Tommy Hicks: Tagovailoa best quarterback, Hurts best teammate

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OK, this has been a popular subject since overtime of last season’s College Football Playoff championship game, but it is a subject that is a continuing story, one that, based on the team’s position nationally and the performances and teamwork of those in the spotlight, deserves a bit more attention.

We’re talking about the Alabama quarterback situation.

Tua Tagovailoa is not just the best quarterback on the Alabama team, and thus deserving of being named the starter, but he is performing as well, if not better, than any other quarterback in the country. That knowledge should make the shift to the role of back-up quarterback, after serving the Alabama team so well as its starter, for Jalen Hurts.

Tagovailoa is a special talent, and Hurts just happened to find himself at Alabama at the same time Tagovailoa arrived. The decision on which quarterback would earn the starting job was not based on one half and overtime of a national championship game, or on emotion; it was based on talent, and Tagovailoa is, as previously noted, a special talent, which made him the right and best choice as Alabama’s starter.

What has made that transition and that decision work as well as it has isn’t based solely on Tagovailoa’s skill set; it has also been affected by Hurts’ handling of the situation and the decision made by head coach Nick Saban and his staff. He could have created a rift within the locker room or he could have transferred to another school. Instead, he stayed and supported Tagovailoa and his team.

Tagovailoa is the best quarterback in the country right now; Hurts is the best teammate in the country right now.

Together, Alabama has separated itself from the other teams in the country thus far. One sportswriter noted earlier this season that Alabama was already the top program in the country and there didn’t seem to be any letting up on that designation. But Alabama had earned that spot with really good quarterbacks, though not elite-level quarterbacks in recent seasons. The question becomes, now that the Crimson Tide has an elite-level quarterback, how can Alabama be stopped now?

It appears to be a good question.

And both quarterbacks deserve credit. Hurts has improved his passing and his leadership skills, which were already top level, have only gotten better this season. He provides not only an able back-up to Tagovailoa, but a back-up who has played in the biggest games and in the biggest moments of a game that can be experienced by a player. How many back-ups can provide that to an offense and to a team? Saban and the offensive coaching staff can rest easy knowing Hurts is available when needed.

And as the quarterback situation at Clemson has proven in the past weeks, having a strong back-up plan is worth a great deal.

For his part, Tagovailoa has handled all the pressure, all the physical requirements of being the starter, and then some. As AP sportswriter John Zenor asked on Twitter recently, “Has anyone won the Heisman Trophy and not played in the fourth quarter of any game?”

Tagolvailoa hasn’t appeared in the fourth quarter of an Alabama game yet this season. That will likely change, but maybe not. Not when the quarterback is leading the No. 5 total offense in the country, an offense that leads the nation in scoring. And not with the numbers he is producing.

The proof is in the stats. Consider this: Tagovailoa is 66 of 88 passing for 1,161 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has not thrown a single interception thus far. And he hasn’t played in the fourth quarter. He ranks No. 1 in the country in interceptions (with others), and is No. 1 in QB rating. He is No. 2 nationally in completion percentage and No. 8 in passing touchdowns thrown. He’s also No. 2 in yards per attempt.

So, yeah, the quarterback situation at Alabama seems to be working out OK.

Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at