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Friday, April 21, 2006

The ENTIRE Saban Q&A

OK, without further ado, here is Nick Saban's entire talk from Thursday's press conference. You guys obviously want it and I am here to serve. By the way, Saban has cut down on the "relative to" references lately.

After you've stolen about 30 minutes of your company's time reading this, tell me your opinions. I'll give you my take in a future blog.

(On if he looks at the history of the 16th pick to gauge what types of players are typically chosen by then) – “I think that typically quarterbacks are going to go early. They usually get picked a lit ahead because it’s a position that’s critical to success and it’s been proven over time, relative to this league and being successful over time. I think big people that can affect the quarterback and people that can cover are all people that historically get picked earlier in the draft. There is obviously some guys this year that we think will do that. I think sometimes inside linebackers, for example, don’t get picked as high. Some people have that philosophy, some people don’t. It’s something you have to kind of evaluate, but typically people that can score touchdowns or create big plays, whether they affect the quarterback on defense or make the plays down the field, are guys that have a little bit more impact if someone is available to pick at that particular position.”

(On how he developed his evaluation system) – “Basically it’s very similar to the way we did it in Houston, but more specifically to this system is the way we did it in Cleveland. I learned most of it from Bill (Belichick) who probably learned it form Bill Parcells and the way they did it in New York. We’ve tweaked it to satisfy the criteria of what we think is important, but systematically it’s very similar.”

(On how difficult it is to evaluate players from non-Division I schools) – “I think level of competition is always something you take into consideration. I think that sometimes that works for you and sometimes that works against you. I can think of a time when I was actually in Cleveland and went to Alabama to work out Antonio Langham, who we end up picking the ninth pick in the draft, but the same day I flew to New Orleans and worked out Aeneas Williams, who played at Southern. I really liked Aeneas Williams. Both guys were a little bit speed deficient for their position, but Aeneas Williams never made it as high on our board because of the level of competition that he played against. Yet, I guess you could make a case that he had a much more successful pro career than the guy that we ended up picking. It was just a little easier to us to bring clarity to that because you saw the guy at Alabama covering probably five wide receivers in the SEC who were No. 1 picks or playing in the league. It’s not always correct to do that, I guess is what I am trying to say. It doesn’t always work that way, but when you evaluate players playing against the same level of competition that they’ll play against at the next level it makes it a little easier to feel comfortable that the guy is going to be able to bring his skill set to this level and have some success.”

(On if it was coincidence that the Dolphins took all major-school players in last year’s draft) – “I would think so. We try to do a good job with all levels of guys in terms of what we look at and how we evaluate them.”

(On how much it is easier to evaluate a player on or off the field who has played or grew up locally) – “I think that’s one of the things that really important from a scouting staff standpoint. When you have good scouts who are established, who have credibility in certain areas, I think that, regardless of the area, they can get good information because of the contacts that they develop over time with their history of dealing with those same schools. I do think that that is a factor in getting good information from coaches, trainers, weight coaches, whatever, to find out a lot about a guy because we have limited opportunities to interview, talk to, really get to know players to make, in some cases, a pretty significant investment in the future of our team as well as in them, in their development.”

(On how much the success of players like Santana Moss and Steve Smith has affected how he looks at the receiver position in terms of height) – “I think that every guy has to be evaluated separately and none of these criteria are like negative killers to any player. In other words, it may affect him in the category that he’s in as a player. I think a better way to look at it would be if you have a guy that meets all the size criteria, all the speed criteria, has the same production, the same athleticism – and this is an inexact science so for me to make these statements is a little bit far-fetched almost because personnel evaluation is not an exact science – but you try to come up with a set of criteria that minimizes your opportunities to make mistakes. If you have a guy who was clean in all those areas and it was all the same and one guy met all the size criteria and another guy didn’t, even though that guy could have the same amount of success, would you choose the guy that meets all the criteria or the guy who was deficient in one area? That area doesn’t have to be short, it could be character, it could be mental in terms of ability to learn and adapt, which could affect the guy’s development and how quickly he would be able to play. It could be speed, it could be athleticism, it could be a lot of things.”

