The University of Alabama has a spaced-out history of incredible leaders that have played quarterback for the Crimson Tide. When I say “spaced-out,” I mean that there have been some very good times, but also some very bad times. When you think of the names that have come through the team, it is astonishing that none have truly stuck out as “The Chosen One” of Alabama football. Players like Kenny “The Snake” Stabler and “Broadway Joe” Namath will forever go down in history as some of the best. A.J. McCarron, a guy that knew exactly how to command an offense, was more than just a game manager. McCarron was a facilitator who led the Tide in back to back National Championships in 2011 and 2012. He was revered as the best player to ever take a snap in an Alabama uniform. However, in only 17 appearances (9 starts), Tua Tagovailoa, despite his injury, has illustrated that he is undisputedly the best quarterback, or maybe even player, that this university has ever seen. No one else even comes close.
Let’s take a comprehensive look at some stats among former players and compare them to Tagovailoa. While Namath and Stabler went on to have somewhat successful careers in the NFL, their numbers did not blow anyone away at Alabama over time. Namath only played three seasons at Alabama, and in those years, averaged a 55.1% passer rating. His first season was the only year he threw more touchdowns than he did interceptions (13-8). Lackluster numbers from a guy known as “Broadway”, but I digress. Stabler had better numbers than Namath, but only by the length of a football. Stabler’s average passer rating was only 59.4%, and he too had problems with interceptions as he finished his Alabama career at .500 with 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. It is safe to say these two are not at the top of the list as the best ever.
To have a solid argument against for Tagovailoa, we need to stick with quarterbacks in the Nick Saban era. The Saban era has been the most dominant stint in recruiting college football in a while by far, and has brought some very talented quarterbacks along. McElroy played four years in Saban’s system, and while his only playing significant time in his last two seasons, posted very respectable numbers. McElroy improved as a passer and separated himself from the title of “game manager.” He threw 37 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions in the second half of his Alabama career and was only 13 yards shy of 3,000 yards in 2010. Not to mention, he led them to a 14-0 National Championship winning season. McElroy was a good quarterback. However, his stats as a senior do not compare to what Tua is producing as a sophomore. My apologies McElroy, but you are not the best UA quarterback ever.
The only guy who comes remotely close to Tagovailoa is A.J. McCarron. McCarron was a huge step up from McElroy, and he proved it all in his numbers. McCarron was a guy who protected the ball and threw touchdowns. He had his best year in 2012 when he threw for 30 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. He, too, fell just shy of 3,000 yards that year, but covered it up with a National Championship win. McCarron progressed as a passer and was always a guy you could rely on to win games late. In this aspect, Tagovailoa distances himself from everyone. Tagovailoa does not let games get close. He has not once had to be in during the fourth quarter because our offense needed to score points. Tagovailoa is not a game manager or a game risk, rather he is a game ender. Every time he steps on the field, Alabama will always be favored to win the game.
With three games left on the schedule, Tagovailoa still has time to add to his mind-blundering stat sheet. Tagovailoa is just over 600 yards away from reaching 3,000, which seems extremely doable with the opponents left on the schedule. He has thrown 27 touchdowns to a lone interception. Completing almost 70% of his passes, Tagovailoa is hands down the best player in college football right now. He is on a burning track to being the unanimous vote as the best UA quarterback yet. To look at his work, which is still in progress, and realize the fact he is dominating teams and venues in the fashion he does, will leave you speechless. Additionally, the fact that he is doing this in his sophomore year will leave you dumbfounded. There is no debate that Tagovailoa is the best UA quarterback to ever put on the crimson and white jersey. He has effectively achieved things that no other player has been able to do. For example, Tagovailoa made Nick Saban change his process. In the years of Saban, and for the sake of guys like Namath and Stabler, the game has not only changed since those guys played, but has also changed since Saban took charge. Saban’s plan has consistently been to overpower with defense and shut down with a tough running offense. When Tagovailoa came, Saban was forced to change his philosophy and realize that he had to overpower them with offense as well. He let a kid take control. Needless to say, that decision by Saban may have been his best one yet.
(Photo courtesy of The Crimson White)