Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has never been afraid to take a chance on a reclamation project at offensive coordinator. With Steve Sarkisian set to become the Texas Longhorns head coach, Saban might have a wild plan to fill the void in 2021.
While Sarkisian will call plays for Alabama’s offense in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, it will be his last with the Crimson Tide. Now, with much of his focus still centered on winning another title, Saban is eyeing his next offensive coordinator.
Nick Saban looking into Adam Gase, Bill O’Brien to become Alabama’s offensive coordinator
Nick Saban is no stranger to hiring former head coaches who have taken a hit to their reputation. In recent years, he brought on the likes of Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin. Now, with an earned reputation for Alabama’s offensive coordinator becoming hot coaching candidates, some familiar names could be candidates to fill Sarkisian’s shoes.
According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, Saban is considering former New York Jets head coach Adam Gase and former Houston Texans coach and general manager Bill O’Brien to take over as the Crimson Tide’s OC in 2021.
It’s the best job available in college football right now. Whoever becomes Alabama’s offensive coordinator will get to build an offense around five-star quarterback Bryce Young, the top-rated quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class. In addition to a star quarterback, receiver John Metchie III looks like a go-to weapon for an offense.
Adam Gase coaching career, history with Nick Saban
Gase was fired by the Jets on Sunday, following an ugly 2-14 season in New York. The 42-year-old finished with a 9-23 record across two seasons with the team and owns a 32-48 career record as an NFL head coach.
Praised for his offensive mind, Gase’s offenses haven’t found much success since he had Peyton Manning with the Denver Broncos in 2013-’14. During his tenure as the team’s OC, Manning enjoyed a record-breaking year in 2013.
Gase began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the LSU Tigers in 2000, working directly under Nick Saban. He was promoted to defensive assistant and assisted with recruiting, serving in those roles from 2001-’02. He then made the jump to the NFL as a quarterbacks coach and hasn’t returned to college football since.
Bill O’Brien’s coaching career
While Bill O’Brien has never worked for Saban, the two share a connection through Bill Belichick. The 51-year-old coach got his start at Brown as a tight ends coach in 1993, working his way up the coaching ranks at the collegiate level. From 1995-2006, he served in a variety of roles on Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke’s offensive coaching staff.
O’Brien made his way to the NFL in 2007, working as an offensive assistant on Belichick’s staff. After climbing the ladder to wide receivers coach (2008) and quarterbacks coach (2009-’10), he eventually became the offensive coordinator in 2011.
Penn State surprised everyone in 2012, hiring O’Brien to replace Joe Paterno. The Nittany Lions went 8-4 in his first season at the helm, winning Big Ten Coach of the Year. Penn State went 7-5 the following season then O’Brien left to become the Houston Texans head coach.
Purely on his coaching record, O’Brien did fairly well with the Texans. The team enjoyed three consecutive 9-7 seasons, making the playoffs twice, in his first years on the job. While the team went 4-12 in 2017, it also saw Deshaun Watson take over as the franchise quarterback.
Houston won 21 regular-season games over its next two seasons, making the NFL Playoffs in each year. However, O’Brien started clashing with players and made the ridiculed Laremy Tunsil trade, which costs the Texans the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and practically gave DeAndre Hopkins away this offseason.
He was fired following an 0-4 start to the 2020 season and an argument with J.J. Watt may have played a role. Once he was gone, the atmosphere in Houston improved and Watson played at an MVP-caliber level for the rest of the season.
If O’Brien is willing to rebuild his image as an offensive coordinator, the Alabama Crimson Tide could be the right spot for him. Given how in-demand this job will be, though, someone else will likely be hired.