Through his first four games of his NFL career, Tua Tagovailoa has been unimpressive.
There, I’ve said it.
The excitement surrounding the young quarterback has been growing since he first made it onto the field at the end of the Miami Dolphins week six game against the New York Jets. Since then, the Dolphins have extended their winning streak to five, picking up impressive wins over the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Chargers.
However, the impressive run of form has been down to Dolphins defence, which has really stepped up in the past few weeks. Xavien Howard in particular has become one of the best playmaking cornerbacks in the league. Tagovailoa has been somewhat of a passenger for those victories, and towards the end of Sunday’s disappointing loss in Denver against the Broncos, he was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The worrying thing is, when Fitzpatrick came in, the Miami offence looked more efficient and, quite frankly, better. Tua is averaging only 120 passing yards per game, the lowest of any quarterback to have started more than one game over the past two years. Fitzpatrick on the other hand is averaging a more acceptable 236 yards per game
There is a big gulf between the Dolphins’ young signal caller and the other rookie quarterbacks. Defences are scared of what Justin Herbert can do. The same can be said for Joe Burrow. No one is scared of Tua Tagovailoa. He doesn’t have the physical talent, nor the ruthless efficiency of other quarterbacks. It is way too early to be writing him off entirely, but so far there haven’t been many good signs.
There is still a good chance that the 22-year-old can become an average starter in this league; in the same tier as Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill. But is that good enough?
Miami have been searching for their next elite franchise quarterback since Dan Marino retired in 1999. They want to be winning Superbowls, not going 9-7 and occasionally making the playoffs only to be knocked out in the first round.
Coming into the draft, no one really thought this would be the case. Tagovailoa was seen as a really good pocket passer with lots of upside. Now it’s tough not to think we were fooled by the incredible surrounding cast he had in college making him look better than he actually was. That Alabama team was loaded with talent. Over the last two years, six offensive Crimson Tide players have been taken in the first round of the draft, not to mention Alex Leatherwood who is predicted to be selected in the top 10 picks this year.
College football teams with the most first-round NFL Draft picks since 2000:— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 26, 2020
Alabama – 35
Ohio State – 34
Miami – 30
LSU – 24
Florida St – 24
USC – 23
Florida – 22
Georgia – 21
So, what do the Dolphins do? It depends on what the goal is for the rest of the season. They’re in a position to make the playoffs, and if they have their sights set on that, then Fitzpatrick is the way to go. He simply gives the offence more of a chance to be successful.
Personally, though, I would sacrifice my chance to make the playoffs this year and continue to start Tagovailoa to see if I could coax anything more out of him. Make no mistake, it’s still outstandingly early in the Hawaii native’s career so the ship hasn’t necessarily sailed yet. Also, as a player who they selected in the top five picks of the draft, the Dolphins are going to want to do all they can to help him succeed.
The plan should be to build up the defence and the running game to try to win like the San Francisco 49ers last year. Getting some more big bodies along that offensive line and beefing up the front seven should be a priority this offseason. Then we could really start seeing this historic franchise return to greatness…