Nick Saban is extremely hard on himself for losing the national championship
“I’ll never get over it because you never do with those kind of losses,” Saban told ESPN. “I never got over the returned field goal at Auburn. I never got over playing poorly against Ohio State and losing that game late.”
Having trouble accepting a tough loss is common in sports. These coaches and players prepare year round at long hours for these types of opportunities. To come up shorthanded when you’re that invested is a serious blow to the gut.
Besides, Saban is shouldering the blame of the loss. And that’s a heavy burden.
“I didn’t do a good job, whether it was keeping the team focused, making sure the team took the ownership they needed to take in those games … whatever. I don’t know what it was,” Saban said. “But I do know it’s on me, and we’ll go on and all learn from it.”
For as dominant as Alabama was during the 2016 regular season, it wasn’t the same team during the playoffs. Some of it was injury related. But surely offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin trying to juggle his then-current job with his new one as the head coach of Florida Atlantic didn’t help. By Saban’s own admission, making the change “wasn’t helpful” but it was the better of the two choices. The reality is Kiffin probably should have taken the FAU job when he landed it. Wanting to see his time through with Alabama and winning another national championship is extremely tempting, but he had another job at that point.
A head coach’s job is to accept responsibility when things go wrong. They don’t happen often under Saban, but they do happen. But if Alabama’s incredible regular-season run followed by its bitter title loss shows us anything, it’s that there are countless factors that need to come together to win it all — talent, coaching, injury luck, who you play and when you play them, and more. And even the best teams can’t control all of it.