A few days after the fact, and the Nick Saban move to Tua Tagovailoa is taking on a life of its own. Here’s why is wasn’t THAT risky.
Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy
Sorry if this take sucks, it’s not my fault …
There was an emergency, so I broke the glass.
No truth to the rumor that the town name is being changed to Tuascaloosa
There’s obviously no question that Nick Saban is either the all-time greatest college football head coach, or is at least in the team photo.
There’s obviously no question that Saban is a mastermind of a gameplanner, recruiter, and motivator – the proof is in the six national championship pudding.
But every radio appearance and interview I’ve done this week has taken the same tone and the same belief when it came to the move of Jalen Hurts to Tua Tagovailoa to start the second half.
“Genius,” was the way one radio host put it.
“Ballsy” and “a huge risk,” was the way another one did.
“Saban was taking a big, big chance,” was the line of thinking of yet another.
And on and on and on and on.
Okay, fine, but what the heck was he supposed to do?
The bigger risk would’ve been to not put Tagovailoa in.
As I’ve written and said time and again this week, all the Alabama insiders at that thing in Atlanta said the same thing about how Hurts could win the national title and still lose his gig come spring. Saban trusts Hurts, but Tagovailoa is the better quarterback.
There was one made Bama guy who even suggested that starting Tagovailoa from the opening snap would’ve been the right move. Now THAT would’ve been the risky curveball Saban could’ve thrown into the mix.
The Alabama offense was doing nothing in the first half with Hurts under center. There wasn’t any downfield passing, the Bulldogs had Hurts sniffed out, and toughest of all with the way the half played out, the third down conversions weren’t there.
The Crimson Tide were down 13-0 going into halftime. One bad drive to start the second half, and the game might have been over if Georgia took the ball and scored again. The bigger risk – with the way Hurts was playing – would’ve been to not make the move to Tagovailoa.
If the score was 6-0 to start the second half instead of 13-0, Saban more than likely sticks with Hurts under the theory that it’s only 6-0, the O gets the ball, and the defense and special teams were doing what the Bama defense and special teams do.
At 6-0, and the Tide are obviously one drive away from taking the lead – no reason to mess with the plan.
But that Georgia touchdown late in the first half – even a field goal to make it 9-0 probably keeps Hurts in – changed the dynamic. The game was slipping away, and Saban and the staff had to give something else a try.
By putting in Tagovailoa, Saban wasn’t necessarily being genius, or risky, or ballsy – he was being observant.
Remember, Tagovailoa wasn’t supposed to drive the car home the rest of the way. The idea was to rotate the quarterbacks to throw something different at the Dawgs. If the offense went three-and-out and Tagovailoa looked lost, Hurts would’ve been back in instantly.
But, of course, Tagovailoa provided a legendary boost to the offense on the way to winning the national title for Alabama with a few throws Hurts would’ve never made.
Without getting into the “If Saban is such a genius, why wasn’t Tagovailoa playing more this season?” line of thinking – Hurts threw one pick, that’s why – there wasn’t much of a reason to mess with what was working.
After all, Hurts wasn’t the problem in the national title loss to Clemson last year, and there were other issues in the defeat to Auburn this season. Tagovailoa was going for it on fourth down, an onside kick, a trick play. It was an attempt to change the narrative of the game.
Geniuses are able to adapt and adjust on the fly. In that way, give Saban and the coaching staff credit for making the change.
Give Saban and the coaching staff credit for doing what they had to do.