Nick Saban swaps knowledge with Peyton Manning


Nick Saban coached spring practice this week. (Vasha Hunt / AP)

It’s no surprise that, every year about this time, college and pro football coaches and players freely pick one another’s brains, but Alabama Coach Nick Saban has been especially busy.

With that Iron Bowl loss still stinging, he spoke about the virtues of “starting all over” with SI.com’s Stewart Mandel.

“When you win a lot, sometimes you don’t continue to emphasize those very things that created the success to start with. Everybody just sort of loses a little respect for those things, whether it’s attention to detail, discipline and execution, giving effort, finishing plays, preparing for the game like you need to,” he said. “So starting all over is kinda just, go back to the beginning and make sure we’re doing the things that maybe we lost some respect for that are the very things that helped us be successful to start with.”

To that end, he’s been visiting with some of the best football minds, including those of Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who worked with Saban at Michigan State and LSU. Saban wouldn’t reveal details of their talks two weeks ago, but it’s no secret that the Crimson Tide has struggled against no-huddle offenses and Manning runs that, shall we say, effectively.

“Since they’re a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that give them problems,” Saban said (via ESPN). “That was a mutual benefit. I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them as well.”

Besides, Saban has a history with Manning, too.

“Peyton Manning has been a friend and very well respected for a long time, ever since I coached in the league,” Saban said. “We played them when he was at Indianapolis and I was in Miami. His dad [Archie] has been a really good friend of mine for a long, long, long time.”

But what, exactly, did Manning take away from the talk? They couldn’t have been comparing the Iron Bowl and Super Bowl losses…

“A lot of people would say, ‘Wow, the guy is one of the best, if not the best, from a career standpoint and about as good as anyone has been in the history of the league,’ ” Saban said. “After all the experience and knowledge that he has, he’s going out to try and seek more knowledge and understudying of the game of football so he can play better.”

Their visit to Tuscaloosa wasn’t the only pilgrimage of football brainiacs. Saban last week hosted an annual football clinic that included Joe Gibbs, Gene Stallings and Art Briles.

Busy times for Coach Saban.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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