This might cause a bit of a stir. Or kerfluffle, if you will.
Prior to Monday night’s College Football Playoff championship game, Tua Tagovailoa had seen as much meaningful action this season as I had — none. Then, with Alabama trailing Georgia 13-0 at halftime, Nick Saban yanked starter Jalen Hurts in favor of Tagovailoa and the rest is history, with the true freshman quarterback leading a second-half comeback that culminated in an overtime win punctuated by Tagovailoa’s walk-off, title-winning touchdown pass.
Tagovailoa’s beyond-his-years play was a stunning revelation for most of the country, already leading to speculation that the job is the freshman’s moving forward and Hurts, 26-2 as the starter, could be headed out of Tuscaloosa as a transfer. One who was not stunned by Tagovailoa’s primetime revelation was Scott Frost; so much so, in fact, that the Nebraska head coach — and former head coach of the “other” 2017 national champions — took a swipe Saban and his coaching staff for failing to realize earlier in the season that Tagovailoa was the better option at quarterback.
“It was a decision I don’t know I would have been courageous enough to make. That’s the answer you want to hear,” Frost told ESPN.com prior to winning the Bear Bryant Award Wednesday night.
“The other answer is that [Tagovailoa] was pretty obviously better and they had 12 games to figure that out and didn’t. Coach Saban is above criticism with everything he’s accomplished, so I don’t mean it that way, but I recruited Tua out of high school and knew what he could do and it doesn’t surprise me that he did what he did. Jalen’s a great player, too. That was a very bold and courageous move and I’m surprised it didn’t happen earlier [in the season].”
Damn with faint praise much?
Frost, as he noted, has a connection to Tagovailoa, one that could cause some to question the coach’s own judgment and evaluation skills when it comes to the phenom.
Tagovailoa grew up idolizing fellow Hawaiian Marcus Mariota and desperately wanted to follow in the Heisman Trophy winner’s footsteps at Oregon. During Tagovailoa’s recruitment as a high school a freshman and then sophomore in 2013/2014, Frost, as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, was part of Mark Helfrich‘s staff at Oregon that failed to offer the prospect a scholarship despite said prospect practically begging for one.
“It wasn’t until approximately 18 months later — after Oregon secured and then lost the commitment of four-star quarterback Ryan Kelley and Tagovailoa committed to Alabama — that Frost and Oregon coach Mark Helfrich deemed Tagovailoa worthy of a scholarship,” the Oregonian wrote, adding, “12-game season vs. 18 months? Saban has Frost beat by a full calendar year in the ‘recognizing Tagovailoa’s talent’ game.”
[Insert Kelso burn GIF here]
It should be noted that Frost left UO on Dec. 1 of 2015 to take the head-coaching job at UCF; the Ducks finally offered Tagovailoa on June 11, 2016, one month after he had committed to the Crimson Tide. Alabama had offered Tagovailoa a scholarship in March of 2016.
And Helfrich? He was fired a little over five months after offering Tagovailoa and less than a year after Saban won his fifth national championship. Saban, of course, won his record-tying sixth title earlier this week, thanks in large part to Tagovailoa ‘s heroics.