This article was originally written for The Left Arm of God website on February 23rd, 2021, a short time after Tua Tagovailoa completed his rookie campaign. I tried to dissect the reasons why Miami’s QB1 was receiving so much backlash and hate despite leading his team to a winning record that year while recovering from a devastating hip injury. While Tua now has two professional season’s under his belt, his critics haven’t been silenced as of yet - and Tua admittedly hasn’t done quite enough to silence those doubters. Regardless, I am of the opinion that a lot of the hate spewed Tagovailoa’s way is a little over-the-top. So, while we try to wait-out the final month a half of this offseason, let’s revisit this article from just over 16 months ago and try and figure out why Tua Tagovailoa is such a polarizing figure in today’s NFL landscape.
We love Tua Tagovailoa. I mean, that’s why we’re here, right? You don’t visit a website with the URL
www.TheLeftArmofGod.com www.thephinsider.com without having a rooting interest in the success of the aqua and orange clad southpaw with the number one emblazoned across his chest. I don’t spend my free time writing articles about the soon-to-be second year quarterback who was drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft because I think he’s going to fall flat on his face. Tua is our guy. But, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’re well aware of the fact that not everyone shares our enthusiasm when it comes to the Miami Dolphins QB.
So, why do so many people seem to hate, or at the very least, root against Tua Tagovailoa? I have a few key reasons why I think Tua is already such a polarizing player, despite being very undeserving of the vitriol spewed his way. Let’s dive in, shall we?
- People hate Alabama, so they’re rooting for Tua to fail
If you’re anything like me, you get really tired of seeing the same teams, year after year, sitting atop the standings and capturing championship after championship. You know the usual suspects.
Now, us Fin fans have another very specific reason to dislike the Alabama football team, but we’ll skip over that for now. (insert photo of Nick Saban in Dolphins gear here)
However, for most college football fans, the reason to dislike the Crimson Tide comes from the fact that they’re just so damn good. They win. A lot. In fact, since Nick Saban took over the program back in 2007, they’ve made the National Championship game eight times and have won six titles. They’ve won seven SEC Championships. The Tide’s overall record under Saban is 165-23, good for a staggering .878 winning percentage. They’re winners, and people are sick of seeing their favorite teams fall victim to Saban and company time and time again.
Tua is one of the most successful quarterbacks to suit up for Alabama; with his left arm being responsible for one of those six national titles won under Coach Saban. He eviscerated many programs during his time in Tuscaloosa, inevitably acquiring some detractors along the way. That resentment has clearly followed him to the pros, and no matter what he ends up accomplishing in the NFL, the haters will never change their minds.
- Burrow and Herbert had “better” seasons, so Tua must be a bust
At this point, it’s no secret that Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert both had really good rookie seasons. Let’s take a look at the stats.
BURROW: 10 games started – 2,688 yards passing – 13 TDs – 5 Int – 65.3 completion percentage – 89.8 QB rating
HERBERT: 15 games started – 4,336 yards passing – 31 TDs – 10 Int – 66.6 completion percentage – 98.3 QB rating
And here’s how Tua fared:
TUA: 9 games started – 1,814 yards passing – 11 TDs – 5 Int – 64.1 completion percentage – 87.1 QB rating
Outside of win/loss record, which was heavily skewed by how well the Dolphins’ defense played, Tua was outclassed by both Burrow and Herbert in 2020. But, that doesn’t mean he had a bad rookie season at all. Compared to many high caliber starting QBs in the NFL today, Tua actually performed better during his first season as a starter.
JOSH ALLEN: 11 games started – 2,074 yards passing – 10 TDs – 12 Int – 52.8 completion percentage – 67.9 QB rating
RYAN TANNEHILL: 16 games started – 3,294 yards passing – 12 TDs – 13 Int – 58.3 completion percentage – 76.1 QB rating
TOM BRADY (his 2nd season in the league, but first as a starter): 14 games started – 2,843 yards passing – 18 TDs – 12 Int – 63.9 completion percentage – 86.5 QB rating
Tua had a lower interception percentage than the three high quality quarterbacks listed above. He had a better completion percentage and a better QB rating too. Imagine if the Bills gave up on Josh Allen because of his rookie season. Even better, imagine if Tom Brady was traded by the Patriots after his so-so first season as a starter (which did include a Super Bowl victory). Come to think of it, I wish they had done that and saved us all nearly two decades of misery! And as Fins fans, we know that Miami didn’t jettison Ryan Tannehill after a subpar rookie year.
Yes, Burrow and Herbert both look like the real deal, but their successes do not mean Tua Tagovailoa will be a bust. Remember the 1983 NFL Draft? John Elway had a pretty damn good NFL career. But that doesn’t mean that Jim Kelly and Dan Marino had crappy ones. There’s room enough at the table for multiple quarterbacks to eat.
- No one has any patience anymore
In today’s world, patience is no longer a virtue. Everyone wants everything now. No one wants to wait for anything, despite what our parents told us about good things coming to those who wait. Hungry? Click a few buttons on an app on your phone and a pizza shows up at your doorstep in twenty minutes. Want to know the name of the lead singer of early 2000’s emo quartet, AFI? Alexa will tell you that man’s name is Davey Havok in a matter of seconds. Yesterday’s news might as well have happened five years ago with the way people consume information nowadays. You don’t even have to search it out anymore. It comes to you while you scroll your Twitter feed! If you’re bored while you’re at your kids’ soccer game, pull up an old episode of Community on the Netflix app on your iPhone. What a world!
But as we navigate life in today’s high paced, never-satisfied society, sometimes we have to take a step back and realize that some things just take time. Most of the time, the development of an NFL QB is one of those things.
Let’s consider the unique circumstances that Tua played under in 2020 due to how COVID-19 canceled his training camp, eliminated his preseason, and altered practices all year long. And that’s before we take into account the devastating hip injury he suffered just five months before he was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Did we expect Tua to come out and light up NFL defenses with ease and precision like he did at Alabama? Maybe. But were our expectations probably a little too high due to the fact that Miami has been starving for a high caliber gunslinger since the great number 13 hung up his cleats over twenty years ago? Most certainly.
As esteemed hip-hop artist Eminem once said, “Behind every successful person lies a pack of haters.” Let them hate. My hope is that Tua uses all of this nonsense as fuel to come out better, smarter, and hungrier than ever for his second season as starting quarterback for our Miami Dolphins. Whether it’s hatred for Alabama, comparison bias, or the simple fact that most people are insanely impatient, Tua certainly has his critics, but we, his loyal subjects, won’t be swayed when it comes to our faith in The Left Arm of God™.
Sixteen months have passed since this article was first published, yet Tua Tagovailoa still has just as many detractors as he does fans. Will his third year in the NFL bring the revelation at QB Miami has been waiting for since Dan Marino retired more than two decades ago? With the additions to the wide-receiver room and offensive-line, combined with Mike McDaniel’s new offense, can Miami’s signal-caller finally have a breakout campaign? We will find out for sure soon enough, but in the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @MBrave13! Fins up!