The longstanding dislike (hatred?) of former Dolphins coach Nick Saban has lost its venom – Miami Herald

Remember that hatred of Nick Saban and all things Nick Saban that was once as much part of the South Florida sports landscape as sun soaked fall football games?

The poison isn’t quite so robust anymore.

Like so many SEC opponents over the past 14 seasons, the visceral disdain for Saban in South Florida has succumbed to the coach’s undeniable and unrelenting success at Alabama — the team he once promised he’d never coach.

Yeah, it’s a long time since December 21, 2006, when Saban, then Miami’s coach and under contract for several more years, stood at the lectern in that interview room at Dolphins headquarters and pledged, “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”

And on Jan. 3, 2007 Saban officially accepted the job he said he wasn’t taking, leaving then-Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga so bewildered he asked reporters for suggestions on what to do next.

Saban’s move, after an unremarkable 15-17 record in two seasons, incensed Dolphins fans not so much because he was leaving but because he wasn’t very honest about it.

Radio station phone lines were lit for days by callers who merely wanted to voice Saban insults. Local sports pages used words in print such as “loser” and “weasel” to describe Saban.

Even Don Shula, who had been a strong Saban advocate, made no secret of his newfound disdain for the new Alabama coach — who, not coincidentally, took the job Shula’s son Mike Shula had held.

South Florida’s distaste for Saban was so palpable, the coach and his wife Terry didn’t oversee the move out of their house. They just got out of town.

Dolphins fans took to calling Saban by a Biblical name: Satan.

And somewhere, probably down deep, Saban felt bad about the way he handled his time in South Florida and how he exited.

Because for the next 14 years he went to lengths to explain his thinking for promising not to coach the Crimson Tide and then doing exactly that. He explained what really happened with his decision to trade for Daunte Culpepper instead of signing Drew Brees.

Saban tried to make nice.

But none of that is the reason the loathing for Saban has subsided.

The reason is because time has defeated the hate. And Saban bought himself that time by winning.

And winning.

And winning some more.

He has won six national championships at Alabama, including three of the past six. Every one of his recruiting classes at Alabama has won at least one national title. Saban’s overall record at Alabama is 170-23 (.881).

It’s no surprise the Crimson Tide wants to keep that rolling, so on Monday the school and Saban signed a three-year contract extension averaging approximately $10 million per season through the 2028 season.

“Our family calls Tuscaloosa and the state of Alabama home, it’s a place where our roots now run deep,” Saban said in a statement. “This agreement gives us the chance to continue to impact the lives of the young men and their families who choose to play football and get an education at Alabama.”

One can almost hear longtime Dolphins fans who still remember the December 2006 snub muttering under their breath. But their numbers are thinning and certainly do not include current Dolphins administrators, players, or ownership.

Owner Stephen Ross, a strong University of Michigan booster, has in recent years attended multiple Alabama conference games, bowl games and even a practice or two.

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier, who worked under Saban in Miami as a national scout and assistant director of college scouting, maintains a strong working relationship with Saban and seeks and accepts advice from Saban.

Grier, drawing on that relationship with Saban, has drafted or signed more Alabama players than any previous Dolphins GM.

Under previous general managers, the Dolphins did not draft one of Saban’s Alabama players for a decade. Grier, meanwhile, drafted Kenyan Drake in the third round his first year as Miami’s GM. And he drafted Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round of 2018.

And even when those players didn’t work out for the Dolphins, Grier kept adding Alabama players such as:

2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa.

2021 first-round pick Jaylen Waddle.

2020 second-round pick Raekwon Davis.

2021 unrestricted free agent D.J. Fluker.

2021 undrafted free agent Carl Tucker.

2021 unrestricted free agent Robert Foster.

Unless something significant has changed, those players don’t dislike Saban. Grier obviously doesn’t dislike Saban. Ross doesn’t dislike Saban.

The Dolphins hatred of Nick Saban has just about passed into history.

Profile Image of Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.