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It’s Tua Time.
Miami “Dolfans” have something to get excited about again. On Tuesday, Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores named Tua Tagovailoa, the 2020 5th overall pick, as the new starting quarterback in South Florida.
The move came as a surprise to everyone and, as a result, came with a lot of questions. But no one was more shocked than Ryan Fitzpatrick, a 16-year veteran who led the Dolphins to a 3-3 start this season after joining the team last off-season.
Fitzpatrick, who was relegated to backup quarterback for Miami, was ironically the rookie’s biggest cheerleader heading into the season.
But on Sunday, Tua took the field for the first time in his NFL career in the “garbage time” rout against division rival New York Jets. The final score of that game, 24-0.
The rookie took the final 5 snaps of the game and was welcomed by a roaring crowd of just over 11,000 fans at Hard Rock Stadium. On the sideline was his number one fan, Fitzpatrick.
The decision to give Tagovailoa the game’s final snaps can be justified due to the winning circumstances. But is going 2/2 on pass completions enough to warrant the starting job in Miami? That’s what has everyone buzzing.
Many fans and members of the media were puzzled by the sudden change at the offense’s helm after winning two consecutive outings.
Why would you replace a quarterback who’s performing well enough to retain a starting position? What drove the decision to start Tua at this point in the season?
Flores defended his decision by saying he thought he was finally “ready.”
Tua, who has recovered from his hip-surgery that took place last November, has now received the green-light to play. But had it not been for that hip injury in his final year at Alabama, his draft stock could have arguably been number 1. This means the Dolphins most likely would have had to trade significant draft capital to land him or perhaps would have had no shot at drafting him.
After hip surgery, the rookie competed in pre-season camp against Fitzpatrick and former first-round pick Josh Rosen. Shortly after, the rookie was cemented as the second man on the depth chart after the team cut Rosen.
This indicated the team was confident enough to ride the season with no worry if the incumbent started, Fitzpatrick, were to go down.
Let’s look at the numbers.
According to Sports-Reference, in 32 appearances, Tagovailoa completed 69.3 percent of his pass attempts for almost 7,500 yards, had an 87:11 TD/INT ratio, and had almost a 200 quarterback rating. Add an NCAA National Championship and a top-3 finish in the Heisman Trophy race, and that certainly warrants the top pick in the draft.
Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, was .500 to start the season, had a 10:7 TD/INT ratio, and a QBR of 118.9. Some of the best numbers in his long career.
So why start Tua now? Many people understand the injury history that comes with the warranted hype of the 22-year old rookie, which led to the assumption that he wouldn’t play a single snap until he was fully healed. But this decision and his play on Sunday indicate the Dolphins are ready to move forward.
No talent has been received with such anticipation since the departure of Dan Marino following the 1999 season after 17 glorious years as the captain of the team. This comes as both a blessing and a curse.
Hopefully for Dolfans, the expectation is not met with disappointment and the tides will change in their favor once again.
Tua is scheduled to make his first professional start on Nov. 1 at home against the Los Angeles Rams.
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William is a South Florida native with professional experience writing at the collegiate and national news outlet level. He loves fishing, playing soccer and watching sports in his spare time and is a fan of all South Florida teams.