Bama Bowl – why the Dolphins and Eagles will meet in the super bowl
Nick Saban left his role as Head Coach with the Miami Dolphins to become the Alabama Head Coach 16 years ago. Having famously said, “I’m not going to become Alabama coach” just weeks earlier. So understandingly he’s still vilified by many ‘Phins fans. But this season is looking like becoming a bit of a Saban redemption story on the streets of South Beach. 10 years after the coach left he recruited a young Polynesian Quarterback from Hawai’i to Tuscaloosa. Where they would combine for an incredibly successful three seasons. Now, three years later that Quarterback is starting in Miami and Tagovailoa is undefeated in 2022.
Meanwhile 1,190 miles from Miami in Pennsylvania Jalen Hurts is here to remind everyone that Tua is not the only 24-year-old NFL Quarterback who had successful seasons in Alabama under Saban. He played in big Playoff games in 2017 and 2018. Hurts’ Eagles have only lost one game in 2022. Which is not the only similarity between the Dolphins and Eagles’ Offences. Both have big name Wide Receivers on big contracts. Tyreek Hill in Miami and A.J Brown in Philly.
Both have Alabama receivers who played with their Quarterbacks in College. DeVonta Smith with Hurts and Jaylen Waddle with Tua. Both have multiple Running Backs sharing the workload in the backfield. With Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert in Florida. And Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott doing most of the Running Back work for the Eagles. (Although Hurts has carried 94 times this season and three other players have recorded rushing yards for Philly).
Anyone who believes in fate (and if you’ve been watching the 2022 NFL season you must be questioning what’s left of your belief in free-will by now) must have at least wondered about the possibility of Tua and Jalen Hurts meeting in a Super Bowl. Those of us who consider ourselves old romantics would love to see it happen in 2022.
Technically the Dolphins are second in the AFC. They have lost three games while the Chiefs have only lost twice. But they have both won seven games. And, notably, when Tua has started and finished games in 2022 they are undefeated. Hurts’ Eagles only loss this season was week 10 to divisional rivals the Washington Commanders. When they turned the ball over four times in a game. After only turning the ball over nine times during the first nine weeks of the season. If the season ended today they would obviously both have homefield advantage in the playoffs. Plus the Eagles would have a bye week to boot.
The potential first round matchup for the Dolphins would be the Chargers (who they will play in week 14). The Bolts are currently allowing their opponents to score more than 25 points per game. So the Dolphins Offence should be too much for them to handle. Their second-round opponent would be trickier. As the Titans should potentially beat an erratic Bills in the first round. Particulalry as Mike Vrabel’s charges seem to be finding some form and the Bills seem to be battling important injuries. Unless there are some very important injuries the AFC Championship game should see McDaniel and Tua square off against Reid and Mahomes. On the surface that appears every bit as entertaining as the Chiefs matchup with the Bengals was last season.
The Eagles route to the Super Bowl appears much more benign as the NFC isn’t exactly full of explosive Offences. In fact the Giants and 49ers have similar strengths to the Eagles. They aren’t afraid to lean heavily on the run game. Which is something that the Cowboys and Seahawks could learn from. It’s really just the Buccaneers who have the personnel that would suit an Offensive game plan that relies heavily on passing and that could score a lot of points quickly. Philadelphia’s Bye week would mean they would meet either Tampa Bay or the Giants in the Divisional round and an Eagles v Giants matchup in the postseason would be absolutely electric (and quite likely if the Buccaneers cruel injury bug continues to bite).
Their likely NFC Championship opponents would be the Vikings. Who the Eagles have already defeated this season. But who are also making a habit of winning absolute nail biters. So that one would probably go down to the wire but the Eagles turnover ratio of 1:7 (they turnover possession once for every 7 takeaways they make) seems pretty tough for any opponent to overcome (even if three Eagles pass catchers did cough up possession three times in week 10).
Ever since that fateful 2018 NCAA Championship game when Tua replaced Hurts at halftime and guided the Crimson Tide to the title these two special talents’ have been intertwined. In 2019 Hurts returned the favour when Tua’s hand injury allowed him to step in 10 minutes from the end of the Orange Bowl to turn a 28-21 deficit into a 35-28 win. Three Alabama Quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl (Bart Starr won twice in ‘66 and ‘67 before they were even called Super Bowls). But the last one was Ken Stabler way back in 1976. So it’s about time another one did.
Banner Image: Jalen Hurts & Tua Tagovailoa celebrate in Alabama colours. Image from sbnation.com