Tua Tagovailoa is widely regarded as one of the best college quarterbacks of this decade, definitely the best Alabama quarterback of all time, and could have been the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft even after going down with a hip injury halfway through his 2019 season. His resume after two seasons and change as the Crimson Tide's starter is just that impressive.
Impressive to everyone but Chris Simms, that is. Simms was on his hot take game today when he went on WEEI to say he believes Jarrett Stidham is more talented than Tagovailoa. This is not the first time Simms has expressed strong doubt that everyone's high opinion of Tagovailoa is justified. It is hard to understand why!
Simms said today that Tagovailoa is a "creation" of Alabama, and players like Stidham or Justin Herbert would have had just as much success in college if they were surrounded by the talent Tagovailoa was. In that same interview, he elaborated further on those thoughts:
"“The difference between Tua and Joe Burrow is when I evaluated them, Joe Burrow makes way more high-level, NFL-type throws — people not open, protection not good, he still makes a play. You have a hard time finding that on any of Tua’s tapes. I don’t give Tua credit when I go, ‘He threw the five-yard slant to a wide-open guy and he ran 80 yards. Woah, he’s so amazing. He’s the only guy who can do that.’ Or like the three receivers on the right all run across the formation and pick for the backfield, the back coming out of the backfield, and he throws a four-yard pass to the only guy who it was intended for on the play and we all go, ‘Look at the quarterback play by Tua.’ That is the perfect example of what you’re doing for me there. You’re giving all the accolades, Alabama kicks the crap out of everybody for the last 15 years with all these quarterbacks, but now you want to tell me Tua is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I don’t agree with that.""
Before the NFL Draft, Simms had Tagovailoa ranked fourth among all quarterbacks in this year's class, behind Burrow, Herbert, and Jordan Love. Most had Tagovailoa behind Burrow for health reasons, but almost nobody had Herbert and Love over Tagovailoa. In an interview with Pro Football Talk coworker Mike Florio in late March, he explained why:
""Listen, I like Tua, there's a lot to like. And yes, accurate thrower, good athlete, can move in the pocket certainly, makes good decisions, not a guy who's going to throw a lot of interceptions, sees the field well, all that .But I'm not necessarily sure, sitting here, going, 'Ooh, the way he plays, the style of play is going to translate to the NFL.' He's fast, but he's not real fast... His size is an issue to me. Yes, his injury history is an issue to me. But his size, his ability to throw in the pocket with people around him, make big throws down the middle of the field with linemen in his face, you're not going to see that. It's a good arm, but it's not a great arm. And again, I think you have to be careful when watching Alabama. It's a very good offense schematically, and it's got some of the best talent you're going to find." "
After the NFL Draft, Simms has gradually released his ranking of the top 40 quarterbacks in the NFL heading into 2020. He had Tagovailoa ranked dead last at No. 40. That's behind Taysom Hill, for crying out loud. Taysom Hill, who has thrown all of seven NFL passes! Simms cited the same reasoning for the decision:
"“Do I have my concerns if he will be worthy of that top-five pick, and be a guy that can carry a football team on his shoulders and make plays when nothing has happened and all those things? Yes, I’m very concerned about that. But at the very least, I know he’s got the talent to play in the league,” Simms said during the Pro Football Talk radio show Tuesday. "Am I concerned a little bit by the fact that he got overhyped because he got credit for the Alabama machine? Yes, certainly. Am I concerned about his injury history and those things? You know it, yes I am. But regardless, there’s talent here.”"
Simms' central issues are twofold: the injury history and the talent Tagovailoa had in common. The injury concerns are valid. But it's hard to understand why he's so heavily pushing the narrative that Tagovailoa's stock was "overhyped" because of the stacked Alabama roster.
That talent did make Tagovailoa look better, sure. But it's not like he put up middling numbers. He threw 87 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his college career. In his Stidham discussion, Simms said Alabama has been walking over teams for 15 years "with all these quarterbacks" and suddenly Tagovailoa is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But you only need to have eyes to know that he's the best of the bunch, and he only started two seasons' worth of games.
A.J. McCarron was a four-year starter and threw 10 less touchdowns and four more interceptions. Greg McElroy also started for four years and threw a total of 39 touchdowns with nearly 2,000 yards less passing. Jalen Hurts is the only Nick Saban-era quarterback who approached Tagovailoa's numbers in a similar amount of starts, and Tagovailoa replaced him because he was much better!
Contrarian opinions get the people going and lead to articles like this, but Simms has picked a bizarre hill to defend with all his might.