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Saturday Sports: It's the end of an era for two legendary football coaches

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And as they say on the T-shirt, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Legends move on. Nick Saban retires. Bill Belichick leaves the Patriots. But BJ Leiderman still does our theme music. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine. We don't even have time to mention Pete Carroll - shown the door in Seattle. Let me ask you, Nick Saban, head coach, University of Alabama football, six national championships. He also won a national championship with LSU. He retires as the sixth winningest college football coach of all time. What do you think his legacy is?

BRYANT: Well, it's going to be really interesting. I mean, the legacy and the accomplishments, as we know, are two different things. And so we'll see what this move and what his effect has been on the sport as time goes on. I wonder if he and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke are both going to be folks recognized and sort of remembered at the end as coaches who did not want to deal with this new world of NIL and transfer portals where the coaches don't have as much power as they used to have. Obviously, when you look at the scoreboard, you look at what he did - unparalleled as a coach, especially in this modern era.

But the legacy of Nick Saban? I want to see - there's so much change in college football - is he simply going to be one of the greatest coaches of all time, or is this going to have some lasting effect on how coaching takes place? One legacy of Saban, obviously, is the ridiculous amount of money these coaches now make. He was making roughly almost $14 million total.

SIMON: Yeah. Bill Belichick is departing as the head coach of the New England Patriots after 24 seasons where they won six Super Bowls. Howard, how controversial is it if we call Bill Belichick the best head coach in NFL history who ever had Tom Brady as a quarterback?

BRYANT: (Laughter) Well, certainly I don't think it's going to be controversial. I think the controversy of him will always be the Deflategates and the Spygates and all those things, but I think even those will begin to recede when you look at what he did for that franchise. And I think anybody up here in New England knows there were the New England Patriots before, and then there are the New England Patriots after - 19 straight winning seasons, nine Super Bowl appearances, six Super Bowl championships, and also, to do it - that - to have that kind of consistency to do it in an era where the rules of the NFL essentially forced you to get rid of players because of the salary cap and all of that, and the money being what it is. So for him to keep that team together is remarkable. Also when it comes to Belichick, fascinating that both he and Nick Saban, coaches together on the Cleveland Browns teams in the early 1990s...

SIMON: Yes.

BRYANT: ...Both quit together. Belichick will be 72 in April, and Nick Saban is 72 now.

SIMON: And Cleveland's in the playoffs. Cleveland rocks this weekend. Let me ask you, which game should we look for? I worry about the players at Kansas City - Kansas City-Miami.

BRYANT: Kansas City-Miami is going to be a great game - maybe the two best teams in the conference playing in the opening round and not in the - you know, not in the conference championship. I'm interested in seeing what Buffalo does. But I got to tell you, Scott, the game that I'm really looking forward to is the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buccaneers. You may say, why? Why would you care about Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Bucs? But I'm interested on the other side. Philadelphia was 10 and 1 this year.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And if the Eagles don't turn it around on Monday night, this is going to be an epic collapse that folks are talking about. But they say the playoffs is a new season. So we'll see what they do. But I'm looking at the Philadelphia Eagles.

SIMON: Joe Flacco and the Browns is a great story, isn't it?

BRYANT: Also a good story. And they're a great story, and so is the Detroit Lions hosting - you know, hosting a playoff game for the first time in - what? - 30 years.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: They host - yeah - they are one of the worst football teams in the history of football. And so when they're playing in the postseason, I think it's always news. But I think that there are so many - we're always going to get great performances. One of these days, Pat Mahomes is actually going to play a road game in the playoffs. And it's not going to be this weekend. But I think that when you're looking at the playoffs, obviously you want to know what the Dallas Cowboys want to do. And if you look all the way out, I still think that the two teams that we're going to pay most attention to are going to be Baltimore and San Francisco.

SIMON: Howard Bryant. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.