How Nick Saban Helped Troy Beat LSU
Did Alabama head coach Nick Saban help the Troy Trojans stun the LSU Tigers, in their 24-21 upset win at Tiger Stadium last Saturday?
In a roundabout way, yes.
Follow along with me here, as we take this step by step.
Saban, who guided LSU to the BCS National Championship in 2003, left the Tigers following the 2004 season for the NFL, becoming head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins started 2005 poorly, losing 7 of their first 7 games, before rallying to finish 9-7, narrowly missing the playoffs.
That was certainly a step in the right direction for Miami, who went 4-12 the year prior.
It definitely seemed as though Saban had the Fins headed in the right direction.
Heading into 2006, what the Dolphins needed was an upgrade at the quarterback position, as Gus Frerotte, the starter in 2005, was 34-years old, his best years behind him.
The Dolphins, and Saban, were interested in two free agent quarterbacks; Daunte Culpepper and Drew Brees.
Brees, who spent the first five years of his career with the San Diego Chargers, was 27-years old at the time, and coming off shoulder surgery.
The Dolphins, and Saban, brought Brees in for a visit, but wavered on him.
The Saints signed him instead, changing history for many, and maybe making history for Troy in their win over LSU last Saturday.
The bottom line is Saban chose Daunte Culpepper over Brees. That kind of decision can set a franchise back a decade, and change the course of history, dramatically.
Now, the be fair to Saban and the Dolphins, it’s easy to second guess now.
I mean, it's easy to look at Brees, a future Hall of Famer, and ask: "What in the world were they thinking?!?!?"
The truth is, at the time, Saban and the Dolphins had legitimate reasons to be concerned.
Brees, who had appeared in one Pro Bowl, had never won a playoff game, and was coming off of a torn right labrum.
Everybody knew he was a viable starter, when healthy, but he didn’t appear headed to the Hall of Fame, while rewriting the record books in the process.
The Chargers, skeptical of Brees and his shoulder, traded for Philip Rivers, allowing Brees to become a free agent.
Brees visited New Orleans, but left without a contract, and went on to South Florida to visit the Dolphins.
Miami was the more attractive franchise, viewed as closer to winning, coming off of their 9-7 season, while the Saints were 3-13 in 2005, with a lot of rebuilding to do, both on the field and in the city, following Hurricane Katrina, plus the Dolphins had a more highly thought of head coach, with Sean Payton being an untested commodity.
The Dolphins and Saban, now in his second year, looked hard at Brees before trading a second-round pick for Culpepper instead.
As it turned out, Saban and the Dolphins worried about the wrong guy.
Since signing with the Saints prior to the 2006 season, Brees has played 178 of a possible 180 games for the team, while guiding them to the NFC Championship Game in 2006, and a Super Bowl win in 2009.
As for Culpepper, who was recovering from a knee injury himself, he played in a grand total of four games for Miami. Yep, four! After the 2006 season, he was released by the Dolphins.
The Dolphins, struggling at quarterback, dropped to 6-10 in 2006.
With no quarterback of the future on the roster, and with it becoming harder to acquire one via a trade or in free agency, Saban elected to head back to the college ranks, taking the job as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Now, we all know how things turned out, but what if Saban had chosen Brees over Culpepper?
Well, we'll never know; but we can speculate.
Brees likely would have guided the Dolphins to the playoffs, and Saban likely would have stayed in the NFL.
With Alabama not hiring Saban, the Crimson Tide likely wouldn't have dominated college football like they have, winning four national championships since 2009.
With Alabama not hiring Saban, and dominating the college football landscape, the Tide likely wouldn't have beaten LSU 6-consecutive years, including 8 of the last 10.
With Alabama likely not beating LSU in 8 of the last 10 meetings, the Tigers, likely would have won a couple of more SEC titles, and maybe another national crown.
With LSU winning a couple of more SEC titles, and maybe another national crown, Les Miles likely would still be head coach at LSU.
With Miles, who had never lost at home to a non-conference opponent, or a Sun Belt Conference school while at LSU, still head coach, one could make a valid argument that Troy would not have beaten LSU last Saturday.
That's not saying anything bad about Ed Orgeron, or to put the loss on him. It's his fist season as head coach of the Tigers, and you can't judge him quite yet. After all, Saban in his first season as head coach of Alabama lost to ULM, 21-14, and yet his program accomplished a few things later, didn't it?
This is just to show how just one decision, positive or negative, can have a dramatic effect on history.
If you're an LSU fan, or a fan of the Miami Dolphins, the decision by Saban not to sign Brees had a negative effect on you.
If you're a fan of the New Orleans Saints, the decision by Saban not to sign Brees had a positive effect on you, as the team likely would not have had the success it did, beginning in 2006, without him.
Finally, the decision by Saban not to sign Brees likely helped Troy capture their biggest win in program history at the Division I level.