The injury to Tua Tagovailoa is obviously devastating for college football. Even non-Alabama fans had to appreciate how awesome he has been, since his star turn in the national championship game against Georgia in January 2018. It has also opened up some pretty rare, widespread debate about a Nick Saban coaching decision.
Saban, one of the best coaches in the history of college football by any legitimate measure, made what ended up being a pretty horrible mistake against Mississippi State on Saturday. In an effort to get Tagovailoa some true two-minute drill reps in live game action, he left the banged up quarterback in at the end of the first half.
On a passing play, Tagovailoa took a hit from two Bulldog defenders and wound up dislocating his hip. The injury itself is not directly related to the ankle injury he was coming off of, but since he was clearly less than 100-percent, people have raised legitimate concerns over him being in the game up 35-6.
Saban said that the final drive of the half was to be Tagovailoa’s last of the game.
After the injury, ESPN analysts were split on whether Saban should shoulder some of the blame for the injury. On this morning’s episode of Get Up, ESPN’s Marcus Spears flatly rejected that idea.
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) November 19, 2019
Spears was an All-American defensive end for Saban at LSU back in the early 2000s. He relayed a situation in which he was injured ahead of a game against Auburn, and because he wasn’t right, Saban made the decision that he could not play. He doesn’t think Saban would have played Tua if he wasn’t sure he was healthy enough.
His full comments:
“There is this magnification of this injury because of who this injury happened to. The bottom line is this. Nick Saban is not in the conversation for being the best coach to ever coach, by not playing his best players. He has stuck to this since I’ve known him. I had a high ankle sprain against Auburn, went out, tried to warm up, I couldn’t go, I couldn’t cut… so I didn’t play.”
Saban has to be sick about Tagovailoa’s injury, and if given the option again, he probably would have benched him long before that drive, if he played at all. Tua also wanted to play, by all accounts. The questions are legitimate, but they shouldn’t supersede the main story, that one of the best quarterbacks in recent college football history’s career at Alabama is likely over.