- - Monday, September 3, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The quarterbacks don’t even have to be good — remember John Beck and Rex Grossman battling to be Washington’s starter? They just have to play the position and seemingly be no better or no worse than the next guy.

Who starts under the center is the No. 1 question fans have when the answer isn’t obvious. And if that’s the main thing fans want to know, you better believe it’s atop reporters’ list of queries. Coaches are asked to address situations at other positions, on either side of the ball, but responses regarding their signal-caller are the most urgent.

Having those explanations prepared and ready to go should be a no-brainer.

But every now and then, they’re caught off-guard or display frustration when interviewers seek this-very-second updates. That’s when coaches misinterpret media members as enemies of the people, instead of as proxies for the fans (and gamblers).

Take, for instance, Alabama coach Nick Saban, who called his quarterback controversy a “media creation.” Hardly. He steadfastly refused to name his starter among two fine options entering Saturday’s season-opener: Tua Tagovailoa, whose second-half relief outing as a true freshman led the Crimson Tide to a national title in January. or Jalen Hurts, the junior whose career record as a two-year starter is merely 26-2.

Both played against Louisville, but Tagovailoa opened the game and proved (again) that he’s clearly better. However, Saban got testy when asked an obvious, innocuous question about what he saw from the two players.

“Well, I still like both guys,” he said in an on-field interview after the 51-14 rout. “I think both guys are good players. I think both guys can help our team. So why do you continually try to get me to say something that doesn’t respect one of them? I’m not going to. So quit asking.”

I suppose the pressure — and his affection for Hurts — is getting to him. ESPN’s Maria Taylor didn’t ask him to disrespect either player. But most observers would say they saw one guy who’s a dynamic passer with running ability (Tua), and another guy who can run but is limited as a passer (Hurts).

Saban called Taylor and apologized on Sunday. That was the right thing to do, even if ESPN analyst Joey Galloway showed sympathy for the coach.

“I understand why Saban is getting a little testy,” Galloway said Saturday during a highlight show. “I’m getting a little testy. We’ve talked about this every time we’ve been on TV. Who didn’t know Tua was going to start? We can keep asking because (Saban) didn’t say it out loud, but did anybody think Tua wasn’t going to be the starter in this game? No, not at all.”

Regardless of what everyone thought or what appeared obvious, Saban created the situation by failing to name his starter — for whatever reason. His refusal to make and/or announce a decision kept the matter alive, when he could’ve buried it at any point since training camp started.

There’s arguably a competitive advantage to be gained when withholding such information, forcing your opponent to prepare for either possible starter. But inquiring minds still want to know, and they still ask, as Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson has learned. He grew irritated over continued questions about Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and still-recovering-from-injury Carson Wentz.

“I’m not going to discuss it,” he told reporters Sunday, throwing out “next question” in response to follow-ups. “We’re trying to win a football game,” he said. “I don’t want to put my game plan out there for everybody to see it and read it and teams can scheme it. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Actually, the head-in-the-sand approach doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Your opponent won’t be thrown off much, either way, while uncertainty can only work against your quarterbacks and their teammates. Pederson acknowledged as much with an announcement on Monday: “Nick Foles is the starter and we have complete confidence, obviously, in what he can do.”

See? That wasn’t so hard.

Pederson will face the question again when Wentz is cleared to return. In Philadelphia, the question now becomes: “Does Wentz get his job back, regardless of how Foles is playing?”

In Alabama, Saban should be past the point of having to name his starter.

The “controversy” at Alabama is over but more is looming for the Eagles.

Most teams can relate when it comes to quarterbacks. Questions about that position, like none other, are either on the way, here now, or they recently subsided.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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