Saban's "process" gets results, but is hard to define

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Posted: Jan 09, 2017 2:45 AM
Saban's "process" gets results, but is hard to define

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The system of core beliefs, this daily guidebook for going about your business, has carried Nick Saban and Alabama to the brink of yet another national championship.

Call it The Process. Call it the Saban Way. It's hard to call it anything but successful.

But what is it? That's harder to define.

Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen thinks if Saban could bottle it up alongside all the self-help books, the famed process — the most common short-hand description for the mentality of the Crimson Tide program — would be "priceless."

"It'll give you anything you ever wanted, if you just realize the process and understand and know how to work it," Allen said, sounding like a pie-in-the-sky infomercial pitchman.

Except it's worked to the tune of four national championships in seven seasons and a shot at No. 5. For Saban, a win Monday night against No. 3 Clemson at Raymond James Stadium would equal Bear Bryant's record of six overall titles, including one at LSU.

The philosophies constantly preached by Saban follow his players into the NFL, long after they leave Tuscaloosa. Ex-Tide safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of the Green Bay Packers said the process really boils down to following the rules and being accountable — on and off the field.

"Becoming a young man, coming out of high school and starting to be on your own, it's a process," Clinton-Dix said. "You have to buy into that process. You go to college, it's going to be guys that are going to be just as good as you or better, and if Saban can't trust you to go to class, and do just the little things, understand and be consistent, it's going to be very hard for you to get on the field, or for him to trust you as a player.

"The first thing you have to do is to buy into that process and find your way on the field."

Alabama players have said they often catch themselves, like true converts, with family and friends parroting one of Saban's sayings: Be where your feet are. Do your job. Dominate your box. Keep chopping wood. Buy into The Process.

The Process. Of course.

A little is known about the philosophy's origins: Saban said he got much of it from mentor Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots from their days together with the Cleveland Browns.

"I think what we're trying to say when people talk about The Process is there's a certain way that you go about whatever it is you're trying to accomplish, and you define that so everybody clearly understands what their role is," Saban said. "Everybody has got to buy into it, or it doesn't really work."

Within the team, Saban said they don't ever talk about winning a national or Southeastern Conference championship. That's what he calls clutter.

But when he tries to explain more in-depth what he's talking about, the words pour out, proving there's no real way to succinctly sum up that process.

Saban said they start and finish with making every individual — from players to support staff — "be as good as they can be." Have a positive attitude. Trust the organization's "principles and values." Be able to overcome the inevitable adversity.

You can't win a championship before you become a champion.

Linebacker Reuben Foster likens it to Scripture and said it stresses the little things.

"Everything is mental with The Process," Foster said. "Like you might be tired, but you got to pick yourself up and say that you got this. Or even outside, like when you got to wake up and go do your job, it's mental. Everything is mental. That's what the process is built on."

Tight end O.J. Howard said it's something former players, like Clinton-Dix, definitely carry with them from Alabama. He also said it's pretty easy to tell when teammates haven't fully bought in.

"I would describe it as something we all go through," Howard said. "It's different for everybody. Once you make it out of The Process, you become a better man and that's the ultimate goal."

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AP Sports Writers Genaro Armas and Tom Canavan contributed to this report.

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