Jason Whitlock: Tagovailoa ‘should’ve been the quarterback a lot earlier in the season’

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Joel Klatt and Greg Jennings join Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock to discuss Nick Saban benching Jalen Hurts for Tua Tagovailoa.

- All right, Cowherd. Did Nick Saban prove his brilliance by going to Little Russell Wilson last night?

- Yeah, I think he did. It's very easy to say, well, I mean, it's obvious. You have to bench him. Tom Brady had a miserable first half in the Super Bowl. And you say, well he's not Tom Brady. Jalen Hurts is 25 and 2 and was the offensive conference player of the year. He had a bad first half. Clemson's had bad first half. Georgia had a bad first half against Oklahoma.

Did-- did Jake Fromm get benched first half against Oklahoma? It is real easy-- you prepare for six weeks, and you just say at half, we're going to go in a different direction with an 18-year-old. That is not-- LSU's Les Miles a couple of years ago, didn't bench-- didn't go to the bench. People crushed him. Nick does. It works. It's not as easy as everybody thinks.

- Well, listen. Nick Saban is brilliant. He's a genius. He's the best coach in football-- in college football. Bill Belichick's the best coach in football. But I don't think this proves his brilliance. If anything, I think it proves just the opposite. Why were you playing Jalen Hurts all year? He-- this kid should have been the quarterback a lot earlier in the season if Nick Saban wanted to prove his brilliance. And again, the guy is brilliant. But the conclusion I came to after that game was like, man, this guy's been playing the wrong quarterback all year.

- Well, I don't think you can say that because Saban's game is not throwing haymakers. They had to throw haymakers to get back in. They're not normally down 13. Remember, they play the, we're not going to turn the ball over. We're going to play it safe. And Hurts is the more consistent player. So he's more of a flat line, whereas a freshman like Tagovailoa he's going to go up and down. Right? Like he's going to have some great plays. He's going to have the pick. He had some brutal plays. He throws a pick when the guys are blocking down the field. So you're going to go up and down like that.

Saban's not willing to go like this during the regular season. When he's forced into that position he's got to put his chips in the middle of the table--

- Who's going to be the quarterback next year?

- Oh, Tua's going to be the quarterback next year.


- But I think he's going to be more consistent next year as well. He's going to have more reps. He's going to get some of those mistakes out of his game. I thought it was a brilliant move from Nick Saban. I really did. And this guy in his last two national championships has made coaching decisions, has made coaching moves, that directly won the football game. The onside kick against Clemson two years ago won the football game for him. And then this position change, this quarterback swap, to Tua-- it won him the game.

Because Hurts didn't have that in him. He didn't have those haymakers in him. And because of that-- and because of a lot of other factors, but certainly this, his big game coaching ability-- this guy is the best college football coach that we've ever seen.

- I agree.

- Yeah, I--I--I'm with you, Jason. I don't think it proves his brilliance. I think he-- it was the obvious thing that he had to do. When you look at what Jalen Hurts provides? He's a runner. They could not run the ball. They-- he said it in his post-game press conference. We-- I didn't believe that we could run the ball well enough to get the job done. What Tua brought to the table was now he expands your playbook, and he forces the defense of George-- the Georgia Bulldogs to now cover everyone on the football field.

So it was-- was it a great move? Absolutely. Was it a crucial move? Yes. But it was the obvious move. They wouldn't-- they would not be in this position of national champion had he not made that decision.

- I think the brilliant thing about Drew Bree's Sunday-- He had no running game, barely had the ball and won. Great people win in less than ideal conditions.

Last night he lost a left tackle, his quarterback was ineffective, he got into a big hole, he had a replay for Georgia touchdown not go his way, he had a player fight in the sideline, a player collapse on the sideline, he had two missed field goals.

- Two!

- Alabama was a mess for half that game.

- The ref took away a block punt from Georgia.

- They did. They did. But eight different things-- I counted this morning-- eight things went wrong that could have capsized most teams.

- I'm going to say this, though. And I love Nick Saban. And I was glad he was in the playoffs.

- Sure.

- I was really glad he was in the playoffs.

- We'll get to that, don't worry. We're going to get to that.

- The left tackle they put out there was better than the starter. The starter was getting his butt kicked. It was a blessing that he got hurt and the other kid came in and played his tail off and shut that down. Tua-- Lane Kiffin has been telling people privately ever since-- all year, that Tua was going to beat out Jalen Hurts. Anybody could see Tua's a better quarterback than Jalen Hurts, and Nick was too stubborn and went with experience, and you know what--

- I totally disagree. I think it had everything to do with consistency and the style of game that-- that Nick wants to play. If he had his druthers about it, they would have run the football well. Hurts stays in the game the entire time just like against Clemson. And they win the game accordingly. That's his gameplan. That's his blueprint.

This is more of the uncharted territory. He doesn't want to go out there and let a freshmen sling the ball all over the field. That's-- I mean, that is-- that's high risk. That's not what Nick Saban does.

- Well the NCAA only gives you 17 hours a week, and that counts the games. So you don't have a ton of time to develop--

- They got to play Mercer out of--

- For me-- for me, the fact that he went away from what he typically does was his brilliance. That was the brilliant move.

- Sure. I'll do anything to win.

- Yes. I will do any-- I will defer to my coaches and trust what we have done when it comes to recruiting in our preparation of our young guys, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. Because when you're going from a sophomore to a freshmen, you would think that there would be some drop off. Tua comes in, and he provides them a-- not only a spark, but the consistent play in the passing game as well as--

- Energy.

- He still gave him the running game option.

- I also do think that this was also a tip of the cap to Kirby Smart in Georgia. Other teams don't get Tua put in the game against him because Saban knows, well, we're just going to eventually run the ball just fine. This was a tip of the cap. Like, we're not going to beat them with our old game plan.

- Yeah. Absolutely.

- We have to change. We're going to throw the chips in the middle of the table.