan to watch the Dolphins former head coach win championship after championship while the Dolphins can’t even make the playoffs. Even worse, adding insult to injury, when accepting the Alabama job, Nick Saban took the position that Don Shula’s son, Mike Shula was fired from.
After talking about Drew Brees on various occasions earlier in the year, Nick Saban once again made headlines when he said the reason he left the Miami Dolphins for Alabama was because doctors failed Drew Brees in a physical. In July, Nick Saban was speaking at the annual Texas High School Coaches Association Convention and said, “Our doctors failed him (Drew Brees) on a physical…I decided right then (that ) we don’t have a quarterback, we’re not going to win. I’m getting out of here. I’m not staying here. I’m not going to be responsible for this…There’s always a reason.”
Many Dolphins fans and some sports show hosts were quick to cry foul against Saban, believing that he was the one in fact responsible for taking Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees. Sports show host, Mike Florio was adamant that if Nick Saban really wanted Drew Brees on his team that he would have found a doctor to pass Drew Brees on a physical. Florio also said that Saban’s wife was the reason he left for Alabama because she wanted her husband to get back into college football.
There have been several times that Saban has brought up Drew Brees in interviews during 2021. The question is “why now?” His latest comment, where he said that doctors failing Brees in a physical was the reason he left Miami, was a response to a question that was asked to him about sacrifices he made in his coaching career. Saban talked about how he wasn’t always home with his children because of his time coaching. Then after talking about leaving Michigan State he went into the narrative about doctors failing Drew Brees on a physical and that was the reason he left Miami.
WHY IS NICK SABAN TALKING NOW?
After not hearing this narrative from Nick Saban for years while coaching at Alabama, many may have been wondering what is the purpose of what seems to be a 2021 tour of touting the Drew Brees reason. Why is Nick Saban just now coming out with this again during so many different interviews? If not careful, it would be easy to overthink the situation.
Anyone could easily read more into what is being said than just take Nick Saban as just being Nick Saban. However, when Saban was discussing the issue there was more that Nick Saban said that many people aren’t talking about that could be of some significance.
To be clear, the year Nick Saban left the Miami Dolphins he gave a press conference and basically said that he didn’t initially want to coach the Miami Dolphins. According to Saban, it was the former Dolphins owner, the late Wayne Huizenga that talked him into taking the job. “I called Wayne and said…I don’t think I can do this. I am a college coach. I want to stay in college…and he came back and talked me into going. And I gave my best effort for two years.”
Everyone agrees, including Saban, that he was miserable in Miami. And when Saban said it was doctors failing Drew Brees in a physical that motivated him to leave as the Dolphins head coach, numerous sports columnists and fans viewed it differently. They believed it was ultimately left up to Nick Saban choosing Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees. Others also believe it was because Nick Saban’s wife, Terry wanted him to get out of the pro scene and get back into the college football atmosphere.
Some of those details were discussed in an unauthorized biography about Nick Saban entitled Saban: The Making of a Coach by Monte Burke. Nick Saban didn’t approve of the book and possibly insinuated that everything in the book may not be accurate when he said, “I am opposed to an unauthorized biography on anybody. One of these days when I’m finished coaching at Alabama, I’ll write an authorized book…There won’t be any misinformation, there won’t be any false statements, there won’t be any hearsay…It will be the real deal.”
As far as Nick Saban’s wife being part of the influence to go back to coaching college ball, that is true. She herself has even talked about how their hearts were still in college and that Wayne Huizenga couldn’t pay them enough to stay in the pros. As far as the Drew Brees reasoning, there was an interesting statement that Terry Saban once wrote in an email to SaturdayDownSouth.
Al Blanton wrote a magnificent piece in an article years ago on saturdaydownsouth.com titled: 38 Days: How Alabama Pulled off the Great Heist of Nick Saban. It is a lengthy article, about the size of a small chapter in a book, but well worth a 15-20 minute read if you have never read it.
In that article, Blanton listed several quotes from an email by Terry Saban to SaturdayDownSouth. One of those statements she wrote was “…If it hadn’t been for the timing of a quarterback situation along with the opening at the University of Alabama, Nick could still be at the Miami Dolphins.” That quarterback situation has now been revealed to be that team doctors for the Miami Dolphins failed Drew Brees on a physical.
Whether Miami Dolphins fans don’t want to believe Saban’s side of the story or not, because it was his wife and not Nick Saban, saying it four years ago, the story may have some type of credibility whether it is only some or a lot.
Nick Saban first brought up the issue about Drew Brees in 2021 during an interview in March with Bryant McFadden on All Things Covered. Saban said about doctors failing Drew Brees, “When that happened, I was very upset that I couldn’t control my destiny because of somebody else’s decision…In the NFL, if you don’t have a quarterback you don’t have a chance. The window to get one sometimes doesn’t happened very often. So when you get a chance you better cash in because it may never happen again for a few years.”
Saban went on to say, “It’s an unwritten rule in the NFL from an owners perspective that if a guy doesn’t pass the medical then you got a protocol to follow as a team. You’re not going to spend his money on guys that may be injured…When that happened it made me realize it was going to be very difficult to be successful there. And I was very disappointed I couldn’t control my own destiny there, which I always felt I could. And now somebody else is a making a decision that is going to make it more difficult for me to be successful.”
During his time discussing Drew Brees on All Things Covered, Nick Saban said something that was not about Brees and his departure but still relevant to a team missing or getting a good quarterback. Speaking on the Miami Dolphins and their quarterbacks, Saban said, “They struggled until they drafted Tua last year. They struggled in that position even ever since I’ve been there.” As subtle as it may have sounded, Nick Saban was plugging Tua Tagovailoa as the best quarterback the Miami Dolphins has had since at least 2006 when he coached the Dolphins.
