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Bryant was great, Saban is better ... so far

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(Source: Dennis Washington/WBRC) (Source: Dennis Washington/WBRC)

MIAMI (RNN) - Paul W. Bryant's name is on the NCAA's national coach of the year trophy. That may need to be revisited if Nick Saban keeps winning.

Saban, 16 years into his career, has won more games faster than Bryant did over the same span and Saban did it in a more competitive landscape. Both coaches dominated the Southeastern Conference, but Saban has done it in the conference's golden era.

Including Alabama's dominating victory over Notre Dame, the SEC has won seven straight national championships - Saban has three of those, in six years. He won another at LSU in 2003, making him one of only three college coaches to win four national titles.

In his 38-year career, Bryant won six, but those came before the Bowl Championship Series, when reporters and coaches voted in polls to determine the winners. Two of Bryant's titles came before bowl losses and one was a split decision.

The BCS is a flawed system, but Saban has won his championships on the field. If he had to win a popularity contest to load the trophy case, he'd be in trouble.

Bryant was folksy and tough, his teams were immaculately prepared and he won with great and not-so-great talent. Saban, the driven perfectionist with a brusque personality, may not be as colorful or quotable, but boy, does he win.

Bryant was a slow starter compared to the 61-year-old Saban (Bryant passed away of a heart attack a few weeks after retiring in ill health at age 69).

Sixteen years into his career, Bryant had a record of 111-46-14 and had yet to win his first national title. In the same amount of time, Saban is 154-55-1.

Notre Dame's Frank Leahy and John McKay of Southern California are the only other college coaches to win four national championships.

Leahy's career at Notre Dame lasted just 13 years, but he won four national titles, had a record of 107-13-9. When he resigned, he was in bad health and said he felt unappreciated.

McKay coached 16 years at Southern California, won four national titles and had a record of 127-40-8. He bolted the college ranks for the pros, taking on the challenge of coaching the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a franchise he took to the playoffs a few years including one appearance in the NFC Championship Game.

Saban spent two bad years in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, leaving to return to college and take over a floundering Alabama program.

Bryant's legacy was his longevity and the high quality of his teams year after year. Saban would be 83 in his 38th season - which is unlikely, because his charming but tough wife, Terry, would probably kill him long before that.

But can anybody seriously believe Saban is anywhere near finished? Rumors of leaving Alabama for NFL jobs surface all the time, but should they really be taken seriously? He's making $5 million a year, is master and commander of his program and is on a run that could be unparalleled in the history of the sport.

When Saban flew into Tuscaloosa in 2006, who would have thought that just six years later you could make a serious case that he's better than Bryant.

If he keeps his health and continues to do what he's capable of doing, he could erase all doubt before he hangs it up.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • Who do you think is better?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Nick Saban
    67%
    61 votes
    Bear Bryant
    33%
    30 votes
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