How Tua Tagovailoa’s Injury Could Be a Good Thing for the Young Star
Tua Tagovailoa is out for the season with a dislocated hip and a posterior wall fracture. Unless Tagovailoa unexpectedly returns for his senior season, Saturday was his final game at Alabama.
The injury will undoubtedly scare plenty of general managers who will be selecting near the top of this year’s NFL Draft, as this most recent injury will require Tagovailoa to have his fourth surgery in two years. However, if Tagovailoa makes a full recovery as expected, and he happens to fall to the back end of the first round, this injury is a blessing in disguise.
Sure, if Tagovailoa falls to the back half of first round, then his signing bonus for his rookie contract could be at least $15 million less than that of the first pick. The richest NFL quarterbacks, however, make most of their money through their second contract and beyond after being developed by excellent coaches in well-run organizations.
The five highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL right now are Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Nick Foles. The highest draft pick mong that group was Rodgers at 24th overall and he sat behind Brett Favre for three years before playing.
Wilson inherited Pete Carroll and an all-time great defense during his rookie contract before blossoming into the superstar quarterback he is today. Roethlisberger was drafted by arguably the smartest organization in the league at the time. Brees spent the first five years of his career in San Diego, but then went to New Orleans and inherited Sean Payton and subsequently became one of the most accurate passers in NFL history. And Foles benefited from having Doug Pedersen and an elite offensive line in Philadelphia during his Super Bowl run, which landed him a huge contract in Jacksonville.
In 2019, the NFL leaders in total total quarterback rating (QBR) are Patrick Mahomes, Wilson, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. None of them were top-10 picks, other than Mahomes, but Kansas City traded up 17 spots to select him. Mahomes then sat behind a seasoned veteran in Alex Smith for a year, learned from Andy Reid and inherited elite pass catchers like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen were all selected ahead of Jackson in the top-10 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Mayfield has regressed dramatically in his second year under a first-year head coach in the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL, Darnold is still wildly inconsistent for a poorly run New York Jets team and Rosen looks like a complete bust after 20 career appearances with the hapless Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins.
Meanwhile, Jackson is now the MVP frontrunner under an extremely well-run organization in Baltimore with an elite head coach in John Harbaugh, who has perfectly built the Ravens around Jackson’s skillset.
There’s no chance Jackson would be this good with the Browns or Jets. In the NFL, more than any league, structure and coaching matter.
There is no all-time great NFL quarterback that did not have a competent coach and general manager. Young quarterbacks need to be supported by smart front offices and coaches that will build around their skillset to help them reach their potential.
There is a reason that teams like the Dolphins, Redskins, Bengals, Jets, Buccaneers, Lions, Browns and Jaguars are consistently drafting high in the first round. It’s not necessarily because they are choosing the wrong quarterback, but more so that their organizations are trying to force them into their system rather than building a system around their skillset.
With Tagovailoa’s injury, LSU’s Joe Burrow is now the heavy favorite to go No. 1 in the 2020 NFL Draft to most likely the Bengals or Dolphins. If you’re Burrow, you would be better off sliding to a more well-run organization like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Carolina, or New England rather than a dysfunctional franchsie with a high draft pick like the Bengals or Dolphins.
Tagovailoa’s injury history is troublesome, but he is a Hall of Fame-level talent under center. If he makes a full recovery and is lucky enough to fall in the draft, the hip injury he suffered on Saturday could be a blessing in disguise.
Will Desautelle is a senior majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Spanish