The two friends and former colleagues have each dominated their respective levels of football. As coaches, Saban has won seven national championships and Belichick has won six Super Bowls.
Their efforts have placed each at the front of the list whenever discussions of greatest football coaches take place.
They’ve each achieved an elite coaching status few have or likely will ever touch in football, but they’re not the exact same person.
How are Saban and Belichick similar and different? Saban was asked the question by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit at the Senior Bowl Summit on Tuesday.
“We’re both a little old fashioned,” Saban said. “Bill won’t hire a coach from me and I won’t hire a coach off his staff unless we agree it’s the best thing for both of our organizations.”
It has happened, and their loyalty to have that discussion is timely because Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has been linked to New England’s open offensive coordinator job.
O’Brien, who joined Alabama ahead of the 2021 season, worked as Belichick’s offensive coordinator in New England in 2011. O’Brien was asked ahead of the Cotton Bowl about the commonalities he sees in Saban and Belichick.
He mentioned hard work, smart teams, selflessness, complementary football and loyalty.
Saban also mentioned loyalty when discussing similarities.
“I think there’s a loyalty there and a friendship there, even when I was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and he was in New England and we were in the same division,” Saban said. “It never affected our friendship. It’s one of the things I kind of learned from him. You can be competitors, you can compete against each other, you want to win just as much as any other game, but it’s not personal. You don’t have to take it personally. When the game is over, and both teams competed the best they could, you did the best you could as a coach to get your players to be able to play the best they could, then you can shake hands and be friends again.”
The difference mentioned by Saban between the two stems from how their personalities fit the different requirements of coaching college vs. coaching an NFL team.
“Bill is probably a little more reserved,” Saban said.
And that works for professional football. College coaching, Saban said, is more about having the ability to develop strong relationships so that players want to play for you.
““In pro football, that’s probably not as important,” Saban said. “That’s their job. They respect you as a coach if you can help them extend their career or improve their performance.”
Overall, Saban was highly complimentary of his friend, for whom he served as defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in the 1990s.
“Just phenomenal what he has been able to accomplish,” Saban said.
Contact Alabama reporter Nick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama’s Nick Saban on what’s similar, different with New England’s Bill Belichick