It's never a good sign when "Damn Tua", "Saban", and "Up 35-7" are all trending early on a Saturday afternoon.
The deadly trio added up on what could be a fateful weekend for both Tua Tagovailoa and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
With the Tide rolling to typical antics, up by the aforementioned four-possession lead on hapless Mississippi State, Tagovailoa remained in the game as the second quarter went on. The quarterback was already dealing with an ankle ailment, but a big hit after throwing a pass in Starkville forced a cart to take him to the locker room.
It's possible, especially with Alabama's College Football Playoff chances in legitimate jeopardy for the first time, that Tagovailoa will face some pressure to return to the Tuscaloosa field. But, this time, there should be no return.
Obviously, Tagovailoa would be welcomed back with open arms by the Tide's raucous fanbase. He's an instant Alabama football legend ever since that historic national title game against rival Georgia. Certainly happy homecomings await, as do numerous accolades on his way out.
Such endeavors should only tempt Tagovailoa to hang it up sooner.
Simply put, Tagovailoa has nothing left to prove. His professional acumen has been on display far too many times for the comfort of SEC competition. Yes, there would be perhaps no better storybook ending to a cherished college career than to whip up one last improbable postseason trip. But as we've seen with so many college-star-turned NFL-bust stories gone wrong, it's not worth it in the long-term.
Tagovailoa can move on knowing the program is in good shape. Personal safety must also take a priority. If Tagovailoa wants to keep it going in the NFL and take those professional risks...and there have been no indications that he would do otherwise...he must set himself up as best as he can.
Entering Saturday, Tagovailoa's odds of hearing his name called first at next spring's NFL Draft were already slimming. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who topped Tagovailoa in head-to-head combat last week in Tuscaloosa, has won over scouts and fans alike when it comes to the savior of either Miami or Cincinnati.
At this point, Tagovailoa is trending dangerously into Josh Rosen territory. Rosen displayed plenty of top pick potential at UCLA, but injury issues were his primary red flags in the unforgiving eyes of scouts. Rosen still went 10th overall in the 2018 draft, but saw a decrease in salary. He inked a $17.8 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Top pick Baker Mayfield, on the other hand, made $32.8 million...in guaranteed salary alone.
Tagovailoa will go down as a Crimson Tide hero. That's exactly why walking away now is the best move.