By: Shawn Williams
Today the Miami Dolphins announced Tua Tagovailoa as the starting quarterback moving forward (per Adam Schefter, ESPN). Make no mistake this is now Tua’s team. This is a decision that can not be reneged. It has been proven time and again, that you cannot sit, start, and then sit again a young quarterback. This move shows a confidence from Coach Brian Flores and his staff that Tua can and will take this team and make it better. Assuredly, this decision was not made lightly. It wasn’t an impulse decision. Flores did not feel pressured to sit Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has this team at .500 and in the playoff hunt for a rookie coming off an injury. There are calculated explanations for the timing of unleashing the 5th overall pick after looking mobile and accurate in his two pass completions at the end of Sunday’s victory against the Jets.
First, let us examine the job Ryan Fitzpatrick has done leading the offense, and the team in the first six games. Fitz has accumulated 1,535 yards and 10 touchdowns. Aside from the statistics, he is a big reason the team is playing so cohesively, he has been the unquestioned Alpha leader of this team. This team gravitates toward Fitz, they laude him and speak effusively after win or loss. Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins, a team full of street free agents, to a five-win season, and week 17 upset over the New England Patriots in 2019. He did that because of his moxie, and respect and admiration he commands from those around him. With so much positivity, Tua’s promotion is not despite the job Ryan Fitzpatrick has done. It’s about more than that.
It is easy to point to some questionable decisions by Fitzpatrick that lead to frustrating turnovers. One could even mention Fitz’s age and the amount of juice left in his arm. However, the reason to start Tua is more about what Tua brings to the table, than what Fitz may take away.
It is important to mention that no one outside of the Dolphins organization see’s what happens in practice. Outside that facility no one can really accurately predict Tua’s grasp of the offense, standing amongst his teammates, or where how he’s responded the recovery from his hip injury. Tua’s father Galu told the Sun Sentinel that Tua is “dying to get in and play…he doesn’t want anyone to think about his health. His health is good…He is dying, wanting to play. Believe me”. Tua’s health…check.
How can Tua help guide a team with playoff aspirations? What does Tua bring that elevates the potential of the Miami Dolphins? As Ryan Fitzpatrick has stated “Tua can make all the throws”. This offense has suffered from stagnant quarters, halves, and games. The offense was nearly non-existent in the second half of their rout of the New York Jets. Against the Patriots receivers struggled to get open. The Dolphins could not score a touchdown against the Seahawks despite ruling time of possession and winning field position for most of the game.
Tua is a guy that can create something out of nothing. He can innovate when a play breaks down. Tua can throw receivers open, and most importantly he expands the playbook and challenges defensive game plans. Through the first six games there has been a lack of downfield passing. Can a 22-year-old who is praised for his accuracy and anticipation change that?
Could Preston Williams, a downfield threat, who at his size is a mismatch for most corners, see his usage and production increase with a quarterback who is capable of hitting receivers beyond 20 yards? How about speedster Jakeem Grant who in the past was known for his ability to get behind safeties?
DeVante Parker is still DeVante Parker. Mike Gesicki is still a challenge for opposing defenses. Myles Gaskin has proven capable in the receiving game. Tua brings a new dynamic to an already promising offense. His ability to rollout of the pocket changes the way teams will scheme the Dolphins. He brings all new wrinkles a defensive coordinator must try to plan and prepare for.
Some may be worried about how the team will respond the benching of Ryan Fitzpatrick, but wasn’t this the plan along? Every person in that building was aware of Tua Tagovailoa’s role in the franchise. It is tough to imagine players, who see Tua in practice every day, suddenly question the decision from a coach who has been the catalyst for the culture since his arrival.
It is unlikely Flores sees something that they don’t. If Tua was drafted as a dynamic and abundantly talented player, chosen to lead this franchise from the pits of mediocrity. Is anything less than winning that role as the starting quarterback evidence of his capabilities? Especially with the potential of a playoff berth becoming more realistic. Dolphins fans would have much more to worry about if this was not the case.
Tua may still have struggles, he is a rookie. But being a rookie does not mean that he won’t succeed. Dan Marino came in mid-season, achieved a 7-2 record and a spot in the Pro Bowl. Same goes for Russell Wilson, who led the Seahawks to 11-5, also making the Pro Bowl. Ben Roethlisberger went undefeated and took the Steelers to the AFC Championship. So why not Tua. The fan base holds Tua and his potential in the same regard as those players.
Maybe Dolfans aren’t ready to give up the hopes and dreams of Tua being the next Marino. They can hold that feel good hope infinitely while Tua waits in the wings. That hope now dissipates into a sudden reality as Tua takes the reigns, and we all anticipate the future.
Instead of worrying and second guessing, the fan base should prepare, like the team, over the next two weeks of the bye. Their dream may just be coming true.
At the time of this writing, no one in the organization has commented on the decision as most are away and enjoying their bye week.
Please welcome Shawn Williams to PhinManiacs and please check him out on Twitter @swilliams3205
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