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The Time And The Test Come Due For Tagovailoa

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The day we all knew was coming has, mercifully, finally arrived. From the very moment his name was called on that Thursday night last April, we all knew that Tuanigamanuolepola Tagovailoa would be starting sooner than later. From my perspective, the idea of his sitting out the entire year was never really an option; they’d have wasted valuable time getting him acclimated to the NFL and the Dolphins’ offense, thus shrinking the window for the team hopefully contending for a deep playoff run in a couple of years. As for the notion that Dolphins coach Brian Flores was concerned about starting the kid because of the injury, we need to recognize ‘coach speak’ when we hear it, rather than taking everything the guy says literally. On a couple of occasions last week, right here on this page, we failed to recognize it. Very often, there are at least two reasons for what we say; the alleged reason and the real one. Just because the coach says he doesn’t want to play his prize rookie QB, and tosses his purported concern about last year’s injury to reporters, to get them off his back doesn’t mean that’s actually a serious concern. If that were the case, they either never would have drafted the kid to begin with or they would have kept another quarterback ready, in the event that their original starter became unavailable.

So, why the reversal in the Dolphins’ plans at quarterback? My guess is that when Miami’s bye week was abruptly moved up due to COVID reshuffling, their original timetable for starting Tagovailoa had to be accelerated. Fine by me. I mean, put yourself in Flores’ shoes: you’ve got one of the top four or five quarterbacks to come out of the college ranks over the past twenty to twenty five years sitting on the bench, and your football team, which, minus Ryan Fitzpatrick I believe is the youngest in the league, is rapidly coming together. The stunning turnaround for the Dolphins’ pass defense over the past two games, with top corners Xavien Howard and Byron Jones both in the lineup, is a testament to Flores’ and GM Chris Grier’s vision. And while the newly rebuilt offensive line is still a work in progress, the coaching staff is apparently satisfied that it at least won’t get their young QB killed. To get their offense, and entire team solidified, they had little choice but to insert Tagovailoa into the starting lineup. I think the final domino to fall may have been when their second round rookie started at right tackle and played well. Had Robert Hunt played like a hobbled runt, we likely would still see Fitzpatrick lining up under center.

This is an exciting time for Dolphin fans the world over, and I think the kid will win his first three starts and go 2-0 against fellow first round rookie quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. How’s that for optimism? Or am I being polarizing? Nah, not this week. That’s the wrap for today, have a great week, everybody.