Nick Saban hasn't constructed and maintained the greatest college football dynasty of the modern era by ever being caught off-guard with staff turnover.
So it's not a surprise that Saban and Alabama already have zeroed in on a pair of candidates with rich backgrounds of time around some of football's greatest coaches as potential offensive coordinators to replace Steve Sarkisian as the Tide's play-caller.
Sarkisian on Saturday formally accepted the head coaching post at Texas. Sarkisian has guided Alabama's offensive to its single-season scoring record, among myriad others, and helped the top-ranked Tide (12-0) advance to next Monday's College Football Playoffs championship.
“Sark has done a marvelous job here,” Saban said Monday on a Zoom press conference. “He's very well organized, works well with all the people in the organization, players and coaches alike. He's a really good play-caller on game day.
“He's just done a great job and been a real asset to our organization. I think he'll be successful as a head coach. He's taking over a good program and it's going to be challenging for anybody who plays them in the future, I think.”
Now, a pair of former NFL head coaches – Bill O'Brien and Adam Gase – have emerged as targets for Saban's top offensive assistant, sources with direct knowledge told FootballScoop on Monday. Bruce Feldman first shared the news.
O'Brien was head coach at Penn State for two years and spent the past seven as head coach of the Houston Texans before O'Brien was fired this season as both head coach and general manager.
But O'Brien is a close confidante of legendary New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Belichick is perhaps Saban's closest friend in the coaching profession. O'Brien also drew praise as a play-caller prior to his work as a head coach, guiding the Tom Brady-led Patriots offense as coordinator in 2011. O'Brien was on Belichick's Patriots staff for five years.
O'Brien arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Sunday and has remained in the Tide's football complex today meeting with Saban and other Tide staffers, multiple sources told FootballScoop.
As for Gase, the just-fired former New York Jets head coach was on Saban's early-2000s LSU staff, including Saban's first SEC championship as a head coach in 2001. Gase had a five-year run as head coach, fired first two years ago by the Dolphins before he was released by the Jets
Prior to that, Gase served 11 years in the NFL as an offensive assistant with three of those years as an offensive coordinator. Gase was the play-caller who worked with Peyton Manning after Manning left the Colts and continued his career in Denver. The duo helped Denver to an appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Either Gase or O'Brien could wind up back in the NFL; but sources tell FootballScoop both are intrigued by the opportunity to spend time working with Saban at this level. Other candidates could also emerge as the search progresses.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest coaching news.