CW / Hannah Saad
With the Alabama football season just a little over a week away, we are once again faced with what I call the quarterback crossroads. This is nothing new for us as we have successfully managed this situation multiple times over the last decade. In 2009, Greg McElroy had to prove himself against Star Jackson. In 2011, it was AJ McCarron vs Phillip Sims. In 2014, Blake Sims vs Jake Coker. In 2015, Jake Coker vs Cooper Bateman. In 2016, Jalen Hurts vs Blake Barnett. And finally, in 2018, Tua Tagovailoa vs Jalen Hurts. Obviously, this isn’t our first rodeo with picking a new quarterback to lead this program. With the ending of Tagovailoa’s incredible career here at the Capstone, we now look to Nick Saban to generate another national championship-winning quarterback.
Let me take you back to 2019. It was a cool, fall night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. What could go wrong? Tagovailoa had suffered another lower-body injury, which meant that Michael McCorkle Jones was making his first career start against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Flash forward three hours, and Jones had played a perfectly clean game, throwing for 235 yards and three touchdowns, on 18-22 passing. The Crimson Tide rolled to a 48-7 victory, and “Yea Alabama” played all night around campus.
A few weeks later, the Crimson Tide arrived in Starkville, Mississippi to take on the Bulldogs. After a tough loss to LSU, our hope was to win out to make the College Football Playoff. Alabama was leading 35-7 with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter. Third down and four, Tagovailoa rolled out to his left and threw the ball away. But after getting driven hard into the ground, the medical cart came out to attend to Tagovailoa. The cart drove away carrying Tagovailoa, who was crying with a bloody nose. At this moment, every Alabama fan is thinking the same thing: Was that the last snap for Tua at Alabama? Flashbacks to 2nd and 26, the 7,442 yards, and the 87 career touchdowns were all flowing through our brains.
That was Tagovailoa’s last play as Alabama’s quarterback. With our playoff chances going down, where were we supposed to go from there? We went to Auburn where Mac Jones would make his third career start at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where we have won one time since 2011. But even with all the pressure on Jones, he walked onto the Plains and threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 32 more. Yes, he threw two interceptions for touchdowns, but only one of those was his fault. Najee Harris should have known that with Auburn bringing the blitz on the goal line, he needed to be ready for Jones to get the ball out quickly. Rather, Auburn intercepted the ball and returned it 100 yards for the score. But what Mac learned quickly was that what can go wrong at Jordan-Hare Stadium, will go wrong. It’s hard to beat the luckiest team in America, especially when the referees are handing Gus Malzahn free time-outs at the end of the first half so that Auburn could gain three more points. People were quick to jump on Jones after the game, saying that if not for his two turnovers, we would have won the game and maybe reached the College Football Playoff. Maybe, but Mac walked into that stadium that day and did everything in his power to pull the Tide through. He took a huge hit from 326-pound Derrick Brown, got right back up, and lit up the scoreboard for 45 points. Just as a reminder, Joe Burrow and the Tigers only scored 23.
You probably think I am either Mac Jones’s future agent or being paid to write all of this. But I don’t even know the guy. This would not even be a conversation if not for hotshot new freshman quarterback Bryce Young. The number one dual-threat recruit from Santa Ana, California, has a lot of people excited. He is drawing comparisons to Russell Wilson, and if you watch his high school tape you will see why.
As exciting and shiny-new Bryce Young may be, this is the bottom line: The year 2020 has been tough. Every day since March has been unpredictable. In all honesty, I didn’t think we were going to get to see the 2020 Alabama football team play a single game this season. But now that we are, Mac Jones is the clear and only answer for the quarterback position this year. Young did not have the time he needed to prepare during the offseason, with practice being stop-and-go all spring and fall. We had the superstar quarterback with Tagovailoa. In a season where we have the best running back in the country, an experienced offensive line, and a developing, young defense, we need a guy that can simply control the football game by getting the ball to the likes of Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle. He is not only the safe option, but he is also the best option for 2020, and I will back him all the way all season long. In a year where everyone seems to be 0-1, Mac Jones is already 1-0 with a Citrus Bowl victory over Michigan. Mac Jones is the answer. Let’s get this football season going.