Alabama coach Nick Saban says his meeting with Denver quarterback Peyton Manning on the Tuscaloosa campus earlier in the week was just an informal gathering, but the get-together is raising eyebrows. Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase was also on-campus at the same time and the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement forbids players and coaches from meeting during the off-season to discuss football. Saban’s history of not always being entirely truthful seems to have prompted league officials to step in and take a closer look at the gathering to determine if any rules were violated, and understandably so.
Saban told the Denver Post that he was shocked anyone would think any wrongdoing took place, noting that Manning and Gase only said hello and shot the breeze together. He said he spoke with Manning two different times for a period of an hour and they discussed defenses that trouble them and football in general, adding that he has known Manning for quite some time and is friends with his father Archie. He never talked about football with Gase, he said, noting that the reason for his visit was to talk with different offensive and defensive coaches and remembered Gase speaking to Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Saban also mentioned that he and Gase worked together at both Michigan State in the late 1990’s and LSU in 2000.
Manning soared to new heights with Gase calling the plays in 2013, throwing an NFL record 55 touchdowns for 5,447 yards and setting a new NFL scoring mark with 600 points. But Manning and Denver came up short in the Super Bowl against Seattle and suffered a 43-8 trouncing.
Specifically, according to Saban, he spoke to Manning about the no-huddle offense, which the Broncos often run, in the hopes they could exchange some valuable information on what troubles each have encountered with the formation. He said the exchange was beneficial for him and he hopes it was for Manning as well and both Gase and Manning being on the campus at the same was mere coincidence.
Saban’s penchant for stretching the truth, however, may have preceded him in this instance. After winning a national championship with LSU in 2003, he left Baton Rouge for greener pastures and the NFL, inking a five-year deal with the Miami Dolphins in 2004 worth an estimated $22.5 million. But Saban’s rise to the big leagues was short-lived and after two marginal seasons where he went a combined 15-17, he retreated to the familiar confines of college football, signing with Alabama in 2006 after weeks of denying any interest in the position and proclaiming his allegiance to Miami.
In any event, if no rules were broken with this so-called gathering, and if in fact Saban is finally being more honest than not, it would be hard to prove otherwise, anyway. When Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo were seen in attendance together at a Final Four basketball game this off-season, the league did nothing, which is what will more than likely happen in this case, as well.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat