NFL

Could the Demise of the Left-Handed Quarterback Hurt Tua Tagovailoa in the NFL?

Could the lack of left-handed quarterbacks in the NFL hurt draft prospect Tua Tagovailoa?

Not only is Tagovailoa coming off a devastating and season-ending hip injury, but the former Alabama quarterback is entering April’s NFL draft with one apparent disadvantage: being left-handed.

Zero left-handed quarterbacks in the NFL

In the NFL, southpaw quarterbacks aren’t just rare, they’re extinct. There were no lefty QBs in the NFL last season. In fact, the last NFL quarterback in the league was Kellen Moore, who retired in 2017 and is now the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.

The last touchdown thrown by a lefty in the NFL came in December of 2016 when the Dallas Cowboys soundly defeated the Detroit Lions 42-21. In that game, Jason Witten caught the touchdown pass thrown by none other than… Dez Bryant. 

The last touchdown thrown by a left-handed quarterback was by Moore back in 2015. Moore has a theory of why there have been so few lefties in the NFL in recent years. “I think all the smart lefties went and played baseball,” Moore told Eric Edholm of FiveThirtyEight.com. “The sport is kind of designed for them. There’s a little more lefty influence in that sport.”

Tua Tagovailoa expected to be a top pick in the NFL draft

Despite the presence of lefties in the NFL, Tagovailoa is expected to make a splash in the upcoming NFL draft.

At Alabama, Tagovailoa burst onto the scene ion Jan. 8, 2018, when he replaced an ineffective Jalen Hurts in the National Championship game. Tagovailoa, as a true freshman, entered the second half with the Crismon Tide trailing 13-0 and tossed three touchdown passes, including the game-winner in overtime to give Alabama a 26-23 victory over Georgia.

Tagovailoa followed up that season by throwing for 43 touchdown passes and nearly 4,000 yards, but the Tide fell to Clemson in the title game. In 2019, Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury in the second quarter of a game against Mississippi State with his team ahead 35-7.

Despite the injury and the fact he is left-handed, several mock drafts have Tagovailoa projected as a top-5 selection, with some draft boards claiming he could go as high as second overall.

Tagovailoa wasn’t always left-handed

According to Galu Tagovailoa, Tua’s father, the young quarterback is actually right-handed.

The elder Tagovailoa, a left-hander himself, said he wanted Tua to also become a southpaw so he kept putting the ball in his hand when he was a youngster.

“It just became fluent and he just grew into it,” Galu Tagovailoa said. “That’s the crazy part about it. I never thought I could make him adapt to that. As we constantly kept putting the ball on his left hand, eventually he grew into throwing the ball with his left.”

Steve Young was the first lefty QB to be inducted into the Hall of Fame

In 2005, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young became the first left-handed quarterback to be enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame. Young broke into the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, spending two years with the team before playing 13 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. In his career, Young tossed 232 touchdown passes and threw for 33,124 yards.

Other notable left-handed quarterbacks who had big-time success in the NFL were Michael Vick, Mark Brunell, Ken Stabler and Boomer Esiason. Stabler was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.