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Nick Saban apologizes for “professional mishandling” when leaving Dolphins

As the 2006 NFL season moved toward a conclusion and the Alabama coaching job remained vacant, rumors mounted that Dolphins coach Nick Saban could be the next Alabama coach.

So what was Saban’s position on the matter? “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”

And then, after the season, he abruptly became the Alabama coach.

In a new interview with Steve Greenberg of Sporting News, Saban addresses the situation.

“Well, honesty and integrity is an important part of our character, my character,” Saban said. “Those are words that we use all the time. I think that in an effort to protect our team at Miami -- because I had not talked to Alabama and did not talk to them until the season ended -- I express that (character is important) to (Alabama) through my agent and said it was up to them whether they wanted to wait and that I would not make any promises. I would talk to them then, [and] I would only reassess my circumstances and our situation as a family at the end of the year.

“But I kept getting asked about this over and over and over, and in trying to defuse the interest and leave the focus on our team in Miami (long pause) . . . I had a responsibility and obligation to the players on that team, the coaches on the staff, and I didn’t want that to be the focus of attention.

“So would I manage it differently? Absolutely. I would still have the same integrity for our team, but I just would not answer any questions relative to Alabama. . . . I do apologize for any professional mishandling that might have occurred.”

He used a lot of words to say what he could have said very simply -- that he should have said nothing about the Alabama job, period.

Saban also claims that, in his two years with the Dolphins, “we made the organization better.”

(It’s a good thing that he did, or they may have been 0-16 instead of 1-15 the year after he left.)

“We had an opportunity to get a quarterback in Drew Brees or Daunte Culpepper and we probably missed out on the physical well-being of those two players; we took the guy that we felt was more healthy, and he wasn’t healthy,” Saban said. “No disrespect to him; he did the best he could, Daunte Culpepper. Drew Brees didn’t have any problems and ended up having a great career. Had that been different, I think we’d have made our team a lot better.

“We didn’t have a quarterback the second year, and it affected our ability to be successful. But we made improvements as a team; we made improvements on defense. So I don’t really feel like I took one on the chin. I don’t really feel like we failed.”

Some Dolphins fans will likely disagree. But they won’t disagree on the “professional mishandling” point. That said, they’d likely use more colorful terms when describing what Saban did, and what they regard him to be.