Photo via USA Today
On Nov. 16, 2019, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was on track to be the number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and led Mississippi State 35-7 late in the first half. Then, tragedy struck as he was sacked by two Bulldog defenders, injuring his right hip severely and ending his season early. His draft status was up in the air as he was still recovering from injury at the time the first-round selections began.
The Miami Dolphins took a chance on him with the fifth-overall pick, allowing him to recover and learn from starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has led the Dolphins to a 3-3 record, including torching the San Francisco 49ers for three touchdown passes and 350 yards passing. However, Fitzpatrick has struggled with turnovers, throwing two interceptions against the winless New York Jets on Sunday. In the Dolphins’ 24-0 victory, head coach Brian Flores inserted Tua late in the game and he completed two passes for nine yards.
Tuesday morning, the Dolphins announced that Tua will start the Dolphins’ Week 8 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams after their Week 7 bye week. When he makes his first start, it will have been 351 days since his injury against Mississippi State.
“From a rehab standpoint, or just from a strength training standpoint, he’s doing what everyone else is doing,” said Flores. “He’s doing well physically and mentally. From a health standpoint, it was obviously a serious injury, and he’s done a great job as far as getting himself back healthy and getting himself to a point where he can practice and take a lot of reps. He’s trending in the right direction from a health standpoint.”
Tua slowly started to show mobility during training camp and was taken off the injury list Week 2. Considering this serious injury happened less than a year ago, it is incredible Tua is fully healthy and ready to start.
At Alabama, Tua showed amazing skills which made him an elite NFL prospect. In Jan. 2018, he came off the bench in the second half of the National Championship Game against Georgia when trailing 13-0 and without making a single start beforehand, he led the Crimson Tide back, leading them to a 26-23 overtime victory. He became a star overnight and grew into a star as he took the reigns in the Alabama offense, displaying incredible accuracy, precision on the run and leadership skills.
He has talent and the Dolphins drafted him, hoping he can be the franchise QB they have lacked since Dan Marino retired after the 1999 season. Not a single QB for the Dolphins has made the Pro Bowl since Marino and the last QB to win a playoff game for the team was Jay Fiedler in 2000 where the Dolphins beat the Indianapolis Colts 23-17 in overtime. They had Ryan Tannehill, but injuries and mediocre play ruined his tenure with the team. He has since thrived with the Tennessee Titans, winning more playoff games with them than the Dolphins had won in the last 20 years.
Flores has built a fantastic culture already in Miami, leading the Dolphins to a 5-11 record with a roster expected to go 0-16. After trading off key players from their previous core under former head coach Adam Gase, the Dolphins accumulated three first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft and have two more in the next draft, including a potential top-five pick as the Houston Texans, who traded their 2020 and 2021 first-round pick to Miami for left tackle Laremy Tunsil, currently sit at 1-5.
The Dolphins are 3-3 heading into their bye week and are going with Tua for the rest of the season. As great as it is to see Tua back and healthy, I think the Dolphins are doing this too soon. He is the franchise QB and they need to ensure he can be healthy for the next decade +. There is no reason to throw him out there now considering they are already 3-3 without him and their top draft pick is looking better and better with the Texans struggling. I would have kept Fitzpatrick in there the entire season as Tua continues to learn under him and be as fresh as possible for the 2021 season.
However, I can understand this move. Tua can use this time to develop chemistry with his receivers and get into a rhythm with the team. Also, with him starting, it creates a buzz around the franchise not seen since the Dolphins used the “Wildcat” offense in 2008, taking the league by storm. In Sunday’s game, Dolphin fans went crazy when he was subbed in, even chanting his name. With the limited COVID-19 restrictions in Florida, the Dolphins are allowed to have games at full capacity. This means when he makes his debut against the Rams at home, Dolphins fans may flock to Hard Rock Stadium, creating an electric atmosphere which the Dolphins have rarely seen at home games since the days of Marino.
It is incredible Tua is playing again so soon after his injury. Let us hope he stays healthy so we can see if he is indeed the franchise QB the Dolphins are hoping he is.