Jalen Hurts wanted to talk.
Glaringly obvious as Hurts spoke in the end zone at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday morning, he was frustrated over seven months of silence, an entire spring training where he didn’t get to state his case and a quiet summer that followed. Silently, he’s had to listen while everyone from his head coach to his father to media members who, like it or not, are going to fill the vacuum of silence with opinion and conjecture, gave their own take on the matter. And fans, so many fans, all of whom have a right to their opinion, but none of whom (and this is true of media members, too) have a direct insight into Hurts’ mind.
So, on Saturday, he spoke.
Hurts answered questions, but you could tell that the answers had been formulating long before the questions were asked. This clearly had been weighing on Hurts all summer. His answers were honest and emotional. They barely touched on the “battle” at the quarterback position with Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts has been through all that before. The battle he was describing on Saturday was not to be the No. 1 quarterback but, as he put it, “the Number One source” about himself.
We can all relate to frustration. Not many can relate to the frustration of being the No. 1 topic of conversation in an entire football-crazy state. That frustration was compounded because much of the speculation was that if Hurts didn’t win the competition, he would transfer or, as it has been put often enough, that he would quit. The second thing that was obvious on Saturday, through all his frustration, was that it stung Hurts to hear that he would walk out on his team, on the school from which he intends to graduate.
There was nothing wrong with Hurts facing the media on Saturday and giving direct, heartfelt answers to questions at a press conference. Alabama made him available — he didn’t go on a social media tirade or a secret crusade. He didn’t dodge or sidestep questions. You have to respect that.
The question becomes, was it wise? Will it help him “win the team?” Will it affect his position in the quarterback battle? How much weight does the ultimate decision-maker, Nick Saban, give to the comments from his starting quarterback for the past two years?
Will he treat the next 30 days as a “this will be settled on the field” situation? Or will the “don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself” edict that came after the “Tua Day” celebration in Hawaii — that was never directly mentioned, but the timing of Saban’s statement was pretty clear — now enter into the process?
This time, the “No. 1 source” is Saban. Did he feel like Hurts called him out for not asking his opinion in the spring, or for telling the assemblage at SEC Media Days ”I have no idea” if Hurts would be present for the start of practice? (To be fair, Saban’s very next words were “I expect him to be there,” but that didn’t ring out quite so loudly.) My expectation is that Saban will be less outraged than people think, but not every hurricane makes landfall where you think it will.
There’s a perfectly plausible scenario, and always has been, in which Saban chooses to play Tagovailoa based on his belief that Tagovailoa gives the Alabama team a better chance to win football games. All this off-the-field drama may be irrelevant.
But Jalen Hurts wanted to talk. He spoke what he felt in his heart. Perhaps that will come with a cost, as it often does.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.