This week on TDA’s Stephen M. Smith podcast ‘The Way It Is’, he discussed what he termed a ‘hot-button topic’ – the criticism of Jalen Hurts. This criticism comes not from the rest of the SEC, but from many of the Tide’s own fans. I posted an article earlier this week discussing the battle for backup quarterback, but the comments we’ve received have been aimed more at Jalen than the discussed topic, most of which have been negative.
While everyone is entitled to their opinions, criticizing last season’s SEC Offensive Player of the Year is no less than flat out ignorant.
Starting as a true freshman – the first quarterback to EVER do that under Nick Saban – he amassed 2,780 passing yards, 954 rushing yards, 36 total touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. His completion percentage was a tremendous 62.8% and his QB rating a magnificent 139.1. Hurts was an absolute statistical anomaly, not a single set of numbers exist to support this criticism.
Less we forget, the true freshman from Channelview, Texas, also had a handful of Veteran-esque plays – heroics – that won Alabama games last season. Neither team could get anything going against LSU in Baton Rouge as the defenses were absolutely blazing. On 3rd & 9 he looks downfield to pass, sees that nobody is open, tucks it in, dodges not one but two guys, and takes it 21 yards for the lone TD of the game. Ultimately a game-sealing score.
A couple months later, he does the same exact thing from 30 yards out in the National Championship, despite having a rough game. Watch this clip a few times and tell me you wouldn’t want this guy quarterbacking your team.
— Jasmine (@JasmineLWatkins) January 10, 2017
He had a tough game against Clemson passing the football – 13-31, 131 yards and a TD – but he ran for 63 yards and what could’ve been a title-clinching touchdown had the defense gotten a stop. The kid turned into a man this season. No matter how many times he was knocked down he got right back up. How many 18-year-olds do you know could fumble on their first snap as a D1 quarterback and come back out the next drive to throw a bomb for 6? How many kids could lead a 24-3 come from behind victory in Oxford, Mississippi?
Just as Stephen Smith mentioned in the podcast, Alabama likely doesn’t even make it to the title game without Jalen Hurts at QB. One of the biggest things that separated this team from others was having a primary running back. McElroy had Ingram and Trent. AJ had Trent, Lacy, and Yeldon. Sims had Yeldon and Henry. And then Coker got a Heisman-winning, record-setting season out of Derrick Henry the following year. Hurts had Damien Harris who came on early but was hindered by injury late, Bo Scarborough who came on late and was injured in the National Championship game, and yet another true freshman in Joshua Jacobs who also battled through a share of injuries despite having a promising season. Perhaps the reason we didn’t see Hurts get a chance to vastly improve his passing is because at times it was he who happened to be the best option on the ground.
Finally, Stephen ended by bringing up the controversial topic of race. In doing so, he mentioned that it didn’t seem that Alabama fans had ‘completely embraced’ an African-American quarterback in a very long time. Andrew Zow had his doubters. Blake Sims had his doubters. And now Jalen has his doubters. So the question is why?
Why does a quarterback being black make him any different a player than a white quarterback?
Simply put, it shouldn’t. However, there is a stigma about black quarterbacks that categorizes them as only running quarterbacks. Historically, the best African-American quarterbacks (Vince Young, Michael Vick, Cam Newton) were most well-known for their running abilities. This stigma, however, shrouds the tremendous passing abilities of guys like Donovan McNabb, Randall Cunningham or Warren Moon.
Yes, Jalen Hurts is a dual-threat quarterback known most for his running abilities. However, he has the tools to become one of the all-time great passers at UA as well. And this fall, those who think he can only run will rue the day they put an extra man in the box to stop him. Thanks to the likes of OC Brian Daboll and Offensive Analyst Chris Wenke, expect to see Hurts ‘tear up’ secondaries next season.