The Miami Dolphins have the NFL’s number one total offense, the number one passing offense, the number one rushing offense, and the number one scoring offense. Needless to say, they are performing well on offense, and they are shutting down a lot of the analysts who saw quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is weak-armed and cannot complete passes down field. A lot of them - but not all of them, as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith demonstrated on Tuesday.
Debating whether Tagovailoa is the clear-cut NFL MVP through six weeks of the season - he is currently the betting favorite at +350 according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback second at +450 - Smith commented that a lot of the people who think Tagovailoa should win the award are clearly not watching the Dolphins. “All of these passes ain’t for 19-, 20-, 30-, 40-yards,” Smith stated. “You’ve just got Tua zipping it two yards to [Hill] and he’s the one taking it to the house.”
Stephen A on live TV claiming Tua only throws 2 yard passes to Tyreek while a highlight of Tua throwing a 50 yard in stride bomb plays in the background perfectly epitomizes how embarrassing the Tua discourse is within the sports media world pic.twitter.com/MsyKzG425y— VBS (@VBSofficial_) October 17, 2023
Of course, he was saying that over video highlights of Tagaovailoa throwing deep passes to Hill, but do not let the video evidence change the argument.
Tagovailoa leads the league with 1,876 passing yards this year, nearly 200 more than Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins second-highest mark at 1,679. Tagovailao’s 9.5 yards per attempt is almost a full yard higher than San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy’s 8.6 yards per attempt in second place. Tagovailoa leads in passer rating as well, sitting with a 114.1 rating thus far. Purdy has the second-highest rating at 111.9.
Of course, those stats could be impacted by a player taking a two-yard zipped pass 40 yards. But what about air yards? Taking a look at air yards, Tagovailoa is averaging 5.3 yards per pass in the air before it is being caught. That leads the league, ahead of Purdy’s 5.2 yards. Tagovailoa has thrown more passes over 10 yards than anyone else. He is second in passes that traveled more than 20 yards. He is tied for second in passes that traveled more than 30 yards. He jumps back into the lead with passes that travel more than 40 yards down the field. And he is tied for the league in passes that travel more than 50 yards.
Tagovailoa is tied for sixth on average completed air yards with a 6.4 yards per catch. In comparison, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is last on the list with a 3.7 average completed air yards through Week 6. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has the fourth-lowest average at 4.3 yards.
If the argument is to be made that Hill should be the front-runner for the MVP race, that is an argument that could be had. But making the argument that all Tagovailoa does is throw a two-yard pass every play seems to say more about not watching the Dolphins than it really says about Tagovailoa’s position as the MVP favorite.