Nick Saban is taking the Alabama quarterback controversy to New York City. At least by phone.
The Crimson Tide coach joined ESPN’s new Manhattan-based morning show “Get Up!” on Wednesday morning to discuss his players slated to be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft beginning Thursday, but even there he could not escape the Tua Tagovailoa vs. Jalen Hurts talk that dominates the airwaves in Alabama these days.
In talking with former LSU player Ryan Clark, who played for Saban in Baton Rouge and is a co-host of the morning show alongside Mike Greenberg, Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle, Saban brought a new scope to the debate on the Alabama quarterback situation thanks to an old memory from Clark’s playing days.
Clark, who turned himself into a Pro Bowl player and Super Bowl champion after going undrafted out of LSU in 2002, evoked a memory of Saban benching Josh Booty for Rohan Davey during the 2000 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Saban immediately latched on to the comparison, which created an interesting string of dialogue between the two.
Check it out:
Clark: “When we were at LSU, I remember I believe it was your first year and you had Josh Booty and Rohan Davey. We were in a bowl game, and you made the decision that you were going to play Rohan after Josh had started the whole year. We ended up winning that game. That was a much easier circumstance to make that call. What prompted you to make that call to make that quarterback change after Jalen had done so much and gotten you guys to that point? How did you know that putting Tua in the game would make the difference and give your guys a chance to win?”
Saban: “I think it’s amazing that you bring up the Georgia Tech Peach Bowl game from when we were at LSU, because it was a really similar situation. Josh was struggling in the first half. They were putting a lot of pressure on him and it took him out of his rhythm. We needed a spark– we were behind 14-0. This year we were behind 13-0. We kinda knew we had to throw the ball against Georgia to have a chance to win. They had a really good front seven and they play a 3-4 defense, which is really hard to run against sometimes, especially with spread-type stuff.
“So I had it in my mind that if we struggled– even in the Clemson game– that Tua had been practicing well enough and playing well enough that he would be an option to give us a spark if we needed it. It was a really similar situation. I felt the same way about Rohan at LSU, and don’t think I didn’t think about that circumstance before I did this at halftime. It did work in that game, we ended up coming back to win 28-14. And it did work in this game.”
Wow. Saban going back 18 years to a bowl game at LSU in his brain during the moments he was trying to weigh the decision to bench Hurts for Tagovailoa is just another example of why he’s one of the all-time greats. With a wealth of knowledge like that at the tip of his brain, he’s in position to make well-sourced decisions at even the most stressful of times.
The biggest difference in the two scenarios was that at LSU, it was Booty’s final game with the Tigers. He knew it was a “changing of the guard” when he made that move during the final game of the season there. At Alabama, both players from that dramatic national title game decision remain as the team preps for the next season.
Saban went on to say that the move to Tagovailoa opened up the use of his offensive skill players, which may actually be a hint at why some believe he’s leaning towards using Tagovailoa moving forward.