By: Jason Sarney
The day after tomorrow in South Florida will prove to be extremely intriguing on a national level. I’m not talking about a potential cataclysmic series of events like what is happening in New York and in the swamps of New Jersey with the NFL’s only winless team in the Jets.
I am talking about a change of potential epic proportions within a truly great NFL franchise. Following a victory over a hated-rival, the Dolphins have a needed bye week to decide the direction of their season in officially naming their Week 8 starter.
Sunday evening in Miami Gardens, with the score 24-0 in the home team’s favor and following a gritty but overall sloppy offensive game from the warrior-veteran that is Ryan Fitzpatrick, we all witnessed the Dolphins version of their latest moment of creation.
The creation of their next star at the Quarterback position.
At the 2:27 mark, Tua Tagovailoa, the rookie "South-Paw Savior" from Alabama by way of Hawaii, made his Big Bang into the Fins universe officially, with a hand-off to Matt Breida. Never in Miami Dolphins history has a hand-off been given as much cheer in a game, while heading into a two-minute warning in a 24-0 game.
The culmination of a long, odd and strange trip to get this point created a thunderous roar at Hard Rock Stadium, that unlike many places in the NFL days, had a genuine and harmonious crowd noise to it. Nothing simulated about it. An organic crowd reaction that we have all taken for granted this tumultuous year thanks to a pandemic was as welcomed as his first pass. The remaining fans who stuck with the romp, and braved the guidelines of limited fans, sounded like 60,000 as number 1 on the jersey became number 1 on the field.
Tua snapped the ball five times. He threw twice, handed off thrice, and created a first down to Jakeem Grant. The answer to the question, "who caught Tua’s first pass?" will forever be Patrick Laird. It went for two yards, but to a massive ovation. And Tua looked good turning nothing into something.
While a smiling yet business-like Tua, checked his QB-wrist, he commanded the huddle and looked like a seasoned-pro leading the offense, during this, the happiest person in the place was his predecessor, whether temporary or permanent.
The bearded smile of Ryan Fitzpatrick was as genuine as watching a child succeed for the first time. Leading the cheers, and pumping up the crowd was Fitzpatrick, who was the most aware person on the planet heading into 2020 that he has been playing with, and may still have some, borrowed time.
Time is what you make of it, and Fitzpatrick has proven to have made the very best of his opportunity to lead this team to a 3-3 record, heading into a bye week, with a few weeks of practice to see who officially will be the team’s signal caller Week 8 against the Los Angeles Rams at home.
What Ryan Fitzpatrick showed, as an 8-team journeyman NFL veteran who is a dad to 7 children, was a lesson to us all. It was a masterclass in professionalism and proves why he is the father-figure or better yet, big-brother of this team.
(I got ya, Fitz)
A true leader. A true professional. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a model to emulate in all walks of life, and should this be the time he passes the torch with as much heart and soul as he passes the football, it will be done knowing he did so with class and dignity. Attributes that are more needed across the board in these times.
As the dust settled, and following the Dolphins first shutout in six seasons, the shift of the oceanic crust of this team’s direction is at the tipping point. With this young team being at .500 for the first time in Brian Flores' tenure, they head into November following a well-deserved break to heal up.
The next time the Dolphins play, they enter November with 10 games left. Remarkably in the hunt this early unlike last season, and mixed with a newly formed 7-team playoff format, if the Dolphins become a winning football team at minimum at 6-4 in the next two months, they very likely could punch a play-off ticket. An accomplishment which could be a new Miami Miracle altogether. Especially at this phase of the rebuild, following a 2019 that could have been an unnatural disaster.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman and on the PhinManiacs PodCast