Alabama's Saban, ex-Dolphins coach, back in Miami


Alabama's Saban, ex-Dolphins coach, back in Miami

MIAMI (AP) Nick Saban returned to his former NFL home and insisted he's not looking for another one.

The Alabama coach was back at Sun Life Stadium - where he coached the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and 2006 - for the BCS title game media day event Saturday. The second-ranked Crimson Tide (12-1) faces No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) on Monday night there for the national title.

Saban said he wasn't feeling nostalgic by being back on the Dolphins' turf, further adding that a return to the NFL is not tempting to him.

``I don't have any unfinished business in the NFL,'' Saban said. ``I have a job right now and I want to do the best job that I possibly can for this team, right now. ... That's not something that I'm concerned about. It's not something I'm thinking about; it's not even something that I want to do. I want to be a college coach.''

Of course, Saban sometimes changes his mind.

And nowhere has that been more chronicled than Miami.

It was Dec. 21, 2006, when Saban spoke at the Dolphins' facility after his team practiced and, after weeks of trying to denounce reports that Alabama intrigued him as ``rumor and innuendo,'' he offered his most emphatic denial of the entire process.

``I guess I have to say it. I'm not going to be the Alabama coach,'' Saban said that day, an oft-repeated quote.

Less than two weeks later, Saban was the Alabama coach.

So when he returned Saturday - the first time he was on the field at Sun Life in a working capacity since Christmas 2006 - Saban was predictably all about what's looming for Alabama on Monday night.

``I'm kind of excited for the opportunity that our team has,'' Saban said. ``It's really about our team and this game. We're always happy to come back to South Florida. We have some great relationships here and some very fond memories of being here. But right now, we've recruited and worked to develop this team for a long, long time, and it's really a lot more about them being here ... than it is anything that's happened in my past.''

Saban walked onto the field about 9:30 a.m. Saturday, not even seeming to take a look around at the facility where he went 9-7 in home games with the Dolphins. He walked down the visitors' sideline to his assigned booth, shook a couple hands with game staff and spoke with reporters for an hour.

``It's good to be back,'' said Alabama assistant coach Jeff Stoutland, a former coach at the University of Miami - which also uses Sun Life as its home field. ``But it's a business trip for us. We've got a schedule and we're sticking to that schedule.''

The Dolphins went 6-10 in Saban's final season in Miami, the only sub-.500 record that one of his teams has posted in his 19 seasons as a head coach. He lost 17 games in two seasons with the Dolphins; he's lost 13 in nearly six full seasons with the Crimson Tide and is now trying for his third BCS national title in four seasons.

``I'm not looking for new challenges,'' Saban said. ``I'm just trying to take advantage of helping the challenging situation that we have and continue to be successful.''

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Ravens fans celebrate new energy injected by Lamar Jackson-run offense

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Ravens fans celebrate new energy injected by Lamar Jackson-run offense

Lamar Jackson is the most popular man in Baltimore. 

In his second season with the Ravens, it’s impossible to *not* see his name everywhere you look. His number eight jersey is quickly becoming as synonymous with the Ravens as Cal Ripken Jr.’s was with the Orioles.

Jackson has taken the NFL by storm in 2019, forcing himself into the MVP debate.

Longtime fan Rick Gibson said the Jackson era has a different feel than the previous Joe Flacco-led team.

“It’s fun coming to games,” he said before Sunday's matchup against the Texans. "A lot better than it has been in the past, so it’s more exciting.”

With the flip of a switch -- or rather, the draft pick of a quarterback -- fan enthusiasm is all of a sudden at an all-time high.

And it starts (and ends) with number eight.

“It’s incredible,” said Ravens fan Jonathan Greene. “Most excited for a Ravens team, and I’ve been a fan for years. It’s awesome. He has elevated this team.”

The words fans use to describe Jackson’s game are all similar. Phenomenal. Awesome. Incredible. Spectacular. Magic.

Jackson’s stats this season speak for themselves: 2,036 passing yards and 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions. A 65.9 completion percentage. 702 rushing yards -- 11th-most in the NFL -- and six touchdowns. And of course, a 7-2 record.

Even those who would discount Jackson’s performance as beating up on weak competition are forced to recognize his brilliance. Against the winless Bengals, for example, Next Gen Stats estimated an average quarterback should have a completion percentage of 57.7%, based on how covered his receivers were, how much pressure he was under, and more. 

His actual percentage? 88.2%, or 30.5% higher than what was expected. It was the best difference for *any* quarterback in *any* game in 2019.

Fans are excited for the future as well. Not just for the Ravens but for young football fans across the city.

“He’s only 22 years old,” another fan, John Ford, said. “I think he appeals to the younger generation coming up through the high school and college ranks, because they can relate to him...I think he’s a role model for a lot of young kids coming up. And you watch him on the sidelines, he does some great things, but he takes it in stride. So he’s not celebrating too much, he knows what he’s got to do. That’s a unique thing for a young man, only 22 years old, at this level.”

The near future looks more daunting than in the long term. The Ravens enter Week 11 on a five-game winning streak, hoping to win six straight for the first time since 2000. 

They are beginning a tough slate of four straight against playoff contenders, but with Jackson leading an unstoppable offense, three or four wins doesn’t seem far-fetched. Regardless of what happens, Jackson has emphatically won over the city of Baltimore and the NFL writ large.

One longtime Ravens fan, Stan Nasiatka, put it best when asked about Jackson.

“That’s all we’re talking about," he said. "It’s everywhere.”


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Mr. Consistency Justin Tucker misses first field goal of the season

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Mr. Consistency Justin Tucker misses first field goal of the season

Justin Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL. That much hasn’t changed.

But something different happened on Sunday against the Texans: Tucker’s attempt on the Ravens’ first drive of the game -- from 43 yards out -- bounced off the right upright.

The miss snapped a streak of 22 consecutive made field goals for Tucker, who is the NFL’s all-time leader in field goal percentage. He is the only kicker in NFL history to convert more than 90% of his field goal attempts.

While it's shocking, this wasn't Tucker's first miss this season. He missed an extra point two weeks ago against New England.

It’s too soon to be concerned about Tucker going forward. For now, just pick your jaws up off the floor and go back to feeling confident in the Ravens’ most consistent player the next time he jogs out onto the field.