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NFL Draft

Starting Tua Tagovailoa Is Right Call For Dolphins

  • The Draft Network
  • October 20, 2020
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When Tua Tagovailoa was being carted off the field at Davis Wade Stadium with a trainer holding him up and tears in his eyes, we didn’t know. We didn’t know what the future held for one of college football’s most prolific passers, and one of its best people, at that. In that moment, all the accomplishments, the future goals, the NFL draft talk came to a halt.

We didn’t know. 

We didn’t know what the diagnosis was going to be on Tagovailoa’s injury. We didn’t know what it would mean for the Alabama Crimson Tide. We didn’t know what it would mean for Tagovailoa. When we learned of just how severe an injury it was, we knew even less. We didn’t know when Tagovailoa would next throw a football, what team it would be for, or even if it would ever happen again at such a high level.

Almost an entire year later and we finally know; we know that Tagovailoa’s next start following his near career-ending injury will be on November 1 as the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins against the Los Angeles Rams.

After a week in which the Dolphins beat the New York Jets so badly that Tagovailoa was able to come into the game and throw his first NFL passes in garbage time, Miami head coach Brian Flores made the call on Tuesday to name Tagovailoa the starting quarterback of the team moving forward. The Dolphins, at 3-3, are on the bye this week before playing the Rams the following week.

The timing is interesting. The now-former starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, led the Dolphins to a record that’s just one game back of the AFC East lead six games into the season, and the team is currently riding a two-game winning streak. In most circumstances, you’d think Fitzpatrick would have continued to be the starter until his play deemed it necessary to make a switch. But the decision to make the move to go to Tagovailoa stems from a longer vision.

After starting the 2019 NFL season 0-7, the Dolphins finished out the year winning five of their last nine games. They took that momentum into the offseason with an aggressive mentality to add a lot of talent via free agency and the draft. The Dolphins selected Tagovailoa No. 5 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft as part of an 11-pick draft class. Where the plan was surely to allow Tagovailoa to get healthy enough to play to the level they believe he can reach, it appears that has already happened. With that being the case, there really is no reason to hold him back from being the starter anymore, even with Fitzpatrick playing well. 2020 isn’t the year to throw long-term plans to the wind and go for broke. It’s a season that should act as the next move in a longer chess game to set the Dolphins up for future sustained success.

The decision also might have some 2021 NFL Draft implications to it. The Dolphins have two first-round selections this upcoming draft; they have their original pick, but they also have the first-round pick of the Houston Texans via the Laremy Tunsil trade. As of right now, the Texans’ pick is slated to be inside the top 10 at No. 7 overall. With such a strong pick, this team needs to know exactly what they have in Tagovailoa, either to make the best selection possible to help him out moving forward or potentially to draft a different quarterback if they don’t like what they see.

As shocking as the timing might be due to the Dolphins’ record at hand, this really is the right call. Tagovailoa got his first taste of NFL action when he completed both of his passes for nine yards on the Dolphins’ final drive of the game. He now gets two weeks to prepare for his first opponent, and the Dolphins get 10 games to really evaluate what they have in him and what to do with that assessment moving forward next offseason. After the Rams game and then the next matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, Tagovailoa will have an easier stretch of games against the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, New York Jets, and Cincinnati Bengals before finishing strong with the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders, and Buffalo Bills.

The Dolphins were always Tagovailoa’s team once he was healthy enough to claim the starting role. He is, and his time is now.

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