Jalen Hurts spoke for himself: Why I respect him more than ever and what it means for Alabama
If your reaction to Jalen Hurts’ comments on Saturday involved the words “entitled” or “selfish,” I’m sorry. This isn’t the column for you.
If you want to rant about how much you opposed the Alabama quarterback finally breaking his silence, I’m sure there’s a medium on the internet where you can do that.
But if you actually want to hear about why Hurts’ thoughtful response was far from “entitled” and why it adds another complicated layer to this ever-evolving quarterback battle, I’ve got you covered.
In case you missed it Saturday, this is the quote that’s had the college football world buzzing:
👀👀👀👀@JalenHurts: "No one came up to me the whole spring, coaches included, no one asked me how I felt. No one asked me what was on my mind. … Now when we're trying to handle the situation now, for me it's kinda late. It's too late. The narrative has already been created." pic.twitter.com/adJS7UxmdL
— Alex Byington (@_AlexByington) August 4, 2018
Those were words from Hurts’ mouth. Not his dad, not Nick Saban, not teammates at SEC Media Days. Hurts. And man, did those words carry a lot of weight.
It would’ve been easy for Hurts to stand in front of the media for the first time in a long time, and simply do what Saban asked the Alabama quarterbacks to do. That is, “don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself.” Had Hurts simply come out with a canned answer about “looking forward to competing” or “I’m just focused on what I have to improve every day,” he would’ve he achieved that.
Instead, he broke his silence about Saban’s silence. Clearly, it bothered him that Saban spoke publicly about Hurts’ future without discussing it with, you know, Hurts. It was the elephant in the room, and Saban either grossly underestimated Hurts’ awareness of the situation, or he chose the path of least resistance in order to keep his hand as close to the vest as possible. It could be a little bit of both.
One thing is for sure. Nothing Hurts said Saturday was in an effort to please his head coach. And was it disrespectful? Not really.
You know what’s disrespectful? Not communicating with the quarterback who went 25-2 and led the program to consecutive national titles to start his career. To think that Hurts is “entitled” for asking for an adult conversation from Saban after getting benched in the biggest game of his career is, well, childish.
Instead, Saban communicated to the media how it was our fault that the Alabama quarterback situation has been such a massive storyline this offseason. Right, because what happened with Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa in the national championship should have gotten the same attention as who will win the job at free safety.
This situation is far bigger than that, and Hurts at least acknowledged that much. He spoke as an individual, and not as some trained robot who spat out whatever response Alabama programmed him to say.
The ripple effect of Hurts’ attitude is somewhat obvious. He’s not going to sit there and accept a backup role the rest of his career. Comments like that suggest that if he’s not starting at Alabama in 2018, he’ll spend his remaining eligibility elsewhere. What Saban said Hurts told him about “I graduated in December and I’m going to be here” needed some clarification.
That was after Saban said at SEC Media Days that he expected Hurts to be on Alabama’s roster on opening day, but it wasn’t said as an absolute. That surprised Hurts.
“Why (transfer) when you’re 15 hours away (from graduating)?” Hurts said on Saturday.
In other words, Hurts plans on being enrolled at Alabama until he graduates in December, whether he’s the starter or not. That would mean he’d have at least a year of eligibility remaining and that he’d be allowed to transfer and play elsewhere in 2019. He’d have 2 years of eligibility remaining if he didn’t exceed the new 4-game redshirt threshold.
On the surface, that might put Alabama fans’ minds at ease. Their win-win scenario might be Tagovailoa starting with Hurts as the backup playing in fewer than 4 games. Hurts doesn’t burn a year of eligibility and Alabama gets the best backup quarterback in college football for an entire season.
But that’s not as “win-win” as it might sound.
As I explained before, I’m not convinced Hurts will be on board for this new redshirt rule. Where’s the upside for him to agree to playing fewer than 4 games in 2018 when he wants to play in all of them? And on the flip side, where’s the upside in Alabama agreeing to do that? There’s nothing that would prevent Alabama from playing Hurts in a backup role for more than 4 games with any regard for Hurts’ extra year of eligibility.
And as for doing some sort of constant rotation between the quarterbacks, that doesn’t seem like it’ll happen, either:
Saban once again suggests the idea of potentially playing both QBs (Hurts & Tagovailoa), then completely shoots down a question about whether or not the team might look into working a two-quarterback system: "We haven't done it at all."
— Alex Byington (@_AlexByington) August 4, 2018
There’s another scenario that could play out. I’m not saying it will, but if it did, the people calling Hurts “entitled” and “selfish” would probably lose their voices.
If he doesn’t start the first couple games of the season and it’s clear that Tagovailoa is the guy — that’s what it seems to be trending toward — Hurts could leave the program. That’s not transferring. That’s leaving the team and finishing those 15 credit hours with 2 years of eligibility remaining to use at his next school. Immediately.
What’s the upside in that for Hurts? He makes sure that Alabama doesn’t burn a year of his eligibility to play meaningless snaps.
Technically, everything that’s been said about Hurts this offseason, including his own comments, would still line up in that scenario. He’d be on the roster opening day and graduate from Alabama in December (what he and Saban said), and he wouldn’t stick around to be anyone’s backup (what his dad said).
Would that ruffle a ton of feathers? Absolutely. Would Hurts leave Alabama on extremely awkward terms if he up and left midseason? For sure. Am I predicting that this is exactly how this will all play out? Not necessarily, though I think after hearing Hurts’ comments Saturday, anyone assuming that Hurts is going to quietly march to the beat of Alabama’s drum is mistaken.
What Hurts said Saturday showed his recognition of the power he has. He might not be considered the favorite to win the starting job, but he’s plenty aware of his situation and the options he has because of what he accomplished the past 2 years:
“With the success that I've had here in my first two years, I've built a brand for myself and I've tried to represent this university in the best way I can.” — Jalen Hurts
And no one can say otherwise. He could have fanned flames on social, but waited, gave a thoughtful response
— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) August 4, 2018
Hurts has a brand, and it’s OK to acknowledge that without saying he’s bigger than the university. He knows better than anyone that at Alabama, there’s always someone ready to come in and take over.
Saturday was not about an “entitled” college athlete throwing a coaching staff under the bus. It was about Hurts finally adding his chapter to his narrative.
And boy, did he ever.