Steve Sarkisian was supposed to make a decision in February. There was an offer from Colorado on the table. Five and a half years after derailing his career, he was able to draw the dotted line and go back to the head coach, closer to home and in the familiar surroundings of the Pac-12.
The temptation was great. He was flattered.
He said no.
It wasn’t the right time. There were other possibilities, other conversations he could have had, but he wasn’t ready to leave Alabama – not after he left so quickly the first time.
Yes, Alabama agreed to increase his salary to $2.5 million a year, but he also appreciated the stability of his role as offensive coordinator. He’s learned so much. Coach Nick Saban, he said I’m with a very good mentor.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Sarkisian was elevated to the position of Attack Coordinator when Lane Kiffin left the program in early 2017, the day before the race for the national championship. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Pictures
Old Steve Sarkisian thought maybe not. Maybe he seized the opportunity to fight – even though it’s hard to win in Colorado – and take the next step to rewrite the history of a career that once seemed almost lost. But old Steve Sarkisian is missing. Lane Kiffin looks at her boyfriend today and calls him Sark.
Sark doesn’t yell so much these days. The fire’s still there, but it’s melted. His blood pressure is a little lower, Kiffin said.
According to Kiffin, Sark is better suited than ever to work near the Spiky Saban. So far, there’s been no public explosion.
Kiffin and Sarkisian are still joking about the good old days when they were Coach Pete Carroll’s helpers at the WSC and how Kifin asked Sarkisian to pick up his underwear. He’ll never get over it. They grew up together as coaches and eventually served three times as head coach. Kiffin is proud to have finished 2-1 in these games, but he added that he got my job when I was fired from the RSC.
Sarkisian spent less than two seasons in Los Angeles before his alcohol abuse became apparent and he was released. Eleven months later, Kiffin helped Sarkisian find a job in Alabama.
Kiffin, who returned to the SEC as head coach for Ole Miss, talked about him and Sarkisian: It was a crazy ride.
He did an excellent job, according to Keefees. I thought after a year with Tua [Tagovailoa] and all last year’s records he would take that job in Colorado.
I wish he had. Maybe we’d have beaten Alabama if it wasn’t for him. But he stayed, and that says a lot.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Sarkisian’s mastery of attacking principles and his energy around the players made it possible for the team to achieve a double victory in Alabama. Kent Gidley/College Images/Getty Images
It says here that Sarkisian has changed. He also says he’s willing to be patient.
After all, if Colorado was ready to become Sarkisian’s head coach in February, what he’s done since then – training the quarterback in the middle of the Heisman Trophy race and organizing one of the best injuries in college football – will have even more candidates.
It’s impossible to get past his past, but Sarkisian seems to be about to get a second chance. An industry source told ESPN Adam Rittenberg only last month that Sark was much more worthy. I don’t think anyone’s gonna have many questions.
Sark is currently not the man with whom Kiffin was associated in the WSG in the early 2000s. Then Kiffin formed the receivers, Sarkisian formed the quarterbacks. They were together the whole time and laughed at each other. They even drove to work.
Kiffin is the son of a Monte Kifin defensive guru, of the royal family in formation. Sarkisian, on the other hand, was a child from Torrance, California, who studied at El Camino College and BYU. He is a graduate of the Canadian Football League and worked in a software industry cell when offensive coordinator Norm Chow brought him to USC as a licensed assistant.
But it was like Sarkisian and Kiffin had the same idea about football. When they were coordinators, they organized 10 games a week, and at least eight of them were identical, remembers Kiffin.
They were best friends, said former USC quarterback John David Booty.
Sarkisian sat next to Kiffin on the bus, went home after the games, fell down and was exhausted. Kiffin asked for it: What’s that? And Sarkisian told him he felt like he was in the game.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Kiffin says of his former teammate Sarkisian that over the years he will work even better with coach [Saban]. Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports
Kiffin was calmer. Sarkisian, says Buti, is tense and in practice approaches every click as if he could be the last.
He’s gonna push, push and push you, Booty. And in the end, we’re glad he did.
Marc Sanchez knows this side of Sarcashire well. But Sanchez, who played as quarterback for RSC from 2005 to 2008, said Sarkisian also knew when it would be necessary to recruit him. If you had a bad day, Sarkisian would bring the face mask closer and whisper so the other players couldn’t hear.
This practice is, as Sarkisian would say, slow and smelly.
Sanchez remembered the rest of the conversation.
There’s a man who can arrange that, and I’m talking to him right now, Sarkisyan would say. Got it? Make it, please. You’ll step on your wrist now, red seven. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!
After replaying the quarterback position, Sarkisyan realized the pressure on him and decided to have some fun. Yogi Roth, the headquarter assistant, said that Sarkisian will tell the quarterbacks that it doesn’t have to be a guy who has a statue near the stadium.
