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Vote for the RBR All-Saban Team: Quarterbacks

Who is the best QB to play for Nick Saban?

LSU v Alabama Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Since everyone is stuck doing some social distancing, we figured now is as good a time as any to get a little audience participation in our inner workings on this here blog site. Josh told you the other day that we would be creating an All-Saban team that takes into account the feedback of all of you highly intelligent readers.

To kick things off, we’ll start with the quarterbacks, because who doesn’t love a good Tua vs Jalen A.J. heated debate?

The rules are fairly simple here, but also they absolutely will not be totally consistent. I’m making them up as we go and each position will be handled differently. I will choose the top candidates for spots on the All-Saban team, and different members of the RBR staff will present their argument to you as to why his player should be considered over the others. There is no criteria on the type of argument, so anything from stats, to important plays, to NFL performance is fair game.

For the QBs, the top two guys are pretty obvious. Tua Tagovailoa and A.J. McCarron will be the #1 and #2 ball slingers on the team, and it’s slated to be a pretty heated debate. Most everyone can acknowledge Tua’s advantage in pure talent and his huge win in the 2017 national championship comeback win over Georgia, but his turnovers against Clemson and LSU in the last two seasons have rubbed some the wrong way... Whereas A.J. was on the teams that won back-to-back national championships.

Without further preamble, here are the arguments presented by Josh and CB969:

CB969 on Tua Tagovailoa:

C’mon now. Is there really any argument here? It’s Tua. Like Namath and Stabler, all you need to say is one name and people know.

As a freshmen, he was trapped behind returning starter, Jalen Hurts, who Nick Nick Saban stubbornly lovingly stuck with almost a bit too long. Even still, the Hawaiian left-hander impressed in back-up duty. In Week 3 against Vanderbilt, the Tide quarterback shredded the Dores 59-0, but it was Tagovailoa in mop-up duty who was the best quarterback on the field that day with a near perfect effort completing 8 of 10 for 103 yards and 2 TDs. Meanwhile, the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year was a pedestrian 9 of 17 for 78 yards and no scores through the air. I don’t know about you but on a personal level, I was sold on who the starter should be. Saban had other ideas. Despite remaining the number two QB, Tua threw for 636 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also gave Tide fans the biggest and best highlight other: 2nd and 26. I don’t think I need to tell you what that whole storyline was all about.

That play alone will forever secure a place for Tua in Alabama fans’ hearts. But he wasn’t done there. As a sophomore, Tagovailoa put Hurts on the bench and lit up the world with his arm with a mind-blowing 43 touchdowns and 3,966 yards passing. Despite an ankle injury, he still led the Tide to an undefeated regular season, an SEC title, and a long-awaited revenge win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. He should have won the Heisman but the short-attention span voters were awestruck to see an Ewok with tiny little legs shred FBS’s worst defenses.

As a junior, Tua again looked on a mission and was rolling along until a freak hip injury knocked him out commission in Game 9. Even in limited play, the Crimson Tide field general still finished 8th in the nation in passing TDs with 33 against only 3 picks and compiled 2,840 yards passing. He was tops in the nation in yards per attempt at 11.3.

Despite playing in only 32 games and 24 as a starter, Tagovailoa holds school records in touchdown passes, percentage completion (for any player with at least 70 attempts). While AJ McCarron had a fine four-year career, it does not compare to the wonder that was Tua.

STAT AJ McCarron Tua Tagovailoa Advantage
Passing TD 77 87 TUA
Interceptions 15 11 TUA
QB Rating 162.5 199.4 TUA
Passing % 66.9 69.3 TUA
Rush Yds -50 340 TUA
Rush TD 3 9 TUA
Sacks 54 26 TUA
Games Played 53 32 AJ
Jesus Chest Tattoos 1 0 AJ

Tua is poised to become a top five draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Well said.

To follow that up, here’s Josh’s argument for A.J. McCarron:

The case for AJ is simple: kiss the rings, baby!

AJ was the in-state kid who came to Alabama before Saban had won his first national title in Tuscaloosa, not because it was the top program in the country but because he wanted to play for the Crimson Tide. He was content to take a redshirt then back up Greg McElroy for a year before getting his chance in year three. All he did in his three years as a starter was win two national titles and come a fluke away from a chance at a third.

Lest you think that McCarron was merely carried by the defense and running game, he was the most efficient passer in the nation in 2012 and finished 8th in that category in 2013. He performed on the biggest stage, completing 70% of his passes combined in his two national title game victories. He took care of the football with only 15 interceptions in over 1,000 career attempts, and finished 36-4 as a starting QB.

