Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores announced on Tuesday that the Fins have named rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as their starter heading into their bye week. The decision comes after veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick led the team to a 3-3 record to start the campaign.
Two weeks ago Fitzpatrick’s erratic play elicited questions about when Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores would give the ball to his rookie first-round pick Tagovailoa. Flores said he would not be pressured into making the switch, and Fitzpatrick subsequently rattled off two blowout victories.
Now at 3-3 and heading into their bye week, Flores and the staff believed the time had come for Tagovailoa to take over. Thanks to the bye, he will have two full weeks to prepare for his first NFL start, which is an ideal situation and could have contributed to the timing of this announcement.
“We feel like that’s the best thing for the team,” the second-year coach said. “We feel like through practice and meetings and walkthroughs that he’s ready, and that’s how we’re going to move going forward.”
While other first round choices Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow have already made a handful of starts apiece, to varying degrees of success, the Dolphins have kept Tua under wraps. This was likely for two reasons. The first being their anxiety in relation to his hip injury, which has kept him off the field for 351 days, and the second being the devastating loss of most of the offseason activities that could have helped the 22-year-old develop faster.
Indeed, the ‘Ewa Beach, Hawaii native has been soaking up as much as he can from offensive coordinator Chan Gailey as well as the 16-year veteran they call ‘Fitzmagic.’ And he should be, because the hopes of the franchise are now riding on his shoulders. The Fins have had 22 starting quarterbacks since Dan Marino retired in 2000, none of which have won a playoff game. Tua is supposed to change those fortunes.
Fitzpatrick was always aware of his position as a mentor and placeholder for the future face of the franchise, but that didn’t make it any harder for the Harvard alum to hear that he was going to have to cede the starting job to his young teammate on Tuesday.
“Obviously we’ve talked in the past, me and you guys, about how I’m the placeholder and this eventually was going to happen,” the journeyman pivot said. “It was just a matter of kind of when, not if. It still just … it broke my heart yesterday. It’s a tough thing for me to hear and to now have to deal with, but I’m going to do my best with it.”
While Tua was sad to see his teammate’s heart broken, he said he was excited to get to work and that he was “very, very lucky” to have a guy like Fitzpatrick in his corner, describing their relationship as a “father-and-son thing.”
The Dolphins expected to be in rebuilding mode this season, but after six games they find themselves just one game back of the division leading Buffalo Bills at 3-3. Oddsmakers aren’t taking them seriously just yet, giving the two-win New England Patriots 3.25 odds on 888sports to win the division while the 3-3 Dolphins are sitting at just 8.00, a number that’s hard not to take considering the value it offers.
With the added Wild Card spot, the Dolphins have a real shot at making the playoffs this season, especially if Tagovailoa can take off the way Flores and the Fins are expecting him to after all of his time learning from Fitzpatrick. They’re getting 4.40 odds to make the postseason on 888sports, a very attractive number whether it’s Tagovailoa or Fitzpatrick taking the snaps.