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Bruce Arians: ‘I don’t know what you learn holding a clipboard’ when asked about Tua Tagovailoa

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins selected quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Conventional thought has the team sitting Tagovailoa for at least the first part of the season, if not for the entire year, while 2019 starter Ryan Fitpatrick resumes that role for the upcoming season. Part of the issue with Tagovailoa is a health concern, as he returns to football after a dislocated and fractured hip sustained last year at Alabama, but the rest of the argument for keeping Fitzpatrick as the starter is simply the Dolphins have the luxury of doing that.

They can let their veteran play while the rookie learns the system, learns how to be a professional, and adjusts to the speed of the NFL game. It seems like a perfect set up. Unless you speak with Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians.

Considered among the league’s best quarterback developers, Arians made a radio appearance on 100.9 FM in Alabama on Thursday. According to, Arians was asked by former Alabama and NFL running back Trent Richardson about how he would handle a situation like the Dolphins’, with Tagovaolia and whether the coach would look to play him immediately.

“I think it all depends on his health; if he’s healthy I’m playing him,” Arians replied. “I don’t think you learn anything holding a clipboard. You know, I had Peyton Manning his first year, Andrew Luck his first year, Ben [Roethlisberger] was one of those guys that went in by accident because Tommy Maddox got hurt. You miss all the practice reps, you miss the game reps. I don’t know what you learn holding a clipboard watching.”

While the question mentioned Tagovailoa, the frame of it was general enough that the coach felt he could answer, and he answered it well. He is a fan of getting the quarterback on the field as early as possible - assuming there are no health concerns. With Tagovailoa there may be health concerns - especially since, as Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said in a separate Thursday media availability, “Specific to the injury, I haven’t seen [Tagovailoa due to the coronavirus restrictions]. Our doctors haven’t seen him. To give you any information on that or try to, I shouldn’t do that.”

Meanwhile, for the Buccaneers, who moved on from their 2015 first-overall draft pick, quarterback Jameis Winston, this year, Arians basically laid out why they did not go after a quarterback in this year’s Draft. The team added former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in free agency, so the rookie would be sitting behind Brady, which clearly Arians does not believe helps him learn. Tampa Bay will have to add a quarterback sometime in the near future, but it will have to be after Brady’s Buccaneers career is complete so the rookie can play immediately.

Turning back to the Dolphins, Flores added Tagovailoa, and the rest of Miami’s 11 draft picks and 21 overall rookies, are preparing well for the season. “The rookies in general, I think they’ve all, based on what we can do, they’ve all done a good job,” he explained. “They’re all in meetings, they’re all learning, they’re all doing everything they can possibly do to pick up the information, to train. Quite honestly, it’s hard not to have your hands on them. Specific to Tua, he’s working hard, he’s picking up the information; but you want to get your hands on them, quite honestly. I think they are all doing a good job. I think they all have a long way to go.”

Once Miami’s doctors have a chance to really examine Tagovailoa and Flores gets a feel for how prepared he is to play healthwise, there will be a decision that has to be made. Maybe Flores will decide to stick with Fitzpatrick and let Tagovailoa develop behind him. Maybe Flores will agree with Arians and not see a benefit to keeping Tagovailoa on the sidelines and not getting game experience.