He wanted them to break it, to play it with confidence. When he asked about the tilt, he wanted them to say they wanted to throw the tilt and make a deep shot. All that gas, no brakes, is a familiar expression that Sarkisyan threw into the meeting rooms.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Former quartermasters, including Marc Sánchez, have highlighted the communication skills of the former Sarkisian KB. AP Photo/Cris Carlson
Sanchez arrived late at night and watched Sarkisian’s plays.
He’d been to several shows, Mr. Sanchez said. Like, oh, with… we hit them with an A-12 separator so Z can escape. Oh, my God, Ronald Johnson’s gonna rip the lids off those mothers… Uh… (Clears throat) And if she’s not there, you can drop her off before you come back. It’s about Patrick Turner. He’ll be the number one USC football trojan. And if he doesn’t get it, we’ll throw him another five stars.
It was like John Gruden had a crazy smile on his face when he let go of Spider 2, Y Banana. In fact, Sanchez said that Sarkisian reminded him of Gruden, and Kifin added that Sarkisian posed as Gruden’s killer.
If Sarkisian thought you weren’t as strong as him, he’d call you. Sanchez remembers that Sarkisian once confronted him. Hey, brother, if I’m talking too fast for you, will you take a break? You want some Mountain Dew or something? Are you okay? Did you fall asleep a bit?
Then he came back into the game.
It’s a touchdown, when you throw a play like me, Sanchez remembers Sarkisian’s words. Otherwise, you’ve got Anthony McCoy at the wheel. And if you don’t, you can unload on Staphon Johnson. What do you think of that? Let him escape. Look, what we’re doing here is throwing four guys in the same area. We flood and flood the defensive side. You can’t cover all four of them. Trust your eyes. Trust your legs. Boom! Here we are!
Mr. Sanchez said: Just like that, wow? That’s really great.
When Sarkisian got his first job as head coach in Washington, D.C., he was the same. Doug Nussmeyer was the coordinator of the offensive and it became clear to him early on that Sarkisian knew exactly where he wanted to go and what the organization should look like.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Sarkisian activated the Washington program before he left to return to USC. Otto Junior/Getty Images Greeting
They’ve taken over the 0-12 program, which hasn’t been played in seven years. Nussmeyer said that Sarkisian was confident and imbued with this feeling.
He’s one of the sharpest X and O coaches I’ve ever met, said Noosmeyer. If you take him to his room, he’ll go 180 miles an hour. He has a contagious personality. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. You can see how his mind works and how he’s always one step ahead.
It’s fun and challenging. It’s wide open.
Husky beat USC. They beat Nebraska. They went to three bowling matches in a row. In five seasons they finished with the record of 34-29.
Then USC liberated Kiffin, and the Trojans brought Sarkisian back.
That’s when everything started to fall apart.
They didn’t know, Kiffin said, how well they were doing. The young OSK coaches did not look around and admit that double-digit victories are not a given, that two quarter-final victories at the Heisman Trophy in three years was not the norm, that playing in three consecutive national championships does not mean the end of most seasons.
They didn’t know this wasn’t the real life they were living. That was the story.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Sarkisian has won several competitions in RSC, but has reached the professional and personal minimum at the top of the Trojans. The Los Angeles Times about Getty Images
And then when you get to the top and you get it, it’s gonna hit you. You spend your whole life with it, and you never get a job like this, and it’s over. And that’s hard to deal with, because you never know if you’re going back.
But the point of view stems from failure, whether one is ready for it or not. And failure lets you face your ego.
Kiffin took off when RSC sports director Pat Haden took him out of the team bus in the middle of the 2013 season and shot him on the asphalt. Two years later, Sarkisian suffered a similar fate. But the planes weren’t flying when Haden told Sarkisian he was at USC; it was worse than that. There were reports and an alarming video of Sarkisian showing up drunk at work, and for no reason his career prospects were nil.
Later, Sarkisian said in his lawsuit against USC that he was undergoing intensive treatment, and in 2017 he told reporters that his alcoholism was a problem that I had to work on every day, and I’m working on it every day. (Sarkisian and Alabama assistants are not allowed to speak to media representatives during the season).
While collecting material, Sarkisian was ready to go on television as an analyst. Then Kiffin told his boss, Saban, that Sarkisian might deserve an invitation as an analyst – a low-profile off-the-field position Saban made a habit of offering recently fired head coaches in search of a fresh start.
Sarkisian said no first. To this day, Kiffin doesn’t know what changed his mind. But according to Kiffin, there are two types of coaches: those who can make the transition to the periphery of the game and those who eat, sleep and breathe the ball and cannot stand without being in the middle of the action. Sarkisian is the last… …who thrives on game patterns. He’s great, Kiffin said.
