The fallout from the Tua Tagovailoa injury, LSU’s possible issue, and more contract extensions, in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.
Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …
This column doesn’t worry about players getting hurt, and then in the commercial break, it’s in an ad pitching a supplemental insurance product … because you need to worry about what happens if you get hurt.
“On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
The Tua Tagovailoa injury made me so mad.
Thank goodness it sounds like he’ll recover quickly and all should be fine, but it made me mad that this wonderful kid had to suffer the pain of that injury.
It made me mad that it took away his dream and goal of quarterbacking Alabama to a national championship this season.
It made me mad because something like this is going to happen again, and the same media types who went all “thoughts and prayers” are going to stick to the same old tired football clichés and beliefs without putting any effort into thinking differently.
It made me mad because I’m a fan who loves to watch one of the greatest pure passers college football has ever seen.
It made me mad at how many supposedly smart people just can’t grasp that some football games matter, and sometimes there’s no need whatsoever to take even the slightest of unnecessary chances.
And it’s making me really, really mad that so many refuse to consider the idea that college football coaches have to be better at risk management.
I’m not blaming Nick Saban.
I’m blaming all of us for not being a whole lot smarter.
We live in an era of net gen stats being thrown at us about everything.
There are specialized trainers for nutrition, best practices for working out, and assistant coaches who can break down the most minute details of the game.
There are charts for when to go for it on fourth down, when to go for two, when to make the players go to sleep, and everything else to gain even the slightest of competitive advantages.
Why can’t there be some wonky smart person who creates an insurance actuary table-like thing – you know, this load management craze the NBA kids are all into – to properly analyze the risk factors of when to play and not play a can’t-lose part of a team’s puzzle?
No-no-no, please don’t leave … I know, I’ve lost you with the word insurance – and I’m with you.
It’s a game. The players want to play it, it’s all fun, and it’s all about the joy of the sport … sort of. That all feeds into the NCAA’s brain-washing narrative of why players shouldn’t get paid, but that’s for another day.
For now, let’s just keep it simple.
If Tagovailoa is on the sidelines when Alabama is up 35-7 and has the game well in hand, he doesn’t dislocate his hip. So how do we prevent something like this from happening again, or more realistically, how do we minimize the risk while still keeping the game fun and amazing?
Let’s go. First of all …
Nick Saban is the head man in charge. The idea of this being on Tagovailoa in any way, or that anyone can lobby Saban to do something he doesn’t want to do, or that any aspect of the Alabama football program isn’t 100% decided by the head coach, is laughable. Saban is the absolute and total ruler of the Alabama football world. He’s also a brilliant guy, which means …
Really? You “don’t prepare for injuries?” Well … why not? You prepare for everything else. You prepare for every crazy possibility down to the smallest detail, and yet you don’t factor in the risk/reward of playing Tua Tago-freaking-vailoa an extra few snaps, even though the outcome of the game was already decided?
Again, I’m not blaming Saban. Almost all coaches think like this, and the ones who don’t – see Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy sitting his top players all preseason, even though Mitchell Trubisky obviously needed the work – don’t seem to have it totally right, either.
And yeah, in a purely competitive football way, there was a case for Tagovailoa still being out there.
Alabama needs to keep winning, and it needs to be amazing doing it. The only way it makes the College Football Playoff is by obliterating everyone left on the schedule after that LSU loss. So yes, there is something to be said for leaving 13 on the field for one more drive, because 42-7 at the half on the road in the SEC is exactly the statement that gets the playoff committee all hot.
So why didn’t Saban just say that? “We needed and wanted more points. We’re in the playoff chase, and we have to keep on playing and making a statement.” He says that, and everyone gets it. Even better, in a PR sort of way, then the blame and focus gets shifted to the College Football Playoff system.
Really? I know he’s the greatest head coach of all-time, but he actually needed the NFL franchise-caliber quarterback of one of the most devastating quick-strike attacks in the history of college football to get more practice running a two-minute offense?
Sorry. I lost focus. Back to the issue of how to keep this situation from happening again, and that starts with one of the main talking points we have to debunk.
This wasn’t a fluke. Just because it happened in the final moments of the first half doesn’t take away that it was still a risk leaving Tagovailoa out there, because it’s a risk any time a player is playing.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the first play, the last play, or anywhere in any situation in between. There’s a reason for the cliché that your career could be over on any given play, because …
IT’S … (bleep)ING … FOOTBALL. It’s part of the reason why we all love this wonderful sport. These amazing athletes are out there doing unbelievable things all while having to bury in the back of their minds the horrible possibility that something life-altering could happen at any moment. Of course injuries can happen in any sport at any time – but not like this one.
It isn’t a given that a guy will get carted off the field when you go to a baseball game. There isn’t the looming likelihood of a player breaking a bone in the average NBA game, and there’s no guaranteed certainty of at least one concussion by anyone playing golf or tennis.
And there certainly isn’t the cloud of worry in most sports that a player could be paralyzed if a play goes an inch the wrong way – which is why a Minnesota’s PJ Fleck took a key unsportsmanlike penalty for running onto the field, terrified when WR Tyler Johnson was “motionless” after getting walloped by a huge hit in the loss to Iowa.
And because of that …
We have to stop thinking about football injuries as “bad luck.” Instead, we have to rebrand them as a lost gamble. If you play football, you’re almost certainly going to suffer an injury of some sort at some point, so – duh – the less you play, the fewer the chances of getting hurt.
So how do you get the most out of your key players as possible while taking the least amount of risk? Again, this is where football needs special analysts to figure this out – you’re up 35-7 at the end of the half against Team X, and your probability of losing this game is 0.3% without QB1 in.
You find these analysts, head coaches, so they can worry about injuries, and then you don’t have to.
But I can hear your angry tweet being typed as we speak …
IT’S A GAME. Of course players want to play. Of course we don’t want to watch while always thinking about whether or not a player is going to get hurt. So after all of that …
Coach Saban, I do get it. You really can’t coach and worry about injuries – at least in the macro sense. Football players getting hurt is part of doing business, and you have to keep coaching through it all no matter what.
Of course you can’t coach scared.
It’s why depth matters. It’s why the “Next Man Up” idea is so important, and it’s why every backup has to always be prepared like he’s about to go in.
That wasn’t some player.
That was Tua Tagovailoa.
“Well, if this is it old boy, I hope you don’t mind if I go out speaking the King’s.”
If you’re off to the NFL after all of this – as you should be …
Thanks, Tua. That was a blast.