Being Tua Tagovailoa Hurts

Sweet Revenge


Pike Temple, Sports Editor

At halftime in the 2018 College Football Championship, quarterback Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s two year starter, was benched for true freshman Tua Tagovailoa. Down 13-0 at the half, head coach Nick Saban decided to make a change at QB. After coming into the game, Tagovailoa managed to lead the Crimson Tide to an impressive 26-23 comeback win over the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime. All of a sudden, Tagovailoa was the guy, the freshman that came in to replace the starter and won them the National Championship. However, Jalen Hurts still remained on the roster, and his future at Alabama quickly became uncertain. The Tagovailoa Era officially began the following season in Tuscaloosa and Hurts rode the bench his junior year. Jalen Hurt’s time at Alabama eventually came to a close, as he would transfer to Oklahoma for his senior season. Despite the change in scenery, it appeared that Hurts would permanently remain in Tagovailoa’s shadow, until he led the Eagles to the best record in the NFL and a Super Bowl appearance last season. Down in Miami, Tagovailoa’s career is now shrouded in doubt due to his extensive injury history.

Before the 2019 season, Tua Tagovailoa was regarded as the best quarterback in the class and a top 5 pick. Unfortunately for Tagovailoa, things started to go downhill from there. In a game back in 2019 versus Mississippi State, he suffered a horrendous hip injury and his collegiate career would be cut short. Before getting injured, Tagovailoa passed for nearly 3,000 yards, was on pace to surpass his previous season record of 43 touchdowns, and was a front runner for the Heisman Trophy. Now, unable to play, he was sidelined for nearly 3 months as a result of a necessary surgery and methodical rehab process.

At Oklahoma, Jalen Hurts passed for 3,800 yards and 32 touchdowns. The senior played well, but was not included in the conversation of the top QBs in the class. After Joe Burrow’s exceptional season at LSU, Tua Tagovailoa was pronounced the second or third best quarterback in the class, as a result of his gruesome injury. Now, undervalued among draft analysts, Hurts was considered a mid day 2 draft pick among the likes of fellow quarterback prospects Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm, yet behind unproven, high upside projects such as Jordan Love. On draft night, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Joe Burrow with the 1st overall pick. Tagovailoa was the second QB taken at No. 5 by the Dolphins. Following Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert out of Oregon went to the Chargers at No. 6 and Jordan Love would go to the Packers at No. 26. After another 27 picks, at pick No. 53, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted QB Jalen Hurts. 

In 2020, Tagovailoa was not named the starter, but he would still get some playing time as a back-up. After throwing for 1,800 yards and 11 touchdowns in his rookie year, Tagovailoa was named the starter his sophomore season. In 13 games, he passed for 2,600 yards and 16 touchdowns. This past season, Tagovailoa threw for 3,500 yards and a much improved 25 touchdowns, however, his future in the league is uncertain. In back-to-back weeks (weeks 3 and 4) he suffered a head injury and was put under concussion protocol after the week 4 incident. After returning to the field nearly a month later, he continued to play at a high level. However, late in the season against the Green Bay Packers, Tagovailoa received another head injury, his third in one season. Although he didn’t come out of the game, he was later diagnosed with a concussion and missed the remainder of the season. Tua Tagovailoa has shown that he can be a quality starting quarterback in the league, but his injury concerns, and risk of further brain damage, could dampen his future in the NFL.

In Philly, Jalen Hurts sat behind former 1st round pick, Carson Wentz, his rookie season. However, like Tagovailoa, Hurts played a few snaps as a backup and recorded 1,000 passing yards and 6 touchdowns. He was then named a starter his second season after the departure of Wentz. In 2021, Hurts passed for 3,000 yards, with 16 touchdowns, and rushed for almost 800. In the 2022 season, Jalen Hurts officially made a name for himself. Hurts passed for 3,700 yards, 22 touchdowns, and ran for 700 yards with 13 rushing touchdowns. An extremely impressive regular season granted Philadelphia a playoff berth, where Hurts would lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Although the Eagles lost 38-35 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Hurts’ excellent performance the entire season did not go unnoticed. 

Outside of other QBs from the 2020 draft class like Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, who had success earlier in their careers, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts have blossomed into legitimate starting quarterbacks for their respective teams. However, Hurts has now surpassed Tagovailoa years later as the better player. After being benched for Tagovailoa, and disregarded during the draft process, Hurts has proved his doubters wrong. In the realm of quarterback rankings, Patrick Mahomes has likely reached his maximum potential, but is considered the best QB in the league, and has already reached a high point in his career. Players like Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Daniel Jones have also likely reached their full potential and likely won’t get much better at this point in their careers. Purely based on potential, Jalen Hurts is indeed a top 5 quarterback under the age of 26. The list includes Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawrence, and Justin Fields in that order. Now Tagovailoa, for example, is better than Justin Fields currently, but Tagovailoa’s injuries knock him outside the top 5. With an extremely bright future, Jalen Hurts still has room for improvement and could take the next step in his progression in 2023. Although a player’s college career is a solid starting point while judging a player’s projection to the NFL, intangibles such as a player’s work ethic typically goes unnoticed during the draft process. This is the case for Hurts, as he has continuously shown improvement year after year and nearly won MVP this past season.