Admittance of being in the midst of greatness

BY DON BEANE, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/13/19

Begrudgingly, I had a revelation this weekend. Actually, that’s 100% false. I just finally admitted my to myself this revelation, possibly due to my continued beat downs as a Tennessee Volunteer football fan, as well as the suffering, four decades now,as a lifelong Miami Dolphin fan.

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Admittance of being in the midst of greatness

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Begrudgingly, I had a revelation this weekend. Actually, that’s 100% false. I just finally admitted my to myself this revelation, possibly due to my continued beat downs as a Tennessee Volunteer football fan, as well as the suffering, four decades now,as a lifelong Miami Dolphin fan.

On the heels of the Vols following up a horrific loss to Georgia State by gagging at the end of the BYU game and eventually losing in double-overtime on Saturday night, and having the Dolphins lose to the Baltimore Ravens 59-10 on opening day less than 24 hours later, that simply shook me to the core enough that I have come to the point of simply not caring. If the University of Tennessee doesn’t care, nor the Miami Dolphins organization, why should I?

So after finally reaching this low point as a football fan, it gave me time to reflect, ponder, think with a clear and open mind. Sort of a grand awakening. With that began the admittance that we football fans are in the midst of greatness, and painfully it’s in the form of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Nick Saban, and the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick. Yes, while my Volunteers and Dolphins are finding new ways to lose, my friends like Todd Roper and Doug Colvin with Bama, and Rick Parks and J.R. Smith with the Patriots, have been whooping and hollering, grilling out ribs and burgers, having friends over for cook outs, celebrating wins and championships — you know, all those things that fans of winning teams get to do.

Don’t get me wrong. Roper will invite me over and let me have a great time watching Bama annually play in the Final Four of Bowl Series with friends. We eat, drink and be merry, and watch football. Even shoot pool. It’s just some great times.

Some of Roper’s hospitality is that we are buds and have coached for many years together and had some great times doing so. And some of it is I think he just feels pity on me. But at least he lets me join in and wonder what would it be like for Tennessee to make the Final Four and a National Championship game.

And the Patriots, I mean geez. I guess the past 17 years is all payback from when the Dolphins, who haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1974, used to roll New England every year when I was a kid. There was never any fear of the Patriots and I always knew you could pencil in New England as a win. But like Bama, who spent the money for Saban, that all changed when Belichick was hired. And I finally admitted to myself this weekend what I deep down already knew: that these two are possibly the two top coaches ever to coach football collegiately and professional.

Yes, even better than legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, who Roper played for in his first two seasons at Bama, Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Bill Walsh, Chuck Knoll, Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson — all those legendary coaches. Saban now has won six national titles, five at Alabama, and Belichick six Super Bowls, all with New England. And I would wager that in today’s modern times, those two feats are much harder to do because of the limited number of scholarships that you can give as a university on an annual basis, and free agency which took away the building of the super teams like the Packers, Steelers, Dolphins, Raiders, Cowboys and Forty-Niners of old.

How have they done it? Well it all starts with discipline and fundamentals, if you ask me. Football is still about blocking and tackling, and being technically sound at every position and in every phase of the game. When you watch the Crimson Tide and Patriots play, they do all the little things right more often than not.

Belichick and Saban also have schemes that they can plug talent into. Don’t get me wrong, both are innovative and can adapt with the best of them, but by and large schematically they remain the same and add wrinkles as needed as the season goes along, depending on what the opposing team that week is expected to throw at them.

Another area of expertise which has set these two apart has been talent evaluation. I mean look, Bellichick made the perfect draft choice in Tom Brady, who was the 199th pick in the 6th round in the 2000 NFL Draft. Now 19 years later, Brady is set to go down as the best quarterback ever to play the game, is a six-time Super Bowl champion, and a lock for the NFL Hall-of-Fame

But it goes past that. Belichick, like Saban in recruiting, identifies top talent who can excel in their schemes, both offensively and defensively. Whether it’s a five-star prospect or first round draft pick, or someone over looked like Julian Edelman, Belichick and Saban are as good as they come in finding these talents that will succeed in their system.

And lets face it: for going on two decades now (including Saban at LSU), both have ran programs that have had a bullseye on their team week in and week out. Every one wants to take them down. And on occasion it happens. But the mark of consistency displayed by the Crimson Tide and the Patriots during this span in unparalleled, in my opinion.

So for now, I will sit back and enjoy watching quite the greatest collegiate and NFL coaches of all-time. Often we don’t truly appreciate greatness, whether a fan or not, in any sport until the time has passed. For me, I won’t let it happen with these two, especially given my love of coaching on the gridiron.

So good luck Rope, Doug, Rick, J.R., you have great seasons ahead of you in 2019 and the Vols and Phins have given many free time to watch and dream of what could be as well. But Marshall Gibson, don’t think I’m sleeping on Dabo and Clemson. At the rate he’s going, Saban may have met his match, as stunning as it may be, in a short amount of time. And, of course, it must be noted that Dabo is a former National Champion as a player at, yes, you guessed it, Alabama.


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