It’s rare when an injury to one player has such a dramatic impact on so many aspects of the college and NFL seasons. But that’s certainly the case with the loss of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa was scheduled to have surgery on Monday after suffering a dislocated hip during Saturday’s 38-7 win over Mississippi State. He went down with three minutes remaining before halftime when two Bulldog defenders brought him down as he attempted to roll left out of the pocket.
The Tide was leading 35-7 at the time of the injury, but Alabama coach Nick Saban decided to keep Tagovailoa in the game in order to practice a two-minute drill. He would not have played in the second half.
“We can second-guess ourselves all we want,” Saban said. “We told (backup quarterback) Mac (Jones) to warm up two minutes before the half. … If he is physically able to play, we want him to play in the game. This is what he wanted to do. That is what our team wanted to do. If I would have known if anything bad was going to happen, I certainly would not have put him in that situation. We are a team. We are a team that is trying to get better in the long term and the long run to see if we can finish the season the way we want. I hated that the guy got hurt.”
If you were watching the game, you could sense how terrible an injury it was. The quarterback was not only bleeding from the nose, but in terrible pain. Word is he was in agony when the trainers and doctors attempted to lift him from the cart that carried him off the field.
Dr. Lyle Cain, a surgeon who works with the Alabama football team, issued a statement:
“For the past 24 hours our medical team has consulted with multiple orthopedic experts across the country, who specialize in hip injuries and surgeries. … As previously stated, we anticipate a full recovery. The main focus has been, and will remain, on Tua, his family and making sure we are providing them the best medical care possible.”
And so ends the season, and most likely the college career, of one the greatest quarterbacks in Alabama and SEC history.
The first thing that will change because of the injury is the Heisman Trophy voting. Tagovailoa and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow were considered the favorites. But after LSU’s win over Alabama and Tagovailoa’s injury, it seems certain Burrow will be the winner.
How good a player is Tagovailoa? His career pass efficiency is 199.45 which destroys the former record of 181.3 set by Kyler Murray at Oklahoma. He set the single-season pass efficiency record last season (199.4) and was producing at an even higher rate this year (206.9). Of Tagovailoa’s 684 pass career pass attempts, 87 were touchdowns. That percentage of 12.7% breaks Sam Bradford’s record of 9.9%.
Sports Illustrated even speculated over the weekend that Tagovailoa could be considered the greatest quarterback in Alabama history, surpassing Joe Namath, Bart Starr and Ken Stabler.
“I think it’s reasonable to say he’s the best (Alabama) player of the Saban generation,” former Saban QB and current ESPN analyst Greg McElroy told The Athletic. “… I thought he definitely should’ve won Heisman last year and would’ve had a chance at it this year had he stayed healthy.”
The injury to Tagovailoa likely means he will not be ready to participate in the NFL Combine, the pre-draft workout that show off the skills – both athletic and verbal – of the top players in the sport.
There’s no way to tell, of course, but the severity of the injury might convince teams in need of quarterbacks, particularly the Bengals and Dolphins, not to use a first-round pick on him. The Bengals are on path to owning the first pick in the 2020 draft and if they were debating between Burrow and Tagovailoa, it seems logical they would now opt for Burrow.
There has already been speculation Tagovailoa might be advised to return to Alabama for his senior season in order to prove to the NFL that he is well. Remember, he’s also had surgery on both ankles over the last season, so he might be considered injury-prone. If NFL teams believe he is, it’s likely he could drop in the first round, which will hurt him financially.
Now let’s talk about the College Football Playoffs. Alabama dropped to fifth in the committee’s rankings last week and that status likely will not be impacted by Tagovailoa’s injury, at least not this week.
But as we get closer to playoff time, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for the committee to evaluate Alabama purely on the basis of their competitiveness and attractiveness moving forward without their quarterback. Injuries do matter.
Alabama is not going to benefit any from its game this weekend against Western Carolina. But should it go on the road and beat Auburn with Mac Jones at quarterback, that certainly could help them if LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma and Oregon slip along the way.
If were to project the Final Four in the College Football Playoff as of Monday, it would be No. 1 seed LSU vs. No. 4 Georgia in the Peach Bowl.
But remember, it looks like these teams will play for the SEC Championship, so the status of one or could be seriously impacted.
The other game would be second seed Ohio State vs. third seed Clemson, the defending national champion, in the Fiesta Bowl.
Clemson has a pretty clear path to the playoffs since its competition in the ACC Championship is certain to be subpar. And there’s always the possibility that Penn State or Michigan could upset the Buckeyes.
Still, things might have been different if Tagovailoa hadn’t been hurt. And all we can is wait and see what impact its has across the sport.