As it was reported by Fox Sports this morning, Steve Sarkisian could possibly be announced as early as Tuesday as a special offensive assistant for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2016.
The implications of this actually occurring are huge in two ways: 1.) It reunites Sark with his former cohort Lane Kiffin from all those prolific seasons at USC in the mid-aughts, 2.) It totally sets up Sark being named Alabama's new offensive coordinator in 2017 after Kiffin most likely takes another head coaching position.
Kiffin is coming to the end of a three-year contract with the Crimson Tide and conventional wisdom says that he probably won't be asking Nick Saban to re-up for more time in Tuscaloosa. Both Kiffin and Saban have gotten exactly what they needed out of this working relationship: Saban helped Kiffin rehab his damaged image and Kiffin helped Saban keep up with an evolving offensive philosophy in the SEC. They both served their time.
Not to say that this relationship was contentious, but the two probably never had golf outings together. To put it simply, Kiffin wants to be a head coach again and Saban needs to prepare for life after Kiffin leaves. It's what pragmatic people do.
This is where Sarkisian's addition to the staff at 'Bama comes in. Saban has stated on more than one occasion that he likes working with people he knows. If you go up and down the roster of coaches who have worked under Saban throughout his career, they normally have a past correlation to Saban or they worked for someone who did.
A prime example of the latter is Jim McElwain. McElwain was Fresno State's offensive coordinator in 2007 when Pat Hill was the head coach. Pat Hill worked on Bill Belichick's staff in Cleveland at the same time as Saban in the early 90s. Saban trusted Hill's opinion on McElwain. McElwain was Alabama's offensive coordinator from 2008-2011, helping him win two national championships in the process.
Sarkisian's addition to the staff (again if it actually happens) would, too, be an example of this. Sarkisian and Kiffin know each other very well. Pete Carroll entrusted these two young coaches with an embarrassment of talent at USC and they did a magnificent job together with it.
There are still plenty of games to play in 2016, obviously, and Kiffin has a ways to go with an offense that is very much in flux, so what better way for Saban and Kiffin to get a hold on things than having another offensive mind with both coordinator and head coaching experience in the mix?
Sure, this could muddy up the waters completely and cause things to unravel, but when have you really known Saban to allow things to unravel at Alabama? He lost to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007 and since has gone 100-13 with four national and conference championships to boot. Saban doesn't allow things to unravel. The only thing that could unravel Alabama under Nick Saban is a Bialystock/Bloom situation.
And what's more, Sarkisian needs his image rehabilitated more than anyone right now. Probably more than Kiffin did. Sarkisian had a real personal problem that needed major assistance and if he allows himself to work for Saban for a few years, maybe he can put himself in a position to be trusted with an entire team again.
It makes more sense than you might think. Saban has kept Kiffin on a relatively short leash in his time at Alabama and the same would be required of Sarkisian. More than likely, this is both a personal and professional decision for Sark.
If you think about it, Sarkisian needs to be in an environment that is completely controlled. He needs that continued structure if only for a couple of years. Saban's football office reeks of corporate structure. There are obvious hierarchies and only one man is in charge.
If you want more proof of Sarkisian being Alabama's next offensive coordinator, look no further than geography. In Saban's time in Tuscaloosa, he has hired almost exclusively West Coast offensive coaches. McElwain, Doug Nussmeier, Kiffin. The only exception would be Major Applewhite in 2007.
Saban needs his offense to remain as balanced as possible, but he understands he needs points to contend with the Ole Miss, A&M and Auburns of the world. So, what better way than to work with West Coast-style influences?
And if you need another connection, Sarkisian employed the aforementioned Nussmeier as his offensive coordinator at Washington for three seasons.
Saban, also, likes having outside input from other coaches in the business. Kiffin was brought in between the 2013 and 2014 seasons as a consultant of sorts, as was Chip Kelly before the national championship game earlier this year and, even, Bob Stoops.
For all his autocratic tendencies, he relishes in getting as much feedback from respected individuals in the profession and Sarkisian is another one of those individuals.
In the end, this could all be a smokescreen. I, myself, could be reading way too much into this and, hell, even Kiffin may stay another season as Alabama's offensive coordinator. If you recognize the patterns, though, and have even the tiniest inkling as to how Nick Saban works, Steve Sarkisian will be calling the plays on Alabama's sideline sooner rather than later.