Turning down Colorado puts Steve Sarkisian in position for better job with another big year at Alabama

Steve Sarkisian, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Steve Sarkisian, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Steve Sarkisian is staying put and won’t be the next head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes. This is great news for the Alabama Crimson Tide going forward.

Steve Sarkisian will not be coaching the Colorado Buffaloes in 2020.

The former USC Trojans head coach is staying put at his current post as the offensive coordinator of the Alabama Crimson Tide. ESPN’s Chris Low reported Sarkisian will return to Tuscaloosa in 2020, despite being a top candidate to replace Mel Tucker in Boulder, now with the Michigan State Spartans.

Since being fired in disgrace by USC in 2015, Sarkisian has stayed in the Southeastern United States coaching on the offensive side of the ball. He first resurfaced as an offensive analyst on Nick Saban’s 2016 staff. After one game as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator, he had the tall task of replacing Kyle Shanahan as the offensive coordinator of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

Sarkisian had his ups and downs on Dan Quinn’s staff in Atlanta. The Falcons made the NFC playoffs during his first year on the job in 2017 but went 7-9 in 2018. He and all the Falcons coordinators were axed after that season. Sarkisian went back to Tuscaloosa in 2019 to replace Mike Locksley, now with the Maryland Terrapins.

For Alabama, this is a great thing for the program. Saban won’t have to find yet another top-tier coordinator to replace. He has lost so many in the last half-decade, it’s borderline ridiculous. By staying at Alabama, Sarkisian is positioning himself to be a Power 5 coach in 2021. Outside of Colorado, he was up for three vacancies in the SEC alone this offseason cycle.

Sarkisian will have another year to work with Mac Jones as his quarterback, as well as get his first taste of what freshman five-star Bryce Young has to offer. Many juniors from last year’s team have opted to return. Alabama will be the favorite to win the SEC next year to make a triumphant return to the College Football Playoff. In less than a year, Sarkisian may lead his own team again.

As for Colorado, the Buffaloes’ coaching search takes another strange turn. Losing Tucker to Michigan State shortly after National Signing Day leaves Colorado football in a very awkward spot weeks before spring practice. It’s the only Power 5 job in the state, so Colorado will be able to get somebody good, right?

Wide receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini is manning the operation in the interim, but he isn’t a serious candidate for the Buffaloes long-term. It doesn’t matter if he played his college football there, Colorado needs to get a big name to bring some sliver of relevancy back to the program. Who could they end up landing?

At this time, the top three candidates for the job have to be Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, New York Giants outside linebackers coach/senior assistant Bret Bielema and Air Force Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun.

Bieniemy has a great thing going with the Chiefs. He coaches Patrick Mahomes and will be an NFL head coach in 2021. Frankly, his coaching future is too bright for Colorado now, but the job does have tremendous sentimental value. He is one of the best players in Colorado football history, as he was the star running back on the 1990 National Championship team under Bill McCartney.

Bielema is a solid option because his style of football will play well in Colorado. He had great success leading the Wisconsin Badgers after Barry Alvarez retired. Bielema won three Big Ten Championship in Madison before leaving for the Arkansas Razorbacks job. It did not go well for him in Fayetteville. He has since been in the NFL, most notably with the New England Patriots.

Calhoun is a dark horse contender for the job, but one who could be an interesting fit. He runs the triple-option at the Air Force Academy up in Colorado Springs. Though he is coaching at his alma mater, Colorado was at its best as a program running the same style of offense under McCartney in the 1980s to mid-1990s. Plus, he’s already living and thriving in Colorado. It might be a fit.

Overall, Sarkisian needed to have been paid out the wazoo for him to leave Alabama for Colorado. SEC schools like Arkansas, Mississippi State and maybe even Missouri would have paid him more money than Colorado. The Buffaloes will find their guy soon. As for Sarkisian, he can get ready for spring ball in Tuscaloosa and try to win a national title. Alabama has to be excited about that.

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