(On if Ricky Williams’ status affects the draft strategy) – “We tried to put ourselves in a position that that wouldn’t be a factor for us right now.”

(On if there is any word from the NFL regarding Ricky Williams) – “No.”

(On if he enjoys the challenge of trying to perfect the evaluation and draft process) – “I do enjoy it. I enjoy the input that we get from all the people in the organization who are involved in personnel evaluation, all the people who gather information relative to character, attitude, every issue, which involves coaching staff, personnel people, Stu (Weinstein, Team Security Investigator), just about everyone involved in personnel, the medical staff, all make a contribution to putting all that together and then trying to make a decision. Again, it’s not exact, a decision on – just like durability. The guy has been hurt a lot, his history says he’s been hurt a lot. Maybe he won’t be a durable player. How does that affect where you pick him in the draft, relative to his ability. Because if he’s hurt, he’s not playing. I do enjoy it, but I think I understand that it is not an exact science, but we do try to establish criteria that minimizes our opportunities to make mistakes.”

(On if he is comfortable that he has a plan in place right now to resolve the backup quarterback situation) – “I’m comfortable if we can get it resolved.”

(On if he will look toward the draft to help resolve that) – “Absolutely. I think absolutely. We have a situation where we would like to get someone to be our backup quarterback. The priority would be that that guy might have a few skins on the wall in terms his experience relative to playing in the National Football League, but certainly a young player who had a tremendous amount of potential who we felt good about that would create value for the organization, especially down the road, would certainly, in some ways, be just as good a way to solve the problem.”

(On if Joey Harrington’s public statement Wednesday helps or hurts the Dolphins if they are trying to acquire him) – “First of all, the player in question is under contract with another team so I would rather not comment about that particular situation. Certainly we have some things to do to get that to happen and we would be pleased if we could make it happen.”

(On even the Dolphins acquire Joey Harrington, if he would take a quarterback if he was the highest guy on his board) – “It would not preclude us from eliminating the guy in the draft – anyone.”

(On if he would take a player rated highly despite having an adequate number of players at that position, running back for example) – “I don’t think it usually comes down to one particular guy. It certainly could, especially if that guy was way up the board and all of sudden he’s way up the board ahead of a lot of people. I think that that’s a difficult situation to be in. More realistically what happens is you have three or four guys that are rated very close in the same category.”

(On how common it is now to unearth players that nobody has ever heard about with all of the technology that is available) – “I think it’s more difficult, maybe than it’s ever been. I think with the technology of information, the attention that is given to the draft, it’s probably a little more difficult to find a guy who no one has heard of, and all of a sudden ends up becoming a phenomenal player and everybody says, ‘Where did that guy come from?’ I think it’s possible, but I think it’s a little less probable than maybe it was 20 years ago.”

(On if he ever scouted a player and wondered why nobody else was scouting him) – “Orlando Brown was a free agent from a small school – South Carolina State. I didn’t do it. Pat Hill was assistant offensive line coach and pro personnel and Bill (Belichick) sent him to all the small schools to see if there was a size-speed guy who had potential at the position. Orlando Brown became a pretty good player. I can’t remember if he made the team or was on the practice squad for a year, but he eventually became a very good player. But he met all the position criteria for what we were looking for in an offensive tackle. For whatever reasons – level of competition, I don’t know the specifics I can’t remember them all – the guy was a little overlooked and turned out to be a pretty good player.”

