by Chris Shashaty, Columnist

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Nick Saban going to Alabama is the biggest non-story of this non-playoff season.


For slightly more than a month now, since the Crimson Tide stupidly fired Mike Shula, Saban has been the target of one-sided rumors and innuendo that he would be offered the job in Tuscaloosa.


Alabama representatives actually contacted Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, to gauge interest. The response, according to Saban, was that he was flattered but not interested.



Since that time, the fickle media have steadfastly refused to believe Saban’s subsequent denials. Even his most recent, and most explicit, denial did little to keep the frothing dogs off of him.


"I'm not going to be the Alabama coach”, said Saban on December 21.


Last Wednesday, during a press conference with the Indianapolis media, he apparently reached the end of his rope.


''I'm going to put (the rumors) away right now. I'm just making a rule that I'm never going to comment on something like that again because every time you comment, it makes another story. So I'm done.”


“Five years from now, I won't comment on it. Next week, I won't comment on it. I'm done.''


Until Shula’s successor is named, Saban is of course not done. The media’s general skepticism, though understandable, is the reason why because coaches have a general tendency to lie.


All coaches lie for various reasons. Sifting truth from fiction is where hard investigative reporting is needed. As such, Saban has been unwillingly carried away by the rush to learn the real truth.


Here’s the sad part: the media will bother him about it again, this until the Tide names someone else to the job.


It’s sad because those who are familiar with Nick Saban’s reputation as a leader know that he is not a quitter nor untrustworthy, a common theme across every head coaching job he has ever had.


Yes, he stretches the truth about the health of a player from time to time. This he does in the competitive best interest of the team. But such fibs are not at the level of jeopardizing one’s personal integrity.


So when Saban tells team owner Wayne Huizenga, a man he respects immensely, that he’s not going anywhere, we can take it to the bank.


There’s also common sense thinking that would be useful in this discourse.


Why on earth would Saban care to return to college after leaving a good situation at Louisiana State? Wasn’t the idea to take on a new challenge, winning a Super Bowl championship?


It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and one minute to ruin it. Saban would be forever stained as nothing but a liar and a quitter by leaving the Dolphins now. His book, “How Good Do You Want to Be?” wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.


Besides, it really isn’t Alabama that poses a threat to Saban’s tenure in Miami. It’s the sorry state of the Dolphin offense.


Simply put, he must find a way to fix the offense before it flat out ruins him as an NFL head coach. Continuing to stick with the same coaches and players will result in more losing, guaranteed.


It won’t be an easy job. The Dolphins need a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterback, and better receivers. The offensive line could also use an upgrade, especially on the left side.


Don’t think for a second that Saban doesn’t understand all of this.


Said Saban: “(Quarterback play) hasn’t been consistent and we need to improve in that area. That means two things. We improve the guy that we have, first of all. We have to make some kind of an evaluation if we think they’re capable of doing it. We have a lot of confidence in the guys that we have because they have done a good job at times. We just haven’t been consistent enough with it. Everyone has to be responsible for that relative to the whole offensive football team and what everybody needs to do to help the quarterback play well. That’s a position where you need support and you need to have good people around you. You have the ball every time. I think we don’t want to put it on one guy, one position or one thing, we just need to get better especially in the passing game and making explosive plays all the way around.”


Perhaps the single biggest decision Saban will make, near term, involves the future of Daunte Culpepper in Miami.


Best case scenario is that Culpepper returns to health and his Pro Bowl caliber form.


Worst case is what we saw over the first four games of the season.


With QB aficionado Randy Mueller advising Saban, a new face (or two) is likely on the way.


For example, knowing that Saban prefers to pick players he is familiar with, it would be a good bet that LSU’s JaMarcus Russell will be high on the Dolphin draft board come April 28 (should he declare for the draft).


If Cleo Lemon continues to play well, we can expect the Dolphins to tender him as a restricted free agent. Joey Harrington’s future as a Dolphin is not as clear; retaining him will have negative salary cap implications.


This is just a small sample of Miami Dolphins things that Saban will be worrying about in 2007.


After all, we have his word on it.


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