Off in the distance, on a remote island composed of a small minority of people, rumblings are heard about the legitimacy of Heisman finalist Tua Tagovailoa. Claims are being made that the phenom who broke every passing record at the University of Alabama is overrated. To the clear majority, these claims are quite absurd. However, this focus group has been persistent as of late and has infiltrated our social media trying to prove their point. So, does this bold absurdity hold water? Join me, if you will, as we explore this interesting topic.
Let’s start from the beginning. On January 8, 2018, Tagovailoamania was born. After resurrecting the Crimson Tide in the second half of the National Championship, he guided them to a victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in a setting worthy of a movie. On 2nd and 26, Tua heaved a desperation pass into the waiting arms of Devonta Smith, who streaked into the end zone, thus claiming Alabama’s 17th National Championship. From that point on, the sports media went into a frenzy of epic proportions. Before being named the official starter vs Louisville, pundits were already naming him the “second coming”. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit went so far as to say, “If I see Tua (Tagovailoa) trot out there for the first snap, I’ll just say to everyone ‘I’m sorry’ because it’s going to be a long year and they’re going to score literally 45-50 every game.” Then, there were his performances. Tagovailoa devastated defenses and was often pulled at half time during a number of games due to gaining a sizeable lead over opponents. As if that weren’t impressive enough, in some of those contests, he threw near or over 300 yards and multiple touchdowns by the end of the first half. With that came lofty comparisons to legends of the game like Dan Marino and Drew Brees. Brees would give Tua a shining endorsement, “I could not be more impressed because just in the times I’ve seen him play, it’s not like he’s just throwing it to really good athletes with a ton of space and they’re just running plays. I mean, he’s making some legit throws down the field, he’s making some legit reads, just from what I’ve seen. So, I couldn’t be more impressed, especially if you go from his first game last year coming in in the middle of the national championship-are you kidding me- and playing the way he did.” Tua was elected to football deity and presumably plans were laid to carve his face on the Mt. Rushmore of college football. In other words, beyond lofty expectations were placed upon a 19-year old sophomore who had just begun his journey.
So, let’s get right to the meat of why this select few audience denounces Tagovailoa’s greatness. It’s not a secret, when facing top ranked defenses, Tua’s numbers were not “Mt. Rushmore” material. When facing LSU, he was 25/42 (59.5%) for 295 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT. Against Mississippi State, Tua was 14/21 (66.7%) for 164 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. Then, against Georgia in the SEC Championship, he completed 10/25 (40%) for 164 yards 1 TD and 2 INTs. Finally, his season came to close against Clemson in an unforgettable rout by the Tigers to the tune of 44-16. His final stats were 22/34 (64.7%) for 295 yards 2 TDs and 2 INTs. When facing top tier defenses, he threw 6 TDs and 6 INTs with an average completion percentage of 57.72%. These numbers are where the anti-Tua brigade are hanging their hats. Admittedly, those numbers won’t go on a hall of fame ballot.
While Tua played at a phenomenal level for the majority of the season, there were some noticeable traits that need to be corrected. When Tua is confident and things are falling into place, he’s arguably the best in the business. His passes are on point and no one threads the needle like him. However, when faced with adversity, he tends to make mistakes. At times he will go into some what of a panic mode and try to force things that are better left alone. Rather than living to play another down, it’s almost as if his “Superman” button is activated and he has to save the day at that moment. The same can also be said when he’s playing with too much confidence. He can be a little overzealous at times and try to make a “highlight reel” play happen. Next, if he’s not 100%, he tends to play it safe and hold the ball too long. He can be timid and seemingly doubt himself. This tends to cause him to take unnecessary hits; like in the game against Mississippi State. These character traits have also provided fuel to his doubters.
So, where does that place us in the whole grand scheme of things? Tua Tagovailoa had a fantastic season. He passed for 3,966 yards and 43 TDS. The man is good, if not great. Yes, the negatives from this past season where quite glaring. However, to his credit, in 3 out of 4 of those contests mentioned above, Tua Tagovailoa was battling injury. In 2 of those games, he exited early and would not return. Plus, let’s face it, even the most established quarterback is not going to put up his best game against stellar defenses. Those teams got to that level because they made life a living nightmare for opposing signal callers. Does it excuse him, no. Do these negatives define him? Absolutely not. What does all of the points made within this article say to me? 1) The media went overboard and pulled everyone with them. They created this perfect specimen from Asgard image that at times he lived up to, but other times, he appeared human. When he did, he was penalized unfairly for it. 2) He was only a 19-20 year old who just completed his first season as a starter. He played at a high level, but showed the young rookie mistakes/tendencies that you should expect. It should not tarnish his legacy. 3) His story is not over. Both the good and the bad do not complete his story after one season. There are still more pages to be written. As far as the negatives some choose to dwell on, no one knows it more than Tua and no one will work harder than Tua to correct them. If the negatives still reside at seasons end, there may be a cause for some doubt. However, expect Tagovailoa to blow the doors off this season. In conclusion, doubters put down your stones and let him write his story. Stop the senseless “water cooler” talk. Finally, get ready for a great show.
I am a 2003 graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in Exercise Science. While at the Capstone, I served as a student assistant with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Crimson Tide football team. I have competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. In addition, I have served athletes and people through the arena of personal training. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I am a passionate fan of Alabama, but do not make other fan bases miserable because of it. College football has my heart first, but I cover all areas of sports. Follow me on Twitter: @justinriley7!