Alright, so you knew I was going to have a field day with this one, right? Good guess.
In an increasingly changing world, in which cars are getting ever smaller while baby strollers are approaching the size of light tanks, it’s somewhat reassuring to know that even as the NFL’s powers that be do everything they can to try to morph our national pastime into glorified flag football, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I came away from Super Bowl XV with several observations, one of which, as always, is that despite our repeated protestations to the contrary, defense still wins championships. Indeed, two of the last three Super Bowls, including Sunday’s tilt, have largely been won on defense. Even in the big game’s most prolific offensive performance in its history, three years ago, the championship was ultimately decided on a game-changing defensive play, when former first-round edge rusher Brandon Graham stormed into the backfield and stripped Tom Brady of the ball to all but seal the Lombardi trophy for Philadelphia.
Although he was named the game’s MVP for a record fifth time, Tom Brady’s selection as the most valuable player was, in my estimation, only about forty percent a result of his play on the field, although it was certainly top-notch. The remaining sixty percent was, I believe, a combination of wanting make a great PR move, and excite the geriatric segment of the population, ten thousand of whom turn 65 every day, and an unending desire for the league to stick it to Bill Belichick, who was a rare spectator, and had to suffer the humiliation of watching the very same quarterback who won him six Super Bowls win a seventh while wearing a different uniform.
But my biggest takeaway from this game was that as I watched it unfold, I kept saying to myself, ‘Tua can do that’. ‘Tua can make that throw just as well as Brady’. Maybe even better nowadays. Meanwhile, the guy who just a few days ago was being touted as arguably the best quarterback in the game — and rightly so — Patrick Mahomes, couldn’t so much as score a touchdown, and had a passer rating of 52 point something. As far as I can recollect, the only other two times a Super Bowl team has failed to score a touchdown were in January 1972, when the Dolphins lost to the Cowboys 24-3 and two years ago, when Brian Flores’ Patriots defense held the Rams to three points. To be sure, Mahomes was playing behind an offensive line that was missing at least two starters. Unfortunately, many of the people who are probably willing to excuse the Chiefs’ loss because of the state of their offensive line weren’t willing to give Miami’s rookie quarterback an inch of leeway last season, despite his playing behind an OL that was, itself, starting multiple rookies. Mahomes still made some jaw-dropping throws throughout the game, several of which were either dropped or in one case caught out of bounds by his receivers. But to me, the real lesson here is that, as Jimmy Johnson said before one Super Bowl a few years back, the game won’t be won by the team that makes the most great plays, it will be won by the team that makes the fewest bad plays.
This brings us back to Tagovailoa. One way that the NFL game definitely has changed is that nowadays, moving the chains and time of possession/field position advantage matters more than ever, and you can bet that when this organization drafted him, they had an eye on the Tom Brady/Joe Montana model of quarterbacking, rather than the Marino/Roethlisberger and, if you like, the Justin Herbert style of play. So, you won't see the Dolphins’ quarterback throw the ball a zillion times for over three hundred yards? Tagovailoa did that in the season finale at Buffalo, and got a Herbertian result for his efforts: multiple interceptions, at least one of which probably wasn’t his fault, and a loss.
I believe there are four basic groups among the Dolphin faithful in regards to Tagovailoa. The first group is the hardcore ‘Tuamaniacs’, like me. For the past couple of years, I’ve made no secret of my fondness for the kid, and I might love him almost as much as Trent Dilfer does. I believe Josh Houtz and Kathleen Noa are also represented in this group. By the way, I think Kathleen should be back soon; I hear the COVID crisis has really made her day job a lot harder and more time consuming, but hopefully, she’ll return soon. The second group, guys like Gllmiaspr, etc, is cautiously optimistic but believes the kid needs more time to completely rehabilitate himself physically, become better acclimated to the pro game and have a better supporting cast before making a final judgment. In short, they like some of what they’ve seen but also have some questions, and want to see a greater volume of work from him. Speaking of Gil, he wrote an article recently that was fantastic, and that I believe is absolute must-read material for every Dolphin fan, even more so if you still believe DeShaun Watson is the answer in Miami. Here’s a link to it if you haven’t yet seen it:
The third group is comprised of guys like my buddy, ‘The Looch’ (Coluccim). They have their doubts about whether Tagovailoa can be the long term answer for the Dolphins, but at least they have the courtesy to not show up on virtually every thread day after day and unendingly rip the young QB every chance they get. They may not believe he has the goods to lead the team to the promised land but also have better things to do than criticize him over and over again. That leaves group number four, the hardcore Tua haters, and let me be clear: I believe there are only two or three of them here on this site. They’re the guys who despise Tagovailoa and never wanted him to begin with, and they want you to forget about the amazing performance the kid put on in just his second pro start, at Arizona last November. They want you to forget that the kid is the all-time highest-rated quarterback in NCAA history, and is also the only quarterback in NCAA history to win a national championship as a true freshman. The canard they’re trotting out now in their unending war of words against the kid is that Mac Jones supposedly had a better year, statistically, this past season that Tagovailoa had a couple of years ago. Really? Well, then, I guess Jones should be the first player picked in the draft this year, then, shouldn’t he? What? He’s not in the conversation for the first overall pick? Interesting. No matter what his detractors claim, Tagovailoa would have been either the first, or if we want to split hairs over Joe Burrow, the second player picked in the 2020 draft prior to his injury, and no amount of spin or rhetoric can change that. I like Mac Jones and I expect that he’ll have a fine career in the NFL, but, as was the case with Josh Rosen, the Tua haters want anyone else to be the QB for the Dolphins other than Tua Tagovailoa, and they want virtually every other NFL quarterback of note to be more successful than our guy, because they so strongly dislike the kid, and want to be proven right for not liking him. Predictably, when the kid briefly staggered late in the year, under the tremendous load he was asked to shoulder with so little help from his teammates, his detractors pounced, and although there are probably only a couple of them around here, they’re now in full gloat mode, but they also know that they don’t have much time before the offseason, and the next regular season, commence, and many of us expect the kid to come out red hot and smoking in the very first game of 2021.
Tagovailoa hears you, just as he hears Chris Simms when Simms says that Tua is behind both Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert at this juncture. Maybe with everything he’s had overcome during the past fifteen months, and the offensive group of players he had to work with, he should be behind them, but many of us don’t believe he will be for long. You can rest assured that the kid is probably working his surgically repaired rear end off somewhere right now, lifting weights, running drills, and studying film because Hell hath no fury like a highly talented quarterback scorned. We’re all friends here, and we all want the same thing: for the Miami Dolphins to a great team again. But I have a request for the site’s moderators: don’t threaten the Tua haters with disciplinary action when they continually bash the young quarterback. Let them keep swinging away at him. Because eventually, the clips of negative ammunition that they keep firing with such gusto at him will run out, and those persistent pistols of pessimism will yield little more than empty, hollow clicks, no matter how frantically they continue pulling the trigger. That’s the wrap for today, have a great week, everybody.