“We’d have a scrimmage at the Cleveland Browns and Belichick would chew my butt out. It’s like ‘let the players play.’ And I was like ‘Wow, I never had my butt chewed out for coaching. Teaching.’ But I have to say the same thing sometimes to our coaches now.
“There’s a time when you just gotta let the players play because in the game, they gotta know what to do, they gotta know how to do it, they can’t depend on somebody else to make a call for them, they can’t depend on somebody else to recognize things for them. So we actually do things in practice now, we do Team Move the Field, I make the coaches get off the field, make the calls, let the players play. And, when you get into a scrimmage? Then they’re more ready for the scrimmage because they’ve got to execute the calls and do things on their own.”
I’ve said before and I’ll it again: The Bill Belichick-Nick Saban friendship is my favorite relationship in the entire world. And probably the most important one in my life. Sure, one could argue that the Jerry-Irish Rose dynamic has a larger day-to-day impact, given that we’ve shared a bed every night for the last 25 1/2 years and counting and raised two sons. But since one half of that equation – the grayer, flabbier, lazier half with the higher Blood Alcohol Content – could easily be replaced, it’s not the same.
Belichick-Saban is unique in all the world in that they are both the very best in the same field of discipline, operating in two different realms. But they share a history, an approach and a philosophy that are so identical, we shouldn’t be surprised if they each carry the matching halves of an amulet on chains around their neck. And this little anecdote is yet another example. Imagine a guy who’s won six national titles getting his “butt chewed out for coaching. Teaching” by anyone. But it was a time when the two enjoyed a Sith Lord/Apprentice relationship. And now, even though they are more equals, the mutual respect remains.
And this is what I like best about Saban. Because like with most romantic couples, there’s one introvert and one extrovert and he’s the outgoing one. The one who’ll open up and spill about what’s going on with the relationship. In coaching terms, he’s the chatty wife who doesn’t mind letting you know they just did it before you got to their house. I’ve learned more in my life about Belichick’s methods, his system and his strategies from listening to Saban than I could in a million Foxboro press conferences or Belichick interviews. And this speaks volumes about how much both of them value brains and reliability over just freakish athletes with impressive 40 times or whatever. Which explains not only their successes, but a thousand roster moves they’ve made.
To fall back to the old cliche, if I could have dinner with any two people in the world, it would be them. Granted, it would be like sitting down with a couple speaking Mandarin to each other and I wouldn’t understand a word of it. But just being witness to them interacting would make me twice as smart as I was going in, just by osmosis. In the meantime, the Bama half of this equation can keep talking about the New England half. I know I’ll be listening. Hail Saban.