What makes that statement interesting is that the Miami Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa number five overall in 2020 after coming off a college career ending hip injury in the fall of 2019, when according to former Cleveland Browns GM, Michael Lombardi said two teams he talked to flunked Tua in a physical on a 2020 podcast. According to Lombardi, teams failed Tua on multiple injuries that Tua had in the past. Lombardi said, “He broke his wrist the first day of spring ball one year, then they fixed it. And he came back and re-broke it again.” What Lombardi said made news and spread.
However, the problem with what Michael Lombardi said about Tua’s wrist was completely false. Tua Tagovailoa has never had a broken wrist. Unfortunately, because it had been said it was reported in multiple media outlets and people seeing the false information by Lombardi was believing it. The truth is that during spring practice in 2018, Tua Tagovailoa broke his index finger. CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee reported in March of 2018 that Tua’s father, Galu Tagovailoa reported the broken finger to a Hawaiian news station. When Nick Saban announced it, he said it was in his throwing hand.
It would be easy to read to much between the lines in Nick Saban’s statement about the Dolphins struggling until they drafted Tua. Saban wasn’t saying this because the media was saying that Tua may be traded for Deshaun Watson or Aaron Rodgers. Nick Saban probably tries to avoid sports media as much as possible and has no concern with what goes on in the Miami Dolphins organization. On the other hand, someone in the Dolphins organization very well could have been listening to Saban’s comments. Jaylen Waddle, whom was coming off a broken ankle was drafted by Miami a month later.
But it wasn’t Saban’s comments about Drew Brees that was necessarily the reason that Chris Grier chose to draft Jaylen Waddle. It was the fact that Brian Flores and Chris Grier liked his explosive playmaking and return ability. To say Saban didn’t have anything to do with the decision to draft Waddle wouldn’t be completely true either. Earlier in the year, Saban was seen talking to Chris Grier and Brian Flores at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
In an interview after drafting Waddle, Brian Flores said that getting to know him confirmed a lot of what we heard about him. Some of those things evidently came from Nick Saban. But to say Nick Saban wanted the Miami Dolphins to hear what he was saying about Drew Brees and and the Dolphins struggling until Tua was drafted would be a reach.
However, when Saban mentioned the incident with Drew Brees a couple of months later in May, he did so talking about another Alabama player. Those words were definitely a statement to the Miami Dolphins and even the rest of the NFL. In May, at Team Focus Fundraiser in Mobile, Alabama, Nick Saban was asked if the reason Dylan Moses was not drafted injury related.
Saban said, “Completely. It has nothing to do with what kind of football player he is. It was all based on medical grades by the teams. Frankly, it was a little surprising to me. My time in the league, when guys were injured and they came back and played, that usually got out of that five medical grade, which is undraftable. It might’ve been a four medical grade, which means a guy does have an injury, could be a problem in the future. But he’s come back and played with it so we ought to give him an opportunity.
“Which is where I think Dylan Moses should have fallen for sure. And should’ve gotten an opportunity because he played all season long for us. And I think that should be a good enough indicator he could play in the NFL. Don’t forget, when I was a coach at the Miami Dolphins, doctors failed Drew Brees on a physical…So, I guess they make mistakes too.”
Dylan Moses was a stand out linebacker at Alabama until a pre-season knee injury. But even as late as April 28, 2021, Pro Football Network ranked Dylan Moses as a top ten linebacker, ranking at number seven and stating that he has a round one upside. Moses was so good of a high school player that he was on the cover of ESPN magazine in the eighth grade after Alabama and LSU both offered him a scholarship. Going into the 2019 season he was touted as being the best linebacker in the country.
Unfortunately, during practice before the 2019 season, Moses suffered a torn ACL. Prior to the 2020 season, he was selected as First Team All American and Pro Football Network said he will be a top 15 selection. AWhen he returned in 2020 for Alabama, his draft stock went down as he seemed to be underperforming his 2018 season. However, Moses later revealed that he played most of the entire 2020 season at Alabama with a torn MCL.
Nick Saban wasn’t the only one that was disappointed with Moses not being drafted by any NFL team. Los Angeles Rams linebacker and former Alabama teammate of Moses, Terrell Lewis tweeted on May 1, 2021 “I can’t believe I just witnessed Dylan Moses go undrafted. That has to be a crime.” Miami Dolphins own Raekwon Davis, retweeted Lewis’ tweet and tweeted, “I’m still over here tripping off that!” Moses was a team captain and the defensive play caller on the field when Lewis and Davis played with Dylan Moses at Alabama.
Why the Miami Dolphins are relevant is that several mock drafts had Dylan Moses a Miami Dolphins draft pick prior to the 2020 season and prior to the NFL draft.
The Miami Dolphins nor any other NFL team drafted Dylan Moses in the 2021 NFL draft. Eventually, Moses signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent who has recently put Moses on the non-football injury list.
According to Nick Saban with how stern his voice was when he was talking about Moses not being drafted, he believes the Dolphins and any other team not selecting him made the same mistake by not taking Moses as the Dolphins did when they didn’t take Drew Brees.
There have been 1st round linebackers that have missed rookie seasons and came back to play well. Dante Fowler was drafted 3rd overall but missed his entire rookie season due to injury. He returned to the NFL and has done well for himself.
For those that didn’t draft Dylan Moses, time will only tell if it will be the Dolphins’ Drew Brees mistake that Nick Saban talked about.