Believe it or not, the University of Alabama has provided the NFL with three Hall of Fame quarterbacks. This, of course, only counts if you accept the fact that the NFL was played prior to HD TVs, social media and ESPN. In more recent years, drafting a Crimson Tide QB wasn’t even an option, with only five hearing their name called between 1980 and 2019. This season the NFL has three former Alabama quarterbacks starting, two of which have already played last year. So has Nick Saban turned Alabama into the new Quarterback U?
The Miami Dolphins benched Ryan Fitzpatrick last season to start Tua Tagovailoa. The Philadelphia Eagles traded away Carson Wentz during the offseason so they could start Jalen Hurts this season. During this past NFL Draft, the New England Patriots drafted Mac Jones and has him starting this season as part of their post-Tom Brady world. All three of these QBs are hoping to do what “legends” like Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron couldn’t do … win NFL games.
Here’s why things might be different for the new crop of Crimson Tide QBs:
When Nick Saban was winning national titles with McElroy and McCarron a decade ago, the defense-first Alabama head coach wasn’t concerned about having his quarterback win games, he just needed them not to lose them. The term that many people came to know was “game manager,” which allowed players like McElroy and McCarron to make safe throws to talented players, and let the skill players do the work. This, of course, only happened if/when the Crimson Tide defense allowed opponents to score points, something that a decade ago didn’t happen much, even in the talented SEC.
In recent years, Nick Saban accepted the fact that football changed and being able to play tough defense against talented offensive players was no longer viable. That caused the Tide’s head coach to focus more on scoring, including finding better offensive coordinators and letting his skill players take control of games. The results were running back Derrick Henry winning the 2015 Heisman, wide receiver DeVonta Smith taking home the same prize in 2020, Alabama continuing to dominate college football, and three Alabama quarterbacks being drafted high in the past two drafts.
I’m still convinced that running quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson don’t have the long-term staying power because of the pounding they take when the leave the safety of the pocket. Because of that, I am not sure that Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa or Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts will be long-term solutions for their teams. Which leaves Mac Jones, the new starting quarterback for the Patriots as Alabama’s best chance to carry the Crimson Tide flag into the NFL.
Saban and New England head coach Bill Belichick are good friends, and the fact that Jones landed with the Patriots is not a surprise considering the needs of the team. Mac Jones, for my money, has the best chance for success because he is a pocket passer, the place where quarterbacks can always do the most damage, and if can develop the same understanding of the NFL game that Tom Brady had with Belichick, the team will find a way to put talented players around him for everyone to have success.
It will take more than one quarterback’s success to declare Alabama the new Quarterback U; but with Tua Tagovailoa not being voted a Miami team captain, I am not sure if the Tide faithful want to put much stock in his South Beach future. That could mean the tiebreaker for success from this trio is Jalen Hurts, who’s youngest and most talented wide receiver is six-feet tall and 180 pounds.
Could it happen?
Anything is possible in today’s NFL with how the rules to protect offensive players are written; but will it happen? As the saying goes, that’s why they play the games, right!
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Is Alabama The New Quarterback U? | TooAthletic.com