I’ll be honest. When I read Matt Hayes’ story on Jalen Hurts and his ultimatum, it took me by surprise.

I didn’t expect to see Hurts’ father basically declare that if his son isn’t named Alabama’s starting quarterback, he’d transfer.

On the surface, it wouldn’t be very surprising to see a comment like that about an accomplished quarterback transferring after being beat out by a younger signal-caller. It’s 2018. That happens all the time.

But I, as I’m sure others did, thought there was a decent chance that Hurts would flirt with the idea of a position switch if he didn’t beat out Tua Tagovailoa. That, according to Hurts’ father, isn’t going to happen.

This excerpt from Hayes’ story said a lot:

“Coach (Nick) Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”

Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?

He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.”

It’s probably what you’d expect a father to say in that spot. Of course he’s going to look out for his son’s best interest, especially when his son is 26-2 having led the nation’s top program to consecutive national title berths in his first 2 seasons.

But why? Why make a comment like that now? And how could a comment like that impact how Alabama’s quarterback battle unfolds moving forward?

Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s tackle the “why” first because that sort of sets up how this thing could play out. Why Hurts’ father would go on record and basically give Saban an ultimatum might seem like hover-dad material. I’m not so sure it is. In fact, it feels calculated.

Obviously Hurts (Jalen, that is) isn’t going to say something like that to a reporter after a spring practice. That wouldn’t benefit him in any way.

But Hurts isn’t responsible for what his dad says to the media. He can keep his hands clean of the situation even though he could have been the real voice behind his father’s comments. I’d be stunned to learn that Hurts was as surprised by his dad’s comments as I was.

So why float something out there in mid-April? Both big and little Hurts probably want Saban to show his hand after they showed their’s. Saban hasn’t had to show his hand because Tagovailoa’s injury put the constant quarterback battle conversation on the back burner this spring.

In Hurts’ perfect world, he has clarity well before fall camp. If Hurts transfers now or anytime in the next few months, he likely would have to sit out 2018 (there is a proposal to make transfers in good academic standing eligible immediately, but it would need to be approved). Even if he couldn’t play in 2018, Hurts still would have 2 years of eligibility remaining.

If Saban doesn’t name a starter until the season opener and Hurts is still on the roster, he has a trickier decision.

He could leave midseason and hope that he doesn’t burn a year of eligibility in 2018. Or, he could wait until season’s end until he transfers. As Hayes outlined in the story, Hurts will graduate from Alabama in December. Either way, worst case, he’d be a graduate transfer and eligible to play immediately in 2019. The down side if he plays in 2018 is that he’d only have one year of eligibility remaining.

Yeah, this thing gets complicated if Hurts is still on Alabama’s roster when the 2018 season starts.

The question now is how does Saban react to this news? He really doesn’t have to say or do anything different in the meantime because of Tagovailoa’s injury. But now, even the idea of having Hurts stay to play another position is out the window. If he isn’t Alabama’s opening day starter, he could — ironically enough — do what Blake Barnett did and transfer in September. That appears to be a perfectly realistic scenario, no matter how much Saban tries to prevent it.

Hurts’ father’s comments could also result in Alabama’s push to add a graduate transfer quarterback this summer getting turned up to 11. At least it should.

The great wild card in all of this is Tagovailoa’s health. If he doesn’t make a full recovery by fall camp, Saban obviously won’t have to sell Hurts on staying. That could be the break that Hurts needs to reclaim his starting job.

Even Hurts’ dad admitted that this only happened because his son opened the door with a poor performance in the first half of the national championship. Now, Hurts could be one more Tagovailoa hand setback away from that door swinging wide open.

We might have gotten an ultimatum from the Hurts camp on Thursday, but this story is still far from over. It has more moving pieces than Saban probably wants to deal with.

Unfortunately for him, it looks like one of those pieces moved one step closer to leaving Tuscaloosa.