Mar 5, 2020 - Sports

Tua Tagovailoa will be the first left-handed NFL quarterback since 2017

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When Tua Tagovailoa hears his name called during next month's NFL draft, he will officially become the NFL's first left-handed QB since Kellen Moore retired after the 2017 season.

The irony: Tua was actually born right-handed and still does most tasks righty (writing, eating, even swinging a golf club). But when he was a toddler, his left-handed father, Galu, put the ball in Tua's left hand so he wouldn't be the lone lefty in the family and somehow it stuck.

By the numbers: Lefties make up roughly 10% of the world's population, but they make up 0% of the NFL's current QB population — not just among starters. Of the 107 QBs currently signed to NFL rosters, all 107 are right-handed.

  • The last left-handed QB to be selected in the top 10 of the NFL draft (where Tua is projected to be picked) was Matt Leinart in 2006.
  • This isn't new: Though the NFL has had a defining lefty QB in each modern era — Ken Stabler, Boomer Esiason, Steve Young, Michael Vick — only 32 southpaws have played the position in the history of the league.

Between the lines: Left-handed QBs are somewhat of an inconvenience in the NFL, since receivers have to adjust to passes that "look and spin differently," coaches have to flip plays, and O-lines have to protect the opposite blindside.

  • Former QB David Carr: "All the plays are drawn right-handed. ... For left-handed QBs, it's hard for them to go into the lineup and feel comfortable. It's like handing them a pair of right-handed scissors."
  • Former WR Reggie Wayne: "Not only does the ball turn differently, but it affects the deep ball. [A right-handed QB], his pass turns inside; a lefty, it turns the other way. That's a lot harder of a catch, especially for guys who are not as used to seeing that."
  • Former GM Brian Xanders: "If [two QBs] are totally equal in everything, [teams will sign] the right-hander. Everyone is more used to it."

The bottom line: While the NFL's implicit bias against lefty QBs certainly isn't helping their cause, the biggest factor in the dearth of southpaw signal-callers is likely baseball, which covets strong-armed lefties and offers them the clearest path to the pros (27.2% of MLB pitchers are left-handed).

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