I say: why not now?
There are many who greeted the news that Tua Tagovailoa will be the Dolphins starting quarterback moving forward with a look of genuine surprise. After all, Ryan Fitzpatrick had led this team to a 3-3 record and had played very well.
But this decision was not about Fitzpatrick. It was all about Tua. He is healthy. He has a good grasp of the offense. He dipped his feet into the pool last Sunday and everything we saw screamed of encouragement.
The timing was right with an off Sunday right in front of us and some quality practice time over the next week or so. It’s never easy telling a player like Fitzpatrick that it’s time to move to the bench. Never easy when he’s a locker room leader and beloved by so many. Never easy when he’s completing 70 percent of his passes. Truth is, I feel terrible for Fitzpatrick because I know how badly he wanted to continue starting.
But it was only a matter of time wasn’t it? Tua could have sat all season, learning from Fitzpatrick, resting his surgically repaired hip, and generally preparing himself to go full throttle next season.
But I’ve long believed, despite the success Patrick Mahomes had sitting out his rookie season in Kansas City, that the only way to get better is to play. If Tua is the future, he may as well be the present as well.
The timing makes sense all different ways, but what gives me the most comfort moving forward – and I’m sure was a factor in the decision – is that the Dolphins now have a quality offensive line to protect Tua. We didn’t know that when the season began. We do know it now.
What should we expect right away? I’m sure there will be some speed bumps along the way, but this is a special player with an extraordinary skill set coupled with a passion and a level of determination that you just can’t teach. He’s clearly ready for this opportunity. And after winning three of their last four games behind some quality performances from Fitzpatrick, the truth is that this team could only go so far with Fitzpatrick.
With Tua, the possibilities are endless.
I fondly remember Dan Marino’s first start, how the Dolphins lost 38-35 to the Buffalo Bills and how afterward, even after a gut-wrenching defeat, Don Shula was smiling. He was smiling because he knew what he had in Marino and that overshadowed everything else.
I feel the same way about Tua. His growth is paramount to this organization and playing him now will only hasten that process. We think we know what we have in Tua. We believe he’s going to be as good in the pros as was in college and that’s saying a lot.
Now we’re going to start finding out for sure. And I’ve got a feeling after his first performance a week from Sunday against the Rams, we’ll all be smiling as well, just as Shula did back in 1983.