TAMPA, Fla.—Nick Saban got roughed up a bit in the media for testily declining to dissect the premature ``departure’’ of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin the other day.
I understand why the sporting press wanted details. I also understand why Saban didn’t want to go there.
Kiffin made that bed by not taking care of his Alabama business before heading off to his new job at Florida Atlantic.
An Alabama insider I know described Kiffin’s actions as bordering on ``sabotage.’’[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
I don’t ordinarily defend coaches for clamming up. But there wasn’t a whole lot to be gained by detailing Kiffin’s malfeasance as he tried to juggle two jobs.
Given Kiffin’s bizarre exits from Tennessee and USC, he needed to handle things better. Either embrace the responsibility of helping the Crimson Tide pursue their lofty national-championship goal. Or say, ``I need to get on with my new job,’’ and leave the right way.
If I’m in Florida Atlantic’s inner circle, I’m wondering what FAU just got it itself into, hiring a guy who doesn’t look as rehabilitated as we thought.
Meanwhile, Bama is moving on.
After true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts said, ``I felt I could have played better’’ against Washington, I asked him what he thought of the game plan vs. the Huskies, who gave the Crimson Tide a surprisingly good battle.
``I don’t think it comes down to game plan,’’ Hurts said. ``As a player and a competitor, whatever is called, it’s my job to execute. That’s what I want to do.’’
Like coach Saban, Hurts wasn’t going there. He was coached up for Media Day. And he handled his responsibilities.
I expect there will be plenty of pondering of the impact of Kiffin not being around on Monday night. As far I'm concerned, at this point it’s addition by subtraction.
WHEN DABO MET MADDON
One of the reasons I always liked working at the Chicago Sun-Times was that it wasn’t afraid to run with something different.
I was reminded of that in this College Football Playoff run-up, when my Sun-Times friend and colleague, Steve Greenberg, ran across a local-angle gem.
Hearing some Clemson players use the phrase ``Embrace the target,’’ Steve asked Tigers' coach Dabo Swinney about it.
And sure enough, Swinney not only had borrowed that mantra from Joe Maddon. He had met the Cubs manager at Wrigley Field last spring, when Swinney was in Chicago for the NFL draft.
``We’ve kind of become buddies,’’ said Swinney, impressed by the way Maddon didn’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure. ``They knew they had the best team, and I think they embraced that. Don’t run from that. It kind of resonated with me.’’
At the start of fall camp, Swinney let out his Inner Maddon, telling his players: ``We are the target, but let’s embrace that. Let’s focus on being the best we can be.’’
The pink `Try not to suck’ T-shirt Maddon was wearing when Swinney met him really sank in.
``Joe Maddon says, `If we just don’t suck, we’ve got a chance to win.’ That kind of resonated with our guys. My father-in-law is a huge Cubs fan. To see them do something that hadn’t been done in  years was pretty amazing.’’