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Nick Saban’s entire 2016 coaching staff is now gone, and 2017’s is down to one guy

Alabama coaches leaving has been a steady story for years, but this is another level.

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

For years, we’ve wondered how long Nick Saban could keep reloading his coaching staff without a dropoff in production on the field and in recruiting. That’s now being put to its biggest test yet.

Alabama’s entire 2016 staff is now elsewhere, and that only scratches the surface.

Some of these positions have since changed hands multiple times, such as the offensive coordinator seat, which has lost (at least) four different guys to bigger jobs.

  • 2014-2016 offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would leave one game before the season ended to become FAU head coach.
  • 2007-2017 associate HC and RB coach Burton Burns moved to an off-field role.
  • 2013-2016 WR coach Billy Napier left after 2016 to become Arizona State OC and then UL Lafayette head coach.
  • 2016-2018 interior OL and special teams coach Brent Key left for an enhanced job title at alma mater Georgia Tech.
  • 2013-2016 OT/TE coach and recruiting coordinator Mario Cristobal left for a co-OC title at Oregon, becoming Oregon head coach shortly after.
  • 2016-2017 defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt became Tennessee head coach a year later.
  • 2016-2018 co-defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi is reportedly heading to the Browns.
  • 2016-2017 DB coach Derrick Ansley took the same job with the Raiders.
  • 2016-2017 DL coach Karl Dunbar took the same job with the Steelers.

That’s not all! These coaches who came in to replace some of those guys are already gone as well:

  • Backup 2016 offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian: Not even in Tuscaloosa when 2016 began, the former USC head coach ascended to OC due to Kiffin’s exit, then left for the same job with the Atlanta Falcons. He might now be returning.
  • 2017 replacement offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was around for one season, then became Bills OC.
  • 2016 analyst-turned-assistant Mike Locksley: Not on the staff when 2016 began, the future Maryland head coach was promoted to an on-field role at the end of 2016, then would become sole OC in 2018.
  • 2018 QB coach and potential 2019 OC Dan Enos is now Miami OC.
  • 2018 WR coach and other potential 2019 OC Josh Gattis is now Michigan OC.

Here are Saban’s only remaining coaches who were around last season:

  • 2017-2018 tight ends coach Joe Pannunzio
  • 2018 co-DC Pete Golding
  • 2018 ST coordinator Jeff Banks
  • 2018 DL coach Craig Kuligowski
  • 2018 DB coach Karl Scott

Analyst Butch Jones, the former Tennessee head coach, is also around, though without an official staff title at the moment.

Given how Bama’s 2018 ended in a shockingly rare blowout loss, the contrast between Saban’s coaching staff and Dabo Swinney’s has never felt more stark.

DC Brent Venables has stayed in his job since 2012, passing up numerous chances to be a head coach elsewhere. (Venables’ son now plays for him, and he’s so firmly considered a Clemson guy that we barely talk about him leaving for other jobs any more.)

Co-OCs Tony Elliott (eight seasons on staff) and Jeff Scott (11 seasons) have worked their way up the program ladder and hung around, too. So has 11-year tight ends coach Danny Pearman. Offensive line coach and former Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell’s been around for eight years. QBs coach Brandon Streeter is the newest member of the Clemson offensive staff, having been there for three years. He’d be the longest-tenured assistant on Bama’s staff.

One of Bama’s (also rare) costly recruiting misses even said this factored into him leaving the state for Clemson:

If anybody can keep this thing rolling no matter what, it’s Saban.

He’s replaced coordinators nearly annually forever, always has coaches lining up to join his staffs, might have the No. 1 offense in 2019, and has the likely No. 1 recruiting class already inked.

(And at least a couple of these coaches who left were welcome departures anyway, from Saban’s perspective.)

This certainly isn’t an End Of The Dynasty post. Having to replace highly sought talent is among the best problems to have.

It’s still a problem, though.

But even a body as transient as Alabama’s gets to have one constant.

  • 2007-2018 strength coach Scott Cochran