It’s all about the quarterback. That’s the lesson from the NFL playoffs last weekend and the college championship game Monday night.
We saw quarterback play at its best and its worst. Here’s my fun look back at what we learned:
Quarterback Hell -- The Buffalo-Jacksonville game proved the NFL doesn’t have 12 worthy playoff teams this season. The game was so bad it actually was fun to watch.
The Jaguars won 10-3 in a game with quarterback play that was one level below YMCA flag football. Blake Bortles of Jacksonville and Tyrod Taylor of Buffalo were so bad Saturday they wouldn’t have won a 12-year-old Punt, Pass & Kick contest.
On one throw, Bortles had a masterful helicopter pass, the opposite of a spiral. He wildly overthrew two short throws in the flat that Ray Charles could have completed.
The combined totals for Bortles and Taylor were 29 of 61 passes for 221 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
And yet, Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job.
Quarterback Heaven – On the opposite end of the QB spectrum we have a kid 99 percent of football fans never heard of until Monday night when a star was born.
Tua Tagovailoa, a 19-year Hawaiian and a true freshman who never has started a college game, pulled off one of the most remarkable performances off the bench in sports history.
Tagovailoa started the second half for Alabama and led the Tide to a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia in the championship game after trailing 13-0 at the half and 20-7 in the third quarter.
And it was no fluke. From his first throw, the obvious response was “Who is this guy?”
Tagovailoa was 14 of 24 for 166 yards and three TDs, including a perfect 41-yard throw for the game-winning TD in OT. He also rushed for 47 yards. Tua reminded me of a left-handed Russell Wilson.
None of it would have happened without the gutsiest coaching decisions ever. Nick Saban deserves his sixth championship ring after benching Jalen Hurts, a quarterback who was 25-2 in his career.
Hurts handled the situation with complete class after the game, which will serve him well moving forward.
Quarterback Purgatory – Now comes the inevitable questions about whether Hurts stays at Alabama (he’ll be a junior in 2018) or whether he transfers since it appears Tagovailoa is Bama’s future.
If Hurts does opt to leave, he shouldn’t be penalized by having to sit out a year.
Georgia QB Jacob Eason will transfer to Washington and have to sit out the 2018 season, but any NCAA Division 1 coach can change schools and make millions of dollars without any delay, even though he left all the players he recruited.
It’s wrong and it needs to change. And don’t criticize these kids by questioning their loyalty if they opt to move on. These top-tier athletes have to do what’s best for their future if they are NFL-level talents.
Eason realizes Jake Fromm, who will be a sophomore in the 2018 season, is the man at Georgia as long as he’s healthy. Eason needs to go where he can showcase his skills and protect his future. If Hurt opts to do the same, no one should blame him.