NEW ORLEANS — File this under “Only at Alabama”: Monday night, a noticeable swathe of the Crimson Tide’s Twitter fan base spent much of a convincing national semifinal victory asking the coaching staff to send the starting quarterback to the bench.
People have been calling for Jalen Hurts’ demotion for quite some time, but the latest campaign has apparently gained some real momentum. Pregame, AL.com reported that backup Tua Tagovailoa would see meaningful playing time against Clemson, following mounting speculation and an actual comment from Tagovailoa addressing the idea of supplanting Hurts.
“We just laugh about it,” the left-handed Hawaii native said. “I just tell [Hurts], ‘You don’t have to worry about it. You know you’re the man right now, you’re the man for this team.’ I’m here to support him. If the roles were flipped, I’d want the same from him.”
Monday marked Hurts’ 28th game with the Tide. He’s played a critical role in each one, while the highly-touted Tagovailoa has seen nothing but garbage time. But after another par-for-the-course performance, Hurts’ reputation as a run-centric quarterback with an unimpressive arm isn’t going anywhere.
The offensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl did little to change detractors’ minds in the Big Easy.
As Alabama’s defense put in one of the most impressive performances in recent memory, the offense failed to find its footing. Besides an ugly mistake that led to a lost fumble, Hurts failed to produce on three noticeable occasions when big plays were essentially handed to him.
- On Alabama’s first touchdown, Hurts had wide receiver Calvin Ridley — by far his most talented target — wide open up the middle for a score. By wide open, I mean *WIDE* open. A perfect route. Hurts didn’t pull the trigger, rolled right, and eventually found Ridley in the corner of the end zone. Kudos to him for finishing the play, but Ridley clearly expected the ball earlier — and most quarterbacks would’ve gotten it to him.
- Midway through the second quarter, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called for a flea flicker that allowed Ridley to blaze past the back line of defense. All Hurts needed to do was chuck the ball as far as he could, and Ridley would be able to swoop under it for a game-changing touchdown. Instead, Hurts babied the throw — or simply didn’t have enough arm strength — and it was broken up.
- With the clock winding down in the third quarter, Daboll dialed up a long-developing combination route that sent Ridley deep toward the middle with 1-on-1 coverage. Hurts passed up that option — not a sin in and of itself — and settled for a wide-open Robert Foster across the first-down line. But Hurts’ throw was short, and Foster couldn’t snag it off the turf.
- On a lighter note, Hurts also accidentally knocked Nick Saban to the ground in the fourth quarter. No word on whether that alone will affect his playing time.
Complain all you want but under-throwing Calvin Ridley when he's got DBs beat by 5+ yards is why you hear people calling for #TuaTime
— Pete Brown (@pauljonesb) January 2, 2018
If Alabama wants its passing offense to reach another level, it probably needs to send Hurts to the bench.
But here’s the catch: Alabama doesn’t really need its passing offense to reach another level. Between an elite ground game — starring Hurts’ excellent rushing ability — and a fearsome defense, the Crimson Tide appear ready to grind out another national championship.
Coming off an 18-point win over the No. 1 team in the country, it’s unlikely Saban and his staff would make such an important change at quarterback against Georgia in the national championship next Monday.
What do you think Alabama should do at quarterback? Let us know in the comments section below.