(On how many guys he’s personally looked at this year and how much time he has spent on looking at tapes) – “The number of guys would probably be at least 200, maybe approaching 300. What I try to do is guys who have been ranked a certain level and above I try to look at all of those guys. That’s initially how I try to go about it. I do it by position. I have a laptop, which our video people here do a phenomenal job of putting things together on that, keeping it current, keeping it updated and adding workouts. If Florida State had a workout last week that ends up on there. I can pull it up and look at it and watch those particular players, even though they may not have been on there two weeks ago when I looked at those particular players at that time. Then, as we go through a particular position, we get all the input and information on guys if we have discrepancies. Maybe the scouts have a guy rated a little higher or lower and the coaches have a guy rated a little different higher or lower, or maybe one scout thinks one thing and somebody else thinks something else. What you’re trying to do is get to a consensus. In situations like that, if I hadn’t looked at that particular player - and in some cases Randy (Mueller) does the same thing – we would go back and look at the player. And it’s not out of the question for us to put the player up on the board and have everybody look at him at the same time. Everybody tries to learn why this guy is or isn’t what we’re looking for or how he meets a specific position criteria that could be beneficial to him impacting our team.”

(On if he has a greater conviction about watching guys at certain positions) — “Not really. I look at them all. I also listen. I think we have a lot of qualified people who have a lot of knowledge and experience. I think it’s very important to listen to everyone’s opinion and sometimes you can be a little bit too high or too low on a guy for a particular reason. I think those are the kinds of things that I try to be very objective about. I’m from West Virginia. So if there’s a guy from Glenville State College I don’t want to rate him higher because he grew up in Fairmont where I grew up just because I want a guy from West Virginia on our team. I think the big picture is a lot more important than that. You try to be objective and not allow some of those things – outside influences – that really don’t factor into a guy’s success or lack of success to ever be a factor in making a choice or decision about a guy.”

(On how the final grade on a player is ultimately determined) – “Everybody who looks at a player grades the player. Then through the culmination of all that information, reading everyone’s assessment, everybody writes a report taking all the things into consideration. These things change. If a guy ran a 4.8 at the Combine and all of a sudden he runs a 4.6 at two or three workouts, maybe your position changes on a guy because you had questions about his speed and now all of a sudden that clears up. So you can clean a guy up in that area and now maybe you rate him a little bit better.”

(On with all of the information and misinformation put out by people around the league, if he’s cognizant of it all and how he filters through it) – “I think there is a fair amount of deception out there right now. Deception is probably a bad word, because I don’t think anybody would intentionally do that. I think that in trying to not give away maybe what their intentions are, they feel like they want to give some information but maybe not specific enough information that anybody could be at a an advantage or disadvantage on what they might or might not do. Therefore, how we would view all that information would be with some skepticism and would count first on our evaluation of guys on the board, how we view them and how they can help our team and try to put them in the correct order for us and have the discipline to stay with that rather than get affected by things that are happening outside and being able to verify in any way, shape or form, certain types of information.”

(On how uncommon it is for a school to have string of 11 straight years of having a player selected in the first round, like the University of Miami has) – “First of all, it says a lot about their program and their ability to attract some really high caliber football players who have had a lot of success in their program, which is a compliment to their coaching staff. I also think that it’s a compliment to the high school coaches for the kind of football that we have in this area and who have had a significant part in developing some of these guys, getting them involved early on and helping their development process so that they have an opportunity to go to college and be involved in a successful program like Miami has. I think that’s very impressive.”

(On what he thinks about the depth of the quarterback position in the draft, beyond Leinart, Young and Cutler) – “I think that quarterback is probably one of the most difficult positions - based on history, not based on my ability or inability or our inabilities our abilities – historically relative to the number of guys who get picked in the first round, the number of guys who end up being successful players and the number of guys who don’t pan out quite as well as what their draft status might have indicated that they might. I think it kind of proves that quarterback is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate, whether a guy is going to have future success.
I personally think that’s contributed systematically to how you can develop quarterbacks in the NFL. We don’t get ahead 40-6 where you can put a guy in the second half and try to get him ready to be next year’s quarterback. There are a lot of close games. Other than the preseason, the way we have to practice there, are not an inordinate amount of reps that you can split reps between the first guy and the second guy and try to actually develop a guy. I think sometimes maybe some of these guys at that position, because of expectation, are put into situations before they’re ready to have success that affects their confidence and their ability to develop. So it’s not only about the evaluation in the draft, it’s also about how a guy gets developed at that position relative to our system, which is no one’s particular fault, but that’s just the way it is. There are several guys who are interesting and there always seems to be a few guys who end up on the other end of that, who get drafted – whether it’s a Tom Brady or whoever it might be – later on who turn out to be exceptionally good players relative to their draft status.”

