When the Miami Dolphins take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night in a matchup of two of the NFL’s best teams, there will be one certainty: Tua Tagovailoa cannot replace Jalen Hurts at halftime.
Kickoff begins at 8:20 p.m. ET and can be viewed on your local NBC channel, as well as on the Peacock streaming app and ours Live broadcast.
Tagovailoa and Hurts are among the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. Hurts, 25, was the MVP runner-up a year ago when he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. The 25-year-old Tagovailoa thrived under coach Mike McDaniel’s system and broke out this year in 2022, setting career highs in passing touchdowns, passing yards and passer rating.
But the QBs competing against each other for the first time in the NFL will forever be linked by their tenures under coach Nick Saban at Alabama.
More specifically, the national championship game of the 2017 season, when Saban benched Hurts, who had led the Crimson Tide to two national title games, at halftime and replaced him with Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa was a freshman who had been playing mostly mop-up duty when he came off the bench and threw three touchdown passes to give the Crimson Tide their fifth national championship.
Oh, and the play that sparked the comeback? Tagovailoa’s 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith, the 1,110-yard wideout from a year ago when he reunited with Hurts.
Tagovailoa, who led the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes, remained the starter at Alabama the following season. However, Hurts led the Crimson Tide to a win in the SEC Championship Game when Tagovailoa was sidelined with an injury. Hurts later transferred to Oklahoma for his final season.
Miami selected Tagovailoa fifth overall in the 2020 draft, while the Eagles secured Hurts in the second round with the 53rd pick.
Now they lead teams that are both 5-1 and considered Super Bowl contenders.
“I know it’s going to be a good game and I don’t look at it as a preview of the Super Bowl or anything like that,” Tagovailoa said. “I just think this is another team we’re preparing for and in order for us to get where we want to go, we have to play this game.”
Saban said this week that he never felt there were any simmering issues between Tagovailoa and Hurts, even as they competed for one of college football’s top spots.
“I’ve never had two really, really good players at the same position that actually supported each other like these two guys supported each other when they were here,” Saban said. “I think it comes from mutual respect and both guys being great teammates and putting the team above their own personal feelings. One player had a 26-2 performance as a starter and was replaced by another player to back him up for an entire year. And when that guy got hurt, he went in and won the game.”
Saban said he believes Hurts improved more as a passer in the year he played behind Tagovailoa than in his years as a starter.
“The psychological support they gave each other in every situation, I think, is really special, and I’m sure they have the same feeling for each other,” Saban said. “I know they are both great competitors, so they will do what they have to do for their team. But I think both guys will have mutual respect.”
Both QBs were respectful of the other, although in the heat of competition neither necessarily raved about their rival.
“It was great to see what he was able to accomplish throughout his career,” Hurts said.
Tagovailoa added: “I have a lot of respect for Jalen. He’s been a great competitor since I got there at Alabama. He’s been a special player since I’ve been there and he’s been a special player his entire college career.”
RAMSEY COMES BACK
Dolphins All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey practiced Wednesday for the first time since undergoing surgery in July to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Ramsey, who suffered the injury in the second practice of training camp, will not play Sunday, but McDaniel said the team is optimistic Ramsey will return soon.
“He told us before his surgery that he was going to – he kept telling me he was an alien,” McDaniel said. “So I’m starting to believe him. And it’s a cool thing for such an established player who is at his best to have the whole team see how you attack things.”
The Dolphins have until November 7th to activate Ramsey to the 53-man roster.
Miami currently boasts the 20th ranked defense in the league, allowing 343.7 yards per game.
The Dolphins’ five wins this season have come against teams with an overall record of 5-24. The only team they have a winning record against is Buffalo (4-2). Miami lost that game 48-20.
Tagovailoa said Sunday’s match could be a litmus test.
“I think it’s always good when you play a team that went to the Super Bowl where they came up just short of winning,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s always a test to play against a team like this who knows what’s important. They know the work it takes to get there. And it’s definitely a good opportunity to see where our team is and where we’re at with it.”
Back by strangely popular demand, the Eagles will wear retro Kelly Green jerseys on Sunday. The Eagles wore the color as their primary jersey from 1985 to 1995, an era in which the team had very few wins, but the aura of former coach Buddy Ryan, the late Reggie White, Randall Cunningham and others from that era still lingers in Philly always noticeable sports scene.
Princess Diana once made it onto the cover of People magazine wearing a Kelly green Eagles jacket.
The Eagles tried to bring back the color scheme as an alternate jersey for years, but it wasn’t until the NFL announced before the 2022 season that teams could wear two different helmets that the idea could become a reality.
“Look good, feel good, play good, right?” said Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. “We’re focused on the task at hand, but this is a cool thing. I know when these jerseys came out I immediately went to the store and got my kids these jerseys and my son doesn’t take off the green AJ Brown Kelly jersey very often. I think it’s an exciting thing for the fans and I think it’s an exciting thing for us.”
The Eagles are embracing Kelly Green products outside of the uniform line, launching everything from Kelly Green debit cards to specialty whiskey and vodka labels.
AP Sports Writer Alanis Thames in Miami Gardens, Fla., contributed to this report.