The Bama QBs 2021 NFL Season in Review
Along with cheering on the Crimson Tide players throughout their college careers at the university, most Alabama fans also root for them during their professional careers as well. This especially goes for the three most recent Alabama quarterbacks who all were at the helm in some way during Alabama’s 2017 and 2020 national championship seasons: Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jalen Hurts.
While two of them ended up being first-round draft picks in back-to-back years and the other a second-round draft pick, all of them have faced their own adversities in the NFL from where they were drafted, to how they compared to the other QBs they were drafted with, and if they should even start for their respective teams.
Here’s how the three Alabama QBs faired this season, and a possible outlook on their future statuses on each of their teams.
Mac Jones: Drafted as the fifth QB in 2021 draft and expected to start his career behind veteran QB Cam Newton, Mac Jones had to prove himself from the moment he put on the New England Patriots hat at draft night. This started with him beating out Newton for the starting job during the preseason. After winning the job, Jones and the Patriots came out the gate slowly, starting the season off with a 2-4 record, before winning seven straight games.
While the Patriots seven-game win streak ended abruptly by them losing two straight games to the Colts and the Bills, they clinched a playoff spot in Week 17 with a 50-10 beatdown of fellow rookie QB, Trevor Lawrence, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. This will be New England’s first playoff appearance since the 2019 season. Jones finished that game with 227 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. Patriots coach Bill Belichick had high praise for the rookie QB after making the playoffs.
“Mac is super consistent,” Belichick said. “Every day is really the same day for Mac. He’s always well prepared. He’s in early. He’s ready to go. He knows what we’re going to be doing, and he’s already got a head start on it. He maximizes the information that the coaches give him, maximizes the walkthroughs, the practice reps, and learns from whatever happens in those situations.”
In his first season as an NFL QB, Jones recorded 3,801 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, the prior two stats being a high among the rookie QBs in his draft class. Jones also finished with a completion percentage of 67.6, the second highest in NFL history for a rookie QB, only behind Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott’s rookie record of 67.8. Along with his great rookie completion percentage, Jones broke two franchise rookie records by becoming the first Patriots rookie to throw over 20 touchdowns and to throw for over 3,000 yards. With one of the top completion percentages all-time among rookie QBs, breaking franchise records as a rookie, and leading the Patriots to the playoffs in his first year, it’s safe to say that Jones will be at the helm of New England’s offense for the 2022 season.
Tua Tagovailoa: Even though the Miami Dolphins 2020 first-round pick finished his rookie season off 6-3 in games he started and barely missed the playoffs, Tua Tagovailoa’s name was swirled around in trade rumors all offseason last year, most notably for Texans QB Deshaun Watson. The team’s terrible start to the season didn’t help dispel any of these rumors, as the Dolphins started off with a 1-7 record, a stretch during which Tagovailoa suffered fractured ribs and was sidelined for three games.
Miami recovered from their 1-7 start by winning seven straight games, in which Tagovailoa played in six of them and led the league in completion percentage (70.1 percent) during that stretch. This win streak vaulted the Dolphins into the seventh seed in the AFC and in control of their playoff hopes, where they then lost 34-3 to the Titans in Week 17, ending their win streak and being eliminated from playoff contention. In the game, Tagovailoa turned the ball over twice, was sacked four times, and was held under a 50 percent completion percentage. “We’ve got to move on to the next game at this point,” Tagovailoa said. “We’ll look at the mistakes we’ve made, make some corrections, and move on.”
Though definitely a disappointing end to his playoff run, Tagovailoa still finished the season in the top 10 in completion percentage and got Miami over a .500 record (9-8) with their 33-24 win over New England in their regular season finale.
In his sophomore season in the NFL, Tagovailoa recorded 2,653 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. While Tagovailoa has had a strong showing in most of Miami’s wins this season, he likely hasn’t shown enough to his critics and maybe not even his organization to keep his name out of trade rumors again this upcoming offseason, especially if veteran QBs like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, both who were involved in trade speculations last offseason, put themselves back in the trade conversation again. It also doesn’t help his case that the other two top 10 QB picks in the 2020 draft in which Tagovailoa finds himself compared to the most, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, both passed for over 4,000 yards and over 30 touchdowns this season, with the prior leading his team to the playoffs.
Jalen Hurts: Like his former college teammate Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts entered the 2021 season with some speculation around whether he should start for the same team that drafted him (though unlike Tagovailoa, he wasn’t involved in any trade rumors). This was mainly because the new Philadelphia Eagles head coach, Nick Sirianni, was in no rush to name him as starter until after the preseason ended. Also, like Tagovailoa and Jones, Hurts and the Eagles started the season off slow with a 2-5 record through the first seven games, before recovering and winning 7 out of their last 10 games.
Though their division had already been won by the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles were still able to claim a wild card spot into the playoffs with their 20-16 win at Washington in Week 17, as well as with help from the Green Bay Packers knocking the Minnesota Vikings out of playoff contention that same day. This will be Philadelphia’s first playoff appearance since the 2019 season. “Jalen was awesome today,” Sirianni said after their win over Washington. “We all know he’s dealing with an ankle injury and fighting through it. He’s tough. This guy is so tough.”
In his sophomore season in the league, Hurts recorded 3,144 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He’s proven to be a true dual threat weapon as he’s also responsible for 784 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, the latter of which passes Michael Vick’s franchise rushing touchdown record in a single season for a QB. With leading the Eagles back to the playoffs in his first full season as a starter and showing signs of improvement as an NFL QB as the season went on, Hurts has most likely secured his spot as Philadelphia’s starting QB for the 2022 season.
The Patriots will play their wild card game in Buffalo against the Bills on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 3:30 p.m. CT on NBC. The Eagles will play their wild card game in Tampa against the Buccaneers on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 12 p.m. CT on FOX.