January 11, 2021
Miami, Florida, USA
Hard Rock Stadium
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama 52, Ohio State 24
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the postgame news conference for the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship game. We are now joined by Nick Saban, head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
We'll start with an opening statement and then go to questions.
Coach, congratulations. Please give us a brief opening statement.
NICK SABAN: Thank you.
Well, I'm just so proud of our team for what they've accomplished all season long, the adversity they had to overcome, the togetherness that they have as a group, the way they've supported one another. To go undefeated, win 11 SEC games, win the national championship, beat two fine teams in Notre Dame and Ohio State, tell you how proud I am of that.
A lot of guys played not absolutely 100% because we were pretty beat up, but showed a lot of guts and a lot of grit out there in terms of the way they competed and the way they performed.
I think it was a fantastic offensive performance by Mac and Smitty, the whole group. The offensive line has done a great job all year long. Really just can't say enough, can't really put it into words in terms of how proud I am of this group, this team, because they are the ultimate team.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. I know you don't like to compare teams, but both of your undefeated teams, really different offensively, and probably defensively. Could you compare the two, what it's like to have another undefeated team.
NICK SABAN: Well, I think especially in this year, with all the disruptions, no spring practice, really no summer ball at all of any sort to develop players, no games where you could play other players and develop players on the team. I think this, based on the circumstances, this team has really accomplished a lot, to be able to do what they did.
We have great leadership on this team, really good players, that are the best people on the team. I think it's always fun to coach when the best players on your team are the best people.
The other undefeated team we had had great people and great players. They were a great team, too. I think ball has changed. It's a little more wide open, a little more spread. This team has adapted, and we've changed with it.
Our coaches did an outstanding job with this team all year long. Just proud of our whole organization and everybody who contributes to it for what we were able to accomplish.
Q. Smitty and Najee, two of your players that set single-season records for receiving and rushing yards. Seemed like their performance this year is largely a product of your shift in offensive scheme in the last few years. Could you explain how much of a difference you think your change in philosophy played in getting those two players to have the games they did and the seasons that they did.
NICK SABAN: Well, I think it had a significant difference. We've gradually changed through the years to be more spread oriented but still keep post style, drop-back concepts with our offense, legitimate play-action passes.
This whole sort of blend of all these things, creating balance to be able to run, make explosive plays, with play-action passes that complement the runs, and be able to throw RPOs to people in the box a lot. We threw a lot of RPOs tonight. A lot of those slants and glances. They had eight guys in the box, one more than we could block. Went one-on-one with the corner.
Mac does a great job of executing it. Smitty obviously had a great half. Najee has played well all year long, had some tough yards to get out there tonight. We knew it would be tough running against these guys the way they play. We knew we'd have to throw the ball to win, and we did it effectively.
Q. What kind of job did Sark do finding a way to get play-makers in position to make plays?
NICK SABAN: He does a fabulous job. He's done a fabulous job all year long. He had got a great plan, does a great job preparing the players. He does a really good job of calling a game. He knows what the other team is doing, knows how to attack it, knows where to put the players to put them in position to be able to make those plays against what the other team is doing.
He has just done a fantastic job this year. I can't even tell you. Can't even put into words what a great job he's done, how much confidence the players have in the plan and the execution. He's really helped Mac, as well, I think. Mac had a phenomenal year.
Our offense was really the key to the success of this team. We're an okay defensive team, not a great defensive team. We played well enough, got enough stops. But the offense was dynamic. That's what made the difference.
Q. You had a couple teams, 2016, 2018, that came close to going undefeated. This team actually did it. What do you think is the legacy of this team finishing the undefeated season?
NICK SABAN: Well, to me, this team accomplished more almost than any team. No disrespect to any other teams that we had or any championship teams. But this team won 11 SEC games. No other team has done that. They won the SEC, went undefeated in the SEC, then they beat two great teams in the Playoffs with no break in between.
This is our fifth game in a row, from LSU to Arkansas to Florida to Notre Dame to here. Played 13 games, went undefeated with all the disruption that we had in this season. I think there's quite a bit to write about when it comes to the legacy of the team.
Q. What does it mean, one, to have guys like Mac, Jaylen, even Landon at the end, gut through the injuries you were talking about? You were asked about Bear Bryant afterwards. What does it mean to you to continually be compared to a coach with his legacy?
NICK SABAN: Well, I don't think anybody really compares to Coach Bryant. In the era that he coached, the era that he won, he won a lot of different ways. He won throwing it. He won running a wishbone. He won it running conventional offensive formations.
His legacy lasted over a long, long period of time. We all have to adjust with the times. Obviously things are a little different now. The challenges are a little bit different with the spread offense, the things that make it more difficult I think to play good defense in this day and age.
I think Coach Bryant is sort of in a class of his own in terms of what he was able to accomplish, what his record is, the longevity that he had and the tradition he established. If it wasn't for Coach Bryant, we would never be able to do what we did. I mean, he's the one that made Alabama and the tradition at Alabama a place where lots of players wanted to come. We've been able to build on that with great support. His family has always supported us in a tremendous way that has helped us have the success that we have.
But that tradition that he established, that's a big part of that.
Q. How difficult was it to see Devonta go down in the second half after the season he's had? How is he doing as far as his hand after the game?
NICK SABAN: Well, he really dislocated his finger. I told Smitty after the game, I said, You're the only player that I know that missed a whole half because of your finger.
It was dislocated and they couldn't get it back in. If they'd have got it back in, he would have been fine. He actually wanted to play, we just didn't allow him to.
He's a great competitor. I heard somebody say he set some kind of record in the first half of the game. Heavens knows what he would have done if he played the whole game.
But you're talking about the ultimate warrior, ultimate competitor. I'm so happy for him that he was recognized as the best player in college football because I don't think anybody's done more for their team than he has for our team.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you for your time tonight. Again, congratulations on the national title.
NICK SABAN: Thank you. Appreciate it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports