Allegany Communications Sports

What a long strange trip it was; and in just a 12-hour period from early Wednesday evening to early Thursday morning when three great football coaches — two of whom can legitimately be considered the greatest of all time — Pete Carroll, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick were all gone.

Though by the time you even read this, Belichick could be the new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, so there’s that

Yet before the dust had even settled on the news of Carroll being bumped from the field to upstairs by the Seattle Seahawks, word broke that Saban had announced his retirement as head coach of Alabama. Then, the first thing the next morning, Belichick and the New England Patriots’ sleazy owner Robert Kraft announced their partnership had “mutually” ended.

Carroll might seem out of place in sharing the same news cycle with Saban, who won six national championships at Alabama and one at LSU, and with Belichick, who won six Super Bowl titles in New England, but Carroll is one of the greatest coaches of his time as well.

He is one of the very few coaches who achieved the greatest success at both the major college and pro levels, having restored Southern California to its long lost luster and prominence on the national stage with two national championships, making USC football USC football once more.

In the NFL he won a Super Bowl and took the Seahawks to another one, falling one ill-advised goal-line pass play short of beating Belichick and New England for a second title. Prior to going to USC, he had achieved success as the head coach of the New England Patriots and the New York Jets.

Nick Saban as head coach of the Miami Dolphins? Not so much.

In the past three seasons without Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, Belichick has taken unfair hits for not having won without Brady as his quarterback. Yet the questions beg:

Who drafted Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft when every other team in the NFL had passed on the skinny Michigan backup with the previous 198 picks?

Who saw something in Brady that nobody else saw and then developed him and went with him over the All-Pro quarterback who was already in place and helped Brady become arguably (I said arguably) the greatest quarterback of all time?

Bill Belichick, that’s who. There is no Tom Brady without Bill Belichick. Why doesn’t anyone seem to remember that?

It seems the fortunes of the three great coaches have been intertwined for much of their respective careers. Saban served as Belichick’s defensive coordinator for three years with the Cleveland Browns. Belichick and Carroll squared off in one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history, and in 1980 Saban, then a young assistant coach at West Virginia, was hired by Cumberland’s Earle Bruce as the secondary coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, replacing the young Pete Carroll, who left Columbus to become the defensive coordinator at N.C. State.

Alabama wasted little time in hiring Washington’s Kalen DeBoer to replace Saban, but in the days leading up to the hire, Maryland head coach Michael Locksley was being mentioned for the job, as many prominent Alabama boosters were in favor of him from the fine work he did as Saban’s offensive coordinator before he returned to Maryland.

That Locksley, who last week was named a Washingtonian of the Year by the Washingtonian magazine, is staying put in College Park is great news for Terps fans. That he was so highly thought of as a candidate for the most powerful college football head coaching position in the country is also a boon for the Terrapins, and is an indicator of the respect he has brought to Maryland football and for the potentially great things that are still in store for the program.

As for Belichick, he intends to coach again and someone out there intends to hire him. The Atlanta Falcons are said to have the early inside track, but it also feels as though Belichick could be another embarrassing Dallas playoff loss (which, by the way, happened again last night) away from replacing Mike McCarthy as the Cowboys head coach.

Given the personalities in play, it just seems to be too obvious of a thing to happen for it not to happen, particularly with the 71-year-old Belichick just 26 wins behind the late Don Shula for all-time winningest NFL coaching wins-leader.

A team that should be better than it shows in the playoffs is in place in Dallas; but based on what we saw Sunday, its talented defense needs much tightening up.

Who do we know who can do that and who has proven able of putting up with a couple or three years of an owner’s megalomania?

There’s a guy from Annapolis … Been living in the New England region for the past 24 years …

Don’t be surprised. It might just happen. And it will probably work.

Even without Tom Brady.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT