Alabama Football: How short is Mac Jones’s leash in 2020?

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

How many mistakes can Alabama football’s Mac Jones make?

Mac Jones was thrust into the spotlight near the end of the 2020 college football season. Once Tua Tagovailoa went down with a hip injury, Alabama football‘s best option was to hope for the best with Mac. Jones did a lot of things right, but there will be a different set of circumstances in 2020.

While both Tua and Taulia Tagovailoa are no longer on the depth chart for the Crimson Tide, they will have Bryce Young in the QB room. Bryce will almost definitely start the season as the second-string quarterback, but he will be ready to play in a moment’s notice.

With that kind of talent sitting on the bench, there will be a lot of pressure for Jones to succeed. The question naturally arises: how many mistakes can Jones hypothetically make before Nick Saban pulls the plug and puts in the freshman?

The good news is that we have a template from previous years to determine how much Bryce Young will play. While Tua shined as the backup in his freshman season, he also did not get a chance to play meaningful snaps until the last possible moment. Even when the offense was stagnant against other opponents, Saban rode it out with Jalen Hurts.

There are some differences between Jalen’s situation and Mac’s. For starters, Jalen earned the starting job as a true freshman. During that year, he earned the goodwill necessary to make a coach believe in you when things get rough. That defense was also strong enough to win games in traditional Alabama football fashion. They dominated defensively, won the battle of the game clock, and wore opposing defenses down over the course of the game. Because of this, Saban did not want to go with the unknown Tua as long as he believed the offense was good enough to tread water while the defense smothered the opponent. As soon as that wasn’t the case, Tua got his chance.

Mac is already somewhat of a gunslinger himself. His deep shots are what helped Alabama succeed late in the year, but his mistakes also cost Alabama the Iron Bowl in 2019. If he continues to make those errors in 2020, Saban won’t be inclined to give him plenty of more chances.

The cases for both quarterbacks is simple. If you want to stick with the player you know, keep Mac Jones as the starter. He certainly has the talent to succeed if everything clicks. However, don’t think that Jones can survive a plethora of mistakes. If the defense struggles and it becomes obvious that the Tide offense needs more offensively to keep up, watch out for Bryce Young.

That being said, don’t be surprised if Young doesn’t start all season. Among the realistic expectations for Bryce Young, starting is not one of them.

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Mac Jones has earned a longer leash with his leadership and traits. However, even Alabama football legends can be benched for promising freshmen. The best way for him to keep his job is to thrive under center and force Nick Saban to stick with the redshirt junior.