In an age of hyperbole, grand pronouncements can get lost in the wash.

The term “Greatest Of All-Time” is tossed around so loosely these days that there are more GOATs in sports than at a petting zoo. This noise makes it harder to recognize when we actually are watching someone who is the greatest.

Someone like Bryce Young.

If Young can orchestrate Alabama’s second win over Georgia’s defense in 3 games, he will already have the résumé to be crowned the greatest quarterback in Crimson Tide history. And that’s a whole lot of history.

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Young vs. the old-timers

The first argument against anointing Young as Alabama’s best quarterback is the most obvious: There are 3 former Crimson Tide quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But what Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler went on to do in the pro ranks shouldn’t factor into how we assess their time in Tuscaloosa.

Starr only started his sophomore season at Alabama. Namath led Bama to a national title in 1964 but placed 11th in Heisman voting. His career totals of 25 touchdowns and 19 interceptions over 3 seasons don’t jump off the charts today. Stabler didn’t win a title — though the Tide were undefeated his junior year — and threw an even 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in his career.

Unlike baseball, football does not lend well to comparing across eras. The game continually evolves. So it’s a tad unfair to apply modern standards to players from the ’50s and ’60s.

But that doesn’t make the following statistic any less mind-blowing.

Bryce Young has thrown more touchdown passes (46) in 14 games than Namath and Stabler combined (43) in their 6 seasons from 1962-67.

Young vs. the young guns

Alabama is in its greatest quarterback cycle since the 1960-70s, when Richard Todd followed Namath and Stabler’s footsteps and turned into a future NFL starter.

Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones have all won national championships. And for the moment, those rings are the only thing they’ve got on Young, who is already the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy.

Hurts deserves credit for starting Bama’s modern revolution at the position. Yet as impressive as he usually was, Young could surpass or equal Hurts’ career mark of 48 touchdown passes at Alabama by halftime of the National Championship Game.

Tagovailoa was so good that he seemed like the standard by which every following Alabama quarterback would be measured.

His legend started when he replaced the benched Hurts at halftime, leading the Tide past Georgia for the 2017 national title. The next 2 seasons were impossibly great — 43 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2018 followed by 33 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in 2019. The only things missing from that résumé are a Heisman and a national championship in either of the seasons where Tagovailoa was Alabama’s full-time starter.

A national championship is the piece that allowed Jones to lay claim to having the best individual season in Alabama history.

In his lone season as starter, Jones completed 77.3% of his passes in throwing for precisely 4,500 yards (a record Young just broke) along with 41 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. Surely Mac was now wearing the crown of greatest Bama quarterback.

Just a year later, Young is on the verge of snatching it.

He already has edged out Jones with 4,503 yards and 46 touchdowns, though in fairness he had 1 more game to get there.

And, of course, Young’s not all the way there yet. There’s still a massive hurdle ahead.

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Owning Georgia’s defense would be a clincher

Alabama’s 2020 offense was historically great. You can’t say the same thing about any of the defenses the Crimson Tide faced.

Kentucky had the best pass defense of any team that played Alabama last season. The Wildcats were 54th in the country with an average of 224.6 passing yards allowed per game. It sounds impossible. Especially since the Crimson Tide romped to a 63-3 win over those Cats. But it’s true.

Whereas Jones didn’t face a single top-50 pass defense, Young is taking on a top-5 defense for the third consecutive game.

Cincinnati’s pass defense ranks 2nd nationally with 169.2 yards per game allowed, and the Bearcats proved it by being the only team to hold Young under 240 yards this season. He threw for 181 yards and 3 touchdowns in Bama’s 27-6 Cotton Bowl win.

Georgia comes into the CFP championship game ranked 5th nationally against the pass. Young, who was 1 of just 2 quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards on the Bulldogs and the only one to exceed 400, is a big reason they aren’t ranked even higher.

Given the degree of difficulty in navigating the final 3 games of this year’s schedule, a win would clinch the argument that Young is Alabama’s best-ever quarterback.

A loss? There would still be some work to do. But Young is in position to do it.

2022 should be special

The thing that should most excite Alabama fans — and frustrate the rest of the SEC — is that this was supposed to be a “rebuilding” year for the Crimson Tide after losing 2 players who finished in the top-3 of the Heisman vote.

This group theoretically hasn’t peaked yet.

Young will be back for another season, and pretty much the entire Alabama record book will have his name in the lead for most passing statistics.

Young is already more than halfway to AJ McCarron’s career passing total of 9,019 yards. Tagovailoa’s career total of 87 touchdowns is also in reach. And on top of that, he’ll have a chance to do something only 1 player in college football history has accomplished: win a second Heisman Trophy.

It seems inevitable that at some point we’ll be calling Bryce Young Alabama’s greatest quarterback.

A championship win over Georgia will allow us to start doing so right away.


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