Alabama football: Mac Jones is not just a game manager -- he is a winner
Back what seems like a zillion years ago, there was a slightly doughy, slightly balding, not particularly impressive-looking quarterback who somehow sliced and diced SEC defenses en route to a Heisman Trophy and a national championship.
That quarterback’s name was Danny Wuerffel. All he did at Florida was throw touchdowns and win football games, all while inaccurately having the “game manager” label attached to his talents.
Mac Jones isn’t Wuerffel, in that Jones has the body of a Greek god by comparison. But what Jones and the Alabama Crimson Tide did to Auburn on Saturday — and have done to the SEC all season — is reminiscent of how Wuerffel and the Gators dominated 24 years ago.
Which is why we feel confident to make the following statement: Mac Jones will both win the Heisman and lead Alabama to their 18th national title.
No, we haven’t bumped our heads and missed Kyle Trask going crazy in Gainesville. Or Trevor Lawrence and the best hair in college football making Pitt look silly in his return from COVID-19 protocol. It’s just that the Heisman historically goes to the best player on the best team in college football.
It’s that Jones has proven himself thoroughly, most recently with the 42-13 dissection of No. 22 Auburn in the 85th Iron Bowl, but in reality at every possible opportunity in 2020.
Jones torched Little Brother for 302 passing yards and 5 touchdowns on a crisp 18-of-26 afternoon. That equals an absurd 230.3 passer rating, and it gave Jones 2,728 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. Jones has completed an absurd 76.2 percent of his passes in 2020 and has thrown just 3 interceptions.
“I thought Mac played really, really well,” Tide head coach Nick Saban said to CBS via teleconference after Rammer Jammer rang through Bryant-Denny Stadium. “When we look at the film, we will always see things to do better, and that’s what we will focus on moving toward to improve. But Mac certainly made the plays he needed to make today. There were a lot of positives out there for us today.”
In the lead-up to Saturday’s Iron Bowl, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix — perhaps inadvertently, perhaps throwing some shade — referred to Jones ‘ skill-set thusly: “He does a great job managing the game, getting the ball to the players around him. Obviously he’s got a great running back, great offensive line, great receivers.”
Unlike Nix, who earned the surname Pix on Saturday by chucking 2 interceptions and 5 fewer touchdown passes than did Jones, the junior managed the heck out of Alabama’s offense in the destruction. Jones connected with 5 different receivers, including DeVonta Smith celebrating Senior Day with a 7-catch, 171-yard effort that included 2 touchdowns.
Absent 2 Auburn sacks, Jones spent the majority of the proceedings upright and able to find the open receiver time after time after time. And Alabama’s offense rolled up 445 total yards on just 53 plays — averaging a robust 8.4 yards PER PLAY.
So yeah, Jones managed the game Saturday. After all, isn’t that kind of the quarterback’s job?
Just as Wuerffel was a product of Steve Spurrier’s Fun ‘n’ Gun system, and Tua Tagovailoa was a product of Alabama’s system the past 3 seasons, Jones is a product of Alabama’s current system. Tide offensive coordinator/Saturday’s interim head coach Steve Sarkisian has dialed in Jones’ play so accurately that it often feels like they are thinking with 1 mind.
Now that That School Down The Road has been dispatched and state supremacy has been restored to the rightful order, next week’s much-anticipated rematch against defending national champion LSU looms next for Jones and the Crimson Tide. Should Alabama win that one, Alabama will clinch their 15th trip to Atlanta to play the SEC East winner for the conference title.
Presuming it is Trask (2,810 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) and Florida on the other sideline, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will likely end up being a Trask vs. Jones runoff for ol’ Mr. Stiff Arm. And unlike other Georgia elections, that outcome will most decidedly be won by in-person balloting.
That’s some ifs and buts, we know. But because we’ve watched enough football to reasonably see what is coming, it is fair to say this: Mac Jones has the potential to do what NO OTHER QUARTERBACK IN ALABAMA HISTORY HAS DONE.
Not Namath, Barker or Starr. Not McCarron, McElroy or Tagovailoa.
None of them has done what Jones has in front of him.
Win the Heisman and the national championship.
Jones has what it takes — that elusive combination of talent, moxie, weapons and good fortune — to cash in the most elusive of Daily Doubles and stock Bryant Museum with even more bronze and crystal.
Mac Jones is a game manager. Mac Jones is a championship-caliber quarterback. Mac Jones is a winner.
And Mac Jones could very well end 2020 — a year and a season no one will ever forget — as the best quarterback in Alabama Crimson Tide history.