Tua Tagovailoa is a special talent as a passer and put up video game numbers, but he did it in a different era of football. McCarron’s 175.3 passer rating that led the nation in 2012 would have finished only 5th in 2019. It’s unfair to compare them from a raw numbers perspective, and Tua enjoyed depth at the WR position that AJ could have only dreamed about. Both players put up exemplary seasons when compared to their peers, but AJ did it for longer, won more ballgames and more championships.

AJ is your man.

So, now it’s up to you guys. Who you got?


Who gets the nod for first-team All-Saban QB?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Tua Tagovailoa
    (696 votes)
  • 28%
    A.J. McCarron
    (279 votes)
975 votes total Vote Now

But now you’re in luck. Any team needs a 3rd string QB, and Alabama has a group of guys that are all neck and neck for the next man behind the big two. You will now hear arguments for Jalen Hurts, Blake Sims, and Greg McElroy for the 3rd-team All-Saban QB.

BamaBrave4 on Jalen Hurts:

Looks like I’ll be getting that first victory against Brent and Roger.

What more can I say about Jalen Hurts than has already been said? An Alabama legend, Hurts writ his name in Crimson Flame, and then followed that up by putting his signature in the history books at another storied football program in Oklahoma. I love Blake and Greg as much as anybody, and we all know that Jalen had his share of issues during his time here, but the stats and records simply don’t compare. 2017 National Champion, 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, two-time SEC Champion (2016, 2018), 8th in school history in career passing yards, 20th in school history in career rushing yards, 3rd in school history in total Touchdowns; the list goes on and on.

And that’s only his time at Alabama. After transferring to Oklahoma, he led the Sooners to a Big 12 Title and finished Runner-Up for the Heisman Trophy. He’s one of only a handful of players that can say he’s played in four different College Football Playoffs, and it’s hard to imagine many coming close to topping his five career CFP starts at QB. Trevor Lawrence from Clemson will have a chance, but its hard to envision many more after him.

Jalen Hurts is special player and a better person. Having an All-Saban team without him would be asinine. You can’t tell the history of College Football’s Greatest Dynasty without an entire chapter dedicated to him. Jalen’s redemption in leading the Tide in the comeback win over Georgia for the 2018 SEC Championship is one of the best stories sports has ever seen. I’d continue on gushing about Jalen Hurts, but I’m not sure it’s necessary.


And here’s what Roger had to say about Greg McElroy:

Greg McElroy still is the only QB to lead a Saban team to an undefeated season. His 2009 season might not have been the best statically, but you can’t beat 14-0 and a National Championship. McElroy even ran his personal streak to 36-0 (including HS) before finally quarterbacking a losing team. Somehow, despite his limitations, he was drafted in to the NFL, and actually started several games for the NY Jets.

And before you go on about Blake Sims, Jalen Hurts, or even Jake Coker being more explosive, don’t forget that GMac’s best season saw him with a higher yards per attempt and completion percentage than the best season of any of those three, despite playing in an offense that was significantly less friendly to passing that the other three.

If he doesn’t win this contest, he should at least make the All Ginger team, and be considered for the all underrated team. Vote G- Mac

Finally, here’s my argument for Blake Sims:

In 2014, one guy was tasked with leading the charge for a massive philosophical change in the Alabama offense. That guy was Blake Sims, the former running back. He beat out a slew of talented QB recruits and a graduate transfer from Florida State, Jake Coker, for the starting job, and never once looked back.

He could make every pass in the playbook, but he excelled at lobbing beautiful rainbows 50 yards down the field for big plays.

And his time spent as a former running back made him absolutely deadly on the new read-option keepers and scrambles.

By the end of the season, Sims had set virtually every single-season record for an Alabama QB that wouldn’t be broken until Tua Tagovailoa came around in 2018. He led the SEC in yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, passing touchdowns, and total yards per play.

After years of “game managers,” Blake Sims was a dynamic quarterback with a fun personality who absolutely changed the stigma at Alabama around their QBs being weak links who were carried by and elite running game and defense. Sims had the best statistical season of any Alabama QB before Tua despite having to work with probably the Tide’s least effective rushing attack in the Saban era and a defense whose secondary couldn’t cover a single pass down either sideline all year long.

So, there are your arguments for 3rd team QB. I did not include Jake Coker on this list as, statistically, he fell behind all three guys here. But I’ll put him on the poll in case some of you are still in love with the Coker Deep Ball.


Who is the All-Saban 3rd-team QB?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Jalen Hurts
    (412 votes)
  • 19%
    Blake Sims
    (164 votes)
  • 17%
    Greg McElroy
    (150 votes)
  • 15%
    Jake Coker
    (136 votes)
862 votes total Vote Now