Alabama coach Nick Saban hasn’t been able to shed Lane Kiffin as easily as he might have thought.
In a teleconference call Tuesday, Saban was peppered with questions about the timing of the departure of Kiffin, who Saban dumped as his offensive coordinator this week before Monday night’s national championship game. The odd-timing of the decision and Kiffin’s stated goal of working in the press box both were discussed.
“We made a statement about this yesterday,” Saban said, “and really don’t have much else to say about it. It’s difficult sometimes when you’re in a situation when you have a new opportunity and new job, and we mutually agree that in the best interest of everyone that this would be the best thing for us to do relative to the experience that we had in preparation for Washington and playing in the game.
“You know, I don’t think there’s a whole lot more to say about that. Our coaches are working hard to try to put the best game plan we can together to play against a very good Clemson defense, and we’re in the planning stages right now. I don’t know why you all keep asking me what changes we’re going to make. Dabo (Swinney, the Clemson coach) is a good friend of mine; maybe I’ll just call him up and tell him what we’re going to do.”
Saban said the rules would not allow for Kiffin to be around the Tide.
“If you understand the rules, you know, he’s not allowed to be involved with the team,” Saban said. “They’re involved in the planning. They’re involved in the organization. That’s where they make their contribution, in the coaching meetings. They’re not really allowed to be involved with the team.”
Saban said initially, he did not see that it would a problem for Kiffin to work both jobs.
“At the time there was no anticipation that – or thought that there would be any kind of problem relative to managing having two jobs at once, and when we sort of saw that that was – and agreed that that was a little bit of a tough thing, then we decided to move in a different direction,” Saban said.
All in all, Saban sounded more at ease talking about Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“I thought he played fantastic against us last year, and we thought he was an outstanding player last year when we played against him,” Saban said. “Any comment that I make now is certainly not a disrespect to how we felt about him a year ago.
“He may be arguably the best player in college football. The guy is very athletic. He’s got a great understanding of their offense. He does a really good job of executing for his team. He can extend plays. He can run. He can run quarterback runs. And he’s a terrific passer. I mean, he is the complete package of everything that you could ever want or look for in a guy at quarterback, and he’s been playing for a long time, so he has a tremendous amount of experience. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
You know, I think that that’s why they’re a very, very dynamic offense.”