Nick Saban seems to be so concerned that success will go to the heads of Tua Tagovailoa and his Alabama Crimson Tide teammates that he brought back his “rat poison” comments from two years ago.
Tagovailoa became Alabama’s all-time career touchdown pass leader during The Crimson Tide’s 47-28 road victory over Texas A&M on Saturday. He had entered the game tied with AJ McCarron, who previously had the record with 77 career touchdown throws. With the win, Alabama improved to 6-0 (3-0 in the SEC).
When asked by reporters what he thought about Tagovailoa earning the record Saban gave his quarterback a quick compliment before quickly turning the narrative to “rat poison,” and the danger he felt about the media filling his players’ heads with unproductive praise.
“Well, it means [Tagovailoa] had a great career to this point and we certainly appreciate his competitive spirit, the way he prepares for games, his leadership, the way he practices, his ability to help us score points on offense,” Saban told reporters after the game. “He’s very instinctive, so it means a lot from that standpoint, but it also doesn’t mean much when it comes to, ‘What are you going to do in the future?’ And I think he has an opportunity, based on the type of offensive team we have, to have great production if he can continue to just stay focused on what we want to do.
“I mean, this is where — this very seat is where ‘rat poison’ was born,” the 67-year-old Saban added. “So I remember that two years ago, all right? And when I hear things in the media about whether guys are first-round draft picks or they’re setting great records and all that type of thing, that’s not really what I like for players to be focusing on right now.”
And he wasn’t done.
“You’ve got to focus on what are you doing right now, not what’s going to happen in the future, not really what happened in the past, but, ‘What can I learn from what’s happened in the past? How can I affect what’s going on right now?’ Because that’s what’s going to affect the future in a positive way. So, that’s how we want our players to think regardless of how difficult y’all make it for us sometimes with some of our players.”
After the press conference ended, the often prickly Saban, who has won five national championships at Alabama, concluded the press conference with a smile to reporters saying, “But I appreciate y’all.”
After Alabama beat Texas A&M 27-19 in College Station on Oct. 7, 2017, Saban first used the term “rat poison” when commenting on his team’s lack of offensive success early in that game.
“I’m trying to get our players to listen to me, instead of listening to you guys,” Saban told reporters at the time. “You know, all that stuff you write about how good we are? All that stuff they hear on ESPN? It’s like poison, you know what I mean? It’s like rat poison, all right? So I’m asking them, ‘Are you going to listen to me, or are you going to listen to these guys about how good you are?'”
Tagovailoa, following the Saban script, didn’t seem like he want to ingest any potential media “rat poison,” humbling downplaying his school passing mark.
“I mean, it’s a great achievement, but we’re not done yet,” said Tagovailoa, who threw for 293 yards. “As a team, we still gotta continue to grow, we still gotta get each other better offensively and defensively and see what we can do better, and we’ll move on to next week.”