Tank for Tua. That was the mantra of many Dolphins fans heading into the 2019-2020 NFL season. And tank the Dolphins did... sort of.
Heading into former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ (still feels weird to type that) inaugural season, Miami traded several key players including Minkah Fitzpatrick, Laremy Tunsil, and Kenny Stills en route to demolishing the roster and preparing for a rebuild. The top brass in Miami was all in on sacrificing the present for the future... or so we thought. It turns out that Brian Flores and his staff were able to conjure up five wins that season, giving Miami the fifth-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. While Miami was able to still draft Tua Tagovailoa due to his draft stock suffering from a catastrophic hip injury that the Alabama star quarterback suffered in his final collegiate season, Flores’ five wins kept Miami out of position to select the consensus best player in the draft: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.
Now, in the year 2022, we know that Burrow has developed into a superstar for the team lucky enough to be selecting first overall that year (the Cincinnati Bengals), while Tagovailoa’s relationship with the Miami Dolphins is tenuous, at best. But what if Miami had still been able to select Burrow despite winning those five games? According to Ian Raporport of NFL Network, Miami’s front office tried.
Per Rapoport, “Miami was willing to trade all three No. 1 picks it had in 2020 — including the No. 5 pick that wound up being Tua Tagovailoa — and potentially more. There was not a consensus on what it would take, just that Miami wanted to try... Owner Stephen Ross was among the voices pushing hardest for the trade, according to sources.”
Miami’s top three picks that year resulted in a haul of Tagovailoa, left tackle Austin Jackson, and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. Jackson has since been moved from left tackle to left guard due to ineffective play, and Igbinoghene has rarely seen the field at all. Dolphins fans would gladly give up those three first round picks, and likely a lot more, if it meant they could have Joe Burrow in aqua and orange.
Rapoport goes on to say that, despite Miami’s efforts, the trade was likely never close to reality. “The call was quick, and the member of the Bengals brass who picked up the phone quickly hung up... No interest at all.” It’s not all that surprising that Cincinnati wasn’t excited to deal the pick. When you’re nearly certain (or as certain as you can be in the NFL Draft) that you have a future franchise quarterback within reach, you take him.
We all know that NFL history is full of unanswered questions. When it comes to quarterbacks, Miami Dolphins history is full of “what ifs” too. This story is just another to add to the books.
Follow Justin Hier on Twitter @HierJustin.