The deal was made to bring Sarkisian to Alabama for this year’s season opening game against RSC, but Saban stuck to his guns and made it official until a few days after the game. Sarkisian immediately went to work with the right hand of Kiffin, who was responsible for planning the first fall and red zone situations.
William Vlahos, a former Alabama offensive analyst, said it only took Sarkisian four days to learn all the offensive terminology. In addition, Sarkisyan attended the meetings and learned all the defensive verbs of the team.
Fault! The file name is not specified. The friendship within the RSC between Kiffin and Sarkisian has continued due to several job changes. Cal Sports Media via AP Images
You can tell right away, Vlahos said, how much trust there is between Sarkisian and Kifin. In that first match on the bench, Sarkisian had gone on strike, according to Vlahos.
He knew which pieces to recommend to Lane, and he knew the words: You have to do this, this and that, Mr. Vlahos remembers. Then he looks at me like they brought that lightning bolt. It was amazing how he was able to flare up and process so quickly.
Vlahos, who now works in Colorado, has seen many former head coaches come through Tuscaloosa to learn at the feet of Saban. If you want to be head coach again, it may be more useful in the long run to be a five-digit analyst in Alabama than a seven-digit coordinator elsewhere. Kiffin calls it receiving the Saban brand.
I don’t think Sark was necessarily involved, Vlahos said. They have two different ways of thinking in these roles, and I was in most of them. Some people are just there for her. But, man, I think Sark was there to help us. This guy was rubbing on a strip. This guy was there early in the morning, looking at her, drawing her.
When Kiffin left a week before the national championship game to take over as head coach in Atlantic Florida, Saban was able to call on one of his assistants on the field to take on the role of playmaker. He welcomed Sarkisian.
Alabama lost the Clemson 35-31, but in hindsight it was a difficult situation that suddenly changed gear. However, Sarkisian had 473 yards and 31 points with a real rookie quarterback, which he didn’t coach all season.
Fault! The file name is not specified. After Atlanta Sokola was hired as offensive coordinator in 2017, Sarkisian confessed to alcohol abuse. Photo by Rick Tapia/Icon Sportswire
And under these circumstances, shouldn’t Alabama win every game? Before Deshawn Watson did her job, the score was 50-1 for Alabama in matches near Saban, where she had at least 30 points and 450 yards on offense.
It’s hard to be prepared, Vlahos said. He did as well as you could have done from there.
Saban thought enough about Sarkisian to promote him to offensive coordinator. When Sarkisian left for the Falcons of Atlanta and was released after two seasons, Saban took him back to Alabama, where he has been ever since.
Mouth became an analyst for the Pac-12 network, but since there was no Pac-12 soccer this season, he posted many SEC games online.
It’s been over a decade, but Alabama is now what Roth probably achieved at USC under Carroll. He said there were weapons involved in the attack everywhere. Instead of Duane Jarrett and Mike Williams, DeVont Smith and John Metchie III. Instead of Reggie Bush, this is Naji Harris. Instead of Matt Laynart or Mark Sanchez, this is Mac Jones.
It’s like a video game: Which star-catcher do I get the ball for? My mouth said.
Alabama has an average of 555.2 yards, while FBS scores 47.2 points per game. Jones, who started the season with only four career doctors, leads Heisman with 2196 yards, 16 touchdowns and two interceptions in six games. His success rate of 77.4 percent is six points above Tagovayloa’s high career level last season.
Roth said the only difference now is how Sarkisian pulls the strings. Sark is almost a statue on the sidelines these days. Sanchez insists the juice is still there, but it’s not so much on your face.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Sarkisian’s personal style could have been softer, but his offensive results remained unchanged. Danny Medley USA Sport
This is partly due to the fact that Sarkisian fits the rather knotty style of Saban. However, there is no doubt that it is also a function of growth and development.
Whether you ask Sanchez, Buti, Roth or Kiffin, they all share the pride of how Sarkisian went through some tough times at USC and made it to the other side. He didn’t tell them what he wanted to do or how he wanted to change. He just put his head down and did it, Sanchez said.
The only question now is how to proceed. When Saban successfully played KOVID-19 during the match week in Georgia, he chose Sarkisian to take on all main coaching duties until his return. There are rumors that Sarkisian is queuing up to replace Sabana.
Although Kiffin Sarkisian would like to leave Alabama for selfish reasons, he has no doubt that his friend is ready to become head coach again. Don’t forget: Kiffin said Sarkisian was a good coach before all this happened. He took control of the windless Washington and beat all three of them. USK in his first year.
I know he’ll be great, Kifin said, and I know he’ll be even better than the coach [Saban] over the years. He’ll be one of the elite coaches at American universities.