Nick Saban arrived in Hoover, Ala., Wednesday with something to get off his chest: in his opinion, the NFL Draft early entry process and College Football Playoff do not mix. He brought the issue up in a small gathering of reporters shortly after arriving at the Wynfrey, and then further explained his thoughts when asked about it in the main ballroom.
Here is his response verbatim:
I just felt like, in our experience last year, our team chemistry from the SEC Championship game to the playoff game was affected by something. I think that to have a December 15th deadline from when a junior can submit for a draft grade and then you get that assessment back sometime right before or right after Christmas, and then you have a playoff game coming up on January 1st or 2nd, and I think it's my obligation as a coach to inform that young man when I get that information because it's his information, it's not my information, to make him aware of that. And we're talking about a young person who has to deal with a lot now. We had six guys in this situation this past year and 11 the year before. So we're trying to get ready for a game, and all of a sudden, a guy finds out he's a first round draft pick or a guy that thought he was a first round draft pick finds out he's not a first round draft pick, and we're trying to get ready to play a playoff game. I think that it would be better not to submit that information to a player until he was finished competing in college. We've moved the draft back. We have not moved the date that a player has to declare back. Now, those who oppose this type thinking would say, well, how would that affect recruiting? We used to play Bowl games on January 1st. Now the championship game's on January 11th or 12th, and the 15th is still the day that people have to declare for the draft. So I think a week, ten days would be beneficial, and I think a rule that says you don't get information to players on draft status until after they've completed their college competition would be beneficial.
So, is this an issue of sour grapes or is he dead on the money?
With the NFL Draft now pushed back into May, it's unfair to those competing in the CFP championship to turn around and make a life-changing decision 72 hours later. Especially when the draft is a full three-and-a-half months later. (And, remember, Alabama's season ended the night of Jan. 1, so his guys actually had ample time to make a decision.)
That's the thing, though. It's a players issue, not a coaches' issue. Framing the issue as an inconvenience to him - right or wrong, that's how his comments are being treated nationally - is a poor public relations play.
On top of that, connecting the dots between the NFL Draft and the Crimson Tide's Sugar Bowl loss falls apart upon further examination. Saban and wasn't dealing with an issue that Mark Helfrich, Jimbo Fisher and Urban Meyer were not. And chemistry apparently was not an issue in the first half of the Sugar Bowl, when the Tide jumped out to a 21-6 lead. Only at the 2:55 mark of the second quarter, when the Buckeyes started their game-clinching 36-14 run, did Landon Collins (who missed time with a shoulder injury), T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper mentally check out of the Sugar Bowl.
I doubt that's what Saban meant, but it's how his comments can be interpreted.
Sure, the NFL Draft calendar could use some refiguring, but it's not why Alabama lost to Ohio State.