The last season that he took the field with a team less talented than some of the opponents he played against was probably 2008. I'd say it was incredibly stressful early on when he was initially building the machine, yes. However over the last 5 years or so, his recruiting is on autopilot and it is easier to fill assistant coach vacancies because everybody wants to come work there.
But that's the whole point...the entire reason you recruit like he does is so you don't have to do more with less. It is incredibly difficult, almost impossible, to consistently win at a high level with less talent than your opponents. And when your success is as embedded as Saban's is, he basically doesn't even have to recruit anymore. He'd never admit that because it would be totally against his ethos, but all the top players for the last several years simply just want to come to Alabama without him even having to court them. He just picks and chooses the ones he wants.
I wish we didn't have the last string of 3 coaches. We are beat down. The thing is though, look at 'ol Gus Malzan. He had a way of beating Saban, with inferior talent, that actually brought me joy. He CAN be beaten. Just not by us for a long while.
As I say this, it has nothing to do with Saban, who is the best college football coach ever... There is a pervasive loser's mentality on VolNation. Some of these posts are over the top with defeatism. There is no pride here. Of course, there is going to be a smug Alabama fan among us, eating it up.
Here’s a fun fact (or kick in the nuts to start your day) that just occurred to me: This season Saban will be coaching against the 6th different University of Tennessee HFC since he arrived in 2007 …If he remains through the end of his contract it very well could be 7. Obviously hoping Heupel is still here when Saban retire and really hope Heupel can win one and be hoisted up the players shoulders when he shakes Saban’s hand in 2028.
I don't think they fall off until they try and replace the guy who replaces Saban.
The guy who replaces Saban is going to be able to coast on momentum for a considerable period of time because Alabama has generated more momentum than any program probably in CFB history. Not only will he inherit a completed loaded and deep roster, but the brand equity Saban has built up will persist for years and years, probably to a greater extent than Bear Bryant's did.
The trap Alabama could fall into is that the guy who replaces Saban is good, not great, and they cut him loose after about 3 years because he doesn't win a title. The momentum starts to slow, they aren't able to replace him with a top-tier candidate, and they start to slip after that.