If you think the college football coaching carousel has been a wild ride, you might want to duck out of line for the cyclone roller coaster that the NFL’s hiring season is promising this year. With three weeks left to go in the regular season, even Alabama’s Nick Saban is not immune from NFL rumors. Per ProfootballTalk.com (Courtesy of the Boston Globe), if new Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam brings in NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi to replace GM Tom Heckert, Nick Saban could be in play to replace coach Pat Shurmur.
Lombardi and Saban worked together in Cleveland back in the Bill Belichick days. This is not to say that Saban, who went 15-17 in two seasons with the Dolphins, would actually be interested in returning to the NFL. However, the football business is about relationships just like any other collaborative enterprise. As the Boston Globe’s Greg Bedard pointed out, Saban wasn’t working with his people in the front office when he was in Miami. The allure of coming to Cleveland to work with a GM who he has a prior relationship with may be enough to whet Saban’s NFL appetite.
The other angle to this story is that the fact that this rumor is even out there confirms that the NFL is a copycat league. Jim Harbaugh proved last year that all college coaches aren’t flops in the NFL. Harbaugh’s success is a big part of the reason you are hearing names like Chip Kelly and Nick Saban come up in connection with NFL jobs. Oh yeah, in case you missed it, current Browns coach has Cleveland at a respectable 5-8 in his second season.