(On how difficult it is to evaluate college basketball players who enter the NFL and if he would be hesitant to draft a player who has never played college football) – “Not necessarily. I think that at some point in time in the draft if a guy has some of the criteria that you’re looking for at a particular position, especially if you can verify the history and maybe even look at the guy as a high school player as part of the evaluation. I think if you know him that is even more helpful. Antonio Gates being a guy who we recruited at Michigan State, we saw him as a high school player, had him in our camp and thought he was the best football player in the state of Michigan. He comes in and doesn’t make it academically. He goes to junior college and plays basketball and ends up playing basketball at Kent State. It’s no surprise to me that the guy is a good player in the NFL. Could I say when he was 15 years old in our camp that he was going to be what he is today? No, but it’s not a surprise to me. But that’s knowing the guy. It’s more difficult sometimes to know a guy that’s playing at George Mason or wherever, who you don’t have that same history with and it’s more difficult to get that information and it is a little bit of a leap of faith or projection to know whether that guy is going to turn out. But always at some point in the draft, relative to what’s available, maybe it is time to take a little bit of a risk in terms of what a guy’s potential might be.”

(On how objectively you can evaluate a player when there is a lot said about him in the media) – “You can’t really be affected by that kind of stuff. You have to be objective and you have to do your own analysis. I don’t read that stuff. My take on that is we would like to give you as much information as possible without affecting our competitive advantage. I think it’s important for our fans to know what’s happening and I think you guys providing the information you is certainly a service to our fans and the interest in our league and I think that is very very important. But at the same time I don’t think that we need to get affected by whatever thinks because how can we verify where their information came from? I just got into it with the scouts upstairs that all of a sudden I’ve got this thing form the combine of what every guy ran the 40 in and it’s electronically timed. I’m looking at a guy and we have a different time on him than what he ran in Indy. They say, ‘well this is our time.’ I say, ‘you mean we’re sitting in peanut heaven timing a guy in the 40 and we don’t trust the electronic timer, but we think that we can time him better from 200 yards away?’ So if we don’t trust the electronic time – and you know what their answer was? ‘They even start that with a button.’ Everybody wants to get their own information so they can make their own decisions because you don’t want to make decisions on this information and if you can’t verify it, it’s difficult to put much stock into it.”

You guys are really hardcore fans. A tip of the cap to you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"By the way, Saban has cut down on the "relative to" references lately"...yeah but he does drop a TON of "standpoints"...

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Todd said...

Just the fact that I have no idea was Saban is going to do in this draft makes me feel encouraged. I don't know if I've ever had more faith in a coach and the choices he makes.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Dat RoRo Kid said...

thanks for posting this...

hardcore fan? what do you call spending about $500 to see Opening Day vs the Steelers...Phinfan for life, brother...consumes about 30% of my daily thoughts...

4:10 PM  
Blogger John Dolfan said...

Do headcoaches go to spin-doctor school to perfect their "coach speak"? It is amazing that after reading that entire Q & A, I know absolutely NOTHING more than before I read it. Saban takes after Billy B in more ways than one.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Ottawafan said...

Don't forget how Saban has to throw in the term "competitive advantage" every other sentence.

3:48 AM  
Blogger Grasshopper said...

Thanks for the write-up Armando. This is great for those of us who hang on each shred of Dolphins news.

5:04 AM  
Blogger The Greg said...

My two favorite lines in that post:

1) “Absolutely. I think absolutely."

2) "...based on history, not based on my ability or inability or our inabilities our[or?] abilities..."

I completely agree with Todd. Even though I learned nothing from the 30 minutes I spent reading that, at least I am not worried about what Saint Nick will do this weekend (like I was with Wannstache & Schpielman at the helm).

1:57 PM  
Blogger The Greg said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:57 PM  

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