Tua Tagovailoa. Justin Herbert. Two excellent quarterbacks, with bright futures ahead of both. Since entering the league, both players have performed at an extremely high level, and have proven their worth to their respective teams.
But, having been drafted just one pick apart, the pair will almost undoubtedly be compared for the rest of their NFL careers. While Herbert jumped out of the gates far quicker, Tua’s performances this season have significantly decreased the gap between the players, which begs the question: Has Tua Tagovailoa actually surpassed Justin Herbert?
First, let’s visit the numbers.
*All statistics are via ProFootballReference, and are over the course of the 2022 NFL season.*
Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t. The fact is, since the start of this season, Tua Tagovailoa has significantly outperformed Justin Herbert. So, if anyone tells you there “isn’t a debate to be had”, stop talking to that person and move on with your life, because there absolutely is.
But of course, what are statistics without the eye-test?
It’s obvious that Herbert is the bigger, stronger athlete, with an absolute cannon of an arm. However, mechanically, he leaves much to be desired, and often struggles with the minutia and nitty-gritty of the game.
On the other hand, Tua is significantly smaller, more prone to injuries, and he doesn’t exactly possess a rocket arm. But, what Tua lacks in size and power, he more than makes up for in precision, accuracy, and his innate ability to read coverages. His superpower, if you will, is the stuff that goes on upstairs. If you’re not looking for it on television, you won’t find it.
Perhaps Tua’s greatest trait though, is his ability to do the most important thing in football: win. Since entering the league, he boasts a 21-10 record (0.677), far better than that of Herbert (21-23, 0.477). You can keep your highlight reel throws, your side-arm passes, but at the end of the day, you play the game to win. And Tua? Well, he wins an awful lot.
Now, it goes without saying that both players are exceptional quarterbacks, and the pair may end up being part of the greatest QB draft class in NFL history, with Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles rounding out a tremendous group. Regardless, the evidence from the last few months shows that there’s clearly a debate to be had between the two. And right now, it’s hard to look past Tua Tagovailoa winning that debate.