This past Sunday, Dolphins fans finally got a glimpse of what they've been waiting for when quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took the field as an NFL starter for the first time.
While his stat line in the Dolphins' 28-17 win over the Los Angeles Rams doesn't exactly pop — he finished with just 93 yards passing and one touchdown pass — Tagovailoa didn't make any costly mistakes and flashed glimpses of the sort of play that made him so coveted entering the NFL draft.
Unfortunately, not everyone left Sunday with positive vibes following the Dolphins' fourth win in five games. Some believe former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick would have played better and think Tua's play drove home the point that the 37-year-old journeyman quarterback should still be starting.
Ridiculous, we say.
The Dolphins made the right choice to throw Tua Tagovailoa into the starting role, even as the team was starting to play better under Fitzpatrick. Here are a few reasons we believe the Dolphins made the right move.
Dolphins games are appointment television again. Even the most ardent Dolphins fan will tell you that Dolphins games haven't had much juice in a long time. The team never makes the playoffs, much less sniffs a Super Bowl run, rendering late-season Dolphins games tremendous background noise for a midafternoon nap, as opposed to riveting entertainment.
Dolphins fans are practically on their knees begging to be excited about something, and Tua Tagovailoa is that something. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a show you DVR and watch whenever you have the time, like Jeopardy! or Pawn Stars. Tua Tagovailoa is a new episode of Game of Thrones.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had his chance and did nothing with it. Ryan Fitzpatrick has ten touchdowns and seven interceptions to his name this season. The Dolphins didn't exactly bench Aaron Rodgers. Fitzpatrick's greatest accomplishment may be that he has played in the NFL since 2005, for just about every team. His is the photo you see next to the definition of "journeyman" in the dictionary.
Why would the Dolphins put their future on hold in the name of giving Fitzpatrick his 17th chance to succeed at something he's proven to be mediocre at? Dolphins fans should know what mediocre looks like by now, and Fitzpatrick is it.
No one sits young quarterbacks anymore. The time of young QBs like Aaron Rodgers sitting behind Brett Favre for four seasons is over. Teams invest draft capital in a player and want quick returns. Joe Burrow is playing well right away for the Bengals. Justin Herbert is lighting it up with the Chargers. There's no reason Tua — taken between those two players in the top ten picks this year — shouldn't see the field too.
Teams want to know now if they hit or missed on the quarterback of the future. Dan Marino isn't on the roster. Tua needs to play so the Dolphins know what they have sooner rather than later.
Miami needs to know what to do in next year's draft. Thanks to the Laremy Tunsil trade the Dolphins made with the Houston Texans last year, it's looking a lot like no matter what they do, they'll have a top-five pick in the 2021 draft. Houston is 1-6, has fired its coach, and is coming apart at the seams. Miami needs to know if Tua is the real deal because if he's not, the Dolphins might want to grab the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck, Clemson star Trevor Lawrence.
More realistically, the Dolphins need to learn how to build a team around Tua's strengths. Seeing him play ten games this season will help them better know what they need to go after with their highest picks. As of now, it seems like playmakers on offense are at the top of the list.
Tua is on a cheaper rookie contract. There's a salary cap in the NFL, and the quarterback is usually the most expensive player on a team, by far. Being able to build your team around a rookie quarterback before he gets paid is the life hack of the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks famously built their championship teams around Russell Wilson when he was playing out his rookie deal. The Dolphins can do the same, but they have to know if Tua is the guy, and play him, for it to work.
Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't all that expensive, but the next replacement for Tua could be. If the Dolphins know they won't need anyone else at quarterback for a long time, they can start allocating their funds elsewhere. Taking advantage of that sooner rather than later is how you game the NFL's salary-cap system.
Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't even having a good season. Ten touchdowns, seven interceptions. That's what Ryan Fitzpatrick has done with his chance to hold the job this season. He started the season with a three-interception game against a New England Patriots team that has since shown itself to be terrible.
In his last game, he threw two interceptions. Yes, the Dolphins were winning and the offense looked decent, but Ryan Fitzpatrick was not having games that would make Patrick Mahomes jealous.
If you want to keep your job with a phenom behind you on the depth chart, a 10:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio isn't going to cut it.
Tua is healthier than anyone expected. After a devastating hip injury in his final game at Alabama, it was assumed Tua would take a redshirt season as a rookie and use the year to learn from a veteran and stabilize a serious hip fracture. It quickly became obvious that Tua was on track to heal faster than anyone anticipated, and after the Dolphins released Josh Rosen, it became clear that Tua was more than ready to play from day one.
Tua not being in football shape or still unprepared to take a hit were the final hurdles. He cleared those hurdles a long time ago. There was no reason to protect him any longer.
Guessing an 8-minute Dolphins discussion on a pre-game show is an all time record. Checking with Elias. https://t.co/lloYicC10u— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) October 27, 2020
Tua Tagovailoa already has the Dolphins back on the NFL map. Prior to his Dolphins debut, Tua was the topic of a halftime segment on Sunday Night Football. Fans were shocked the national media was actually talking about the Dolphins for what wound up being seven minutes, even though they had nothing to do with the game being contested on the field that night.
For once, the Dolphins are in the news for the right reasons. They're a draw outside of TMZ scandals and the bad news you see on Good Morning America. Tua brings that sort of attention with him.
.@MiamiDolphins rookie QB @Tua Tagovailova has the two best-selling @NFL jerseys based on sales via NFL Shop: Dolphins aqua & Dolphins white But @TomBrady @Buccaneers has five of the Top 10 best-selling jerseys in various versions: No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 10. pic.twitter.com/3wjfxqqPQ9— Barry Janoff (@barryjanoff) May 20, 2020
Tua sells. Earlier this year, Tua had the best-selling jersey in the NFL. A close second to Tua? Tua. Tua in aqua and Tua in white. Those were the best-selling jerseys in the NFL, with a guy named Tom Brady coming in third.
The Dolphins have a box-office draw at the most important position in sports. Why would they sit him on the bench if they believe he's ready to play?
In-town attention. Jersey sales are a good indication of fan excitement. Many of those same fans are Miami Heat fans. They've been spoiled watching the Heat put on a show year in and year out. The Dolphins have some catching up to do if they want to get on the same entertainment level as the basketball team in town. Tua taking snaps each Sunday will markedly increase the likelihood that Miami's entertainment dollars are spread more evenly.
The Dolphins went from being the first love in Miami to a distant second, and it has been that way for nearly a decade. Tua is here to change that, or at least try.
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