Give Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban one thing -- he likes to use strong metaphors. Very strong metaphors. Consider this 2007 gem about Alabama's loss to Louisiana-Monroe, which forced an Alabama football spokesman to clarify that Saban did not view football games and terrorist attacks as events of equal value.
"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event," Saban said. "It may be 9/11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, and that was a catastrophic event."
But Saban might very well have outdone himself at SEC Media Days when talking about the perceived snub of Tim Tebow, who fell one vote short of being a unanimous selection to the coaches' All-SEC first-team offense.
"But I also think everybody should have the right to vote for whoever they want, and I don't think they should be criticized for that," he said. "It's what a lot of people have fought for in this country for a long time."
It is unclear whether Saban was thinking about the boys who stormed Normandy in 1945 or the efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Somehow, I don't remember the Dream including the right to vote for the All-SEC quarterback of one's choice.
Saban, though, was in a mood Thursday to defend the defenseless -- or at least those indifferent or unable to defend themselves. The former head coach of the Miami Dolphins also pleaded with those lobbing grenades at NFL scouts, coaches and executives who are unenthusiastic about Tebow's future in the League.
"I think he will be a winner in the NFL," Saban said. "But I think everybody needs to understand that the NFL struggles to evaluate people who don't do in college what they look for guys to do in the pros. And I don't think they should be criticized for that. It's a difficult evaluation when you play a little different kind of offense."
And he defended himself from charges by mgoblog's Brian Cook (Warning: Some fans might have strong language and other content objections to link), among others, that Saban has stocked his talent cupboard by oversigning good players and then resorting to pro-style "cuts" to trim his roster to the requisite overall total of 85.
"We have a demanding program. ... We have a personal development aspect to our program that there's principles and values in the organization relative to developing a successful philosophy, creating the right kind of habits, thoughts, habits and priorities that are going to help you make good decisions -- whether it's the Pacific Institute coming in, whether it's a peer intervention program that addresses behavorial issues, drugs, alcohol, gambling, spiritual development, how to treat the opposite sex, macho man stuff, running your mouth, getting in fights.
"Most of the stuff you read about players having issues with come in some of those categories from that personal standpoint," Saban said.
So, if those players hadn't been quite so macho, they might still be in Tuscaloosa. (The fact that this would require other players to have left the team is oddly not addressed.)
Not all of Saban's fire defended himself or others. Notable was his criticism of Andre Smith, whose absence from the Sugar Bowl likely helped Utah win the game.
"You know, we don't have one individual on our team that can make our team great," he said. "But we do have one individual who could destroy the team chemistry, destroy all these things that we're talking about by being a blinking light and making bad choices and decisions about what they do. We had an example of that last year, even in our bowl game. So you saw what kind of team we had for 13 weeks, and then what kind of team we have for the 14th game that was played."
Ouch. Maybe Smith should have voted for Jevan Snead.