If you are a fan of sports in any way, then you may have noticed that the Miami Heat just made a passionate and unexpected run to the 2020 NBA Finals. Many folks would think that the Miami Heat were thee sports team in Dade County, because of their success in recent years. And they may be right. But it’s not so black and white. You see, the city of Miami is more so known as a football town. The city’s oldest professional sports team happens to be the Miami Dolphins. Still, to this day, residents would get more excited over a Dolphins win than any other team in town. The Dolphins were their first love. And with this new rookie, excitement has reached a fever pitch. Come on, say it with me; The Tua Tagovailoa Era is upon us.
Over the years, the Dolphins have fallen on some pretty challenging times, to put things mildly. The team has only one playoff victory in the last 20 years, they happen to change coaches and quarterbacks more than girls change clothes, and so there hasn’t been much stability or consistency lately with this organization.
Lack of Recent Talent on the Miami Dolphins
Now, if you’re a sports fan in any way, then you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t name a Dolphins player from recent years. According to Pro Football Reference, the team has sent only 3 players to the pro bowl in the last decade. The most recent selection was Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019, and he didn’t even finish the season as a Dolphin. In fact, he blossomed into a star once he was traded away to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, this isn’t an article that’s meant to bash the Dolphins, because I do say all of this with reason. This is still a football town. Make no mistake about it. Yes, the Heat are coming for the crown, but they haven’t wrestled it away just yet; and with what will be the beginning of a new era in Miami, they may not get a chance to take it away for a long time.
Tua’s Time with the Alabama Crimson Tide
If you are a fan of sports in any way, then you may have heard of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team. If you’re familiar with their success, then you should be aware of the magical way in which they sealed their 2017 national championship victory. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? During halftime of the championship game against The University of Georgia, head coach Nick Saban decided to make an interesting switch at quarterback; benching longtime starter Jalen Hurts for a little known freshman quarterback who went by the name of Tua Tagovailoa. As the old saying goes, the rest is history.
Tagovailoa would go on to lead a Crimson Tide comeback behind a stat line of 14-of-24 passing for 166 yards and 3 passing touchdowns, including the game-winning 41-yard bomb to fellow freshman Devonta Smith in overtime. He would cap the night off with a humble passer rating of 149.4 and he would be named the offensive MVP of the game. Like I said, magical. Tua instantly became a legend in both Tuscaloosa and college football lore. The next two seasons for Tua would contain some very high highs, and unfortunately, some very low lows.
The quarterback phenom would go on to set college football ablaze, setting a new NCAA FBS record for passer rating in a season with 199.4, winning both the Walter Camp and Maxwell Award and leading Alabama back to the national championship game. He would also suffer a nasty high ankle sprain in 2018 and a career-threatening dislocated hip in 2019 during the game against Mississippi State. Tua missed the remainder of the season and would forego his senior season to declare for the NFL draft.
It took a combination of events to happen in order for the Dolphins to be positioned to draft Tagovailoa. First was the dislocated hip. Second was the Dolphins going 5-11 for the season. Third was Ol’ Joey Burrow stringing together the greatest college season we’ve ever seen from a quarterback in history. Their regular-season record positioned the Dolphins with the 5th overall pick, the injury raised skepticism, thus allowing Tua to fall, and the breakout season caused Joe to rise to the number 1 pick.
A New Hope in Miami
Being a Miami native, I’ve witnessed my fair share of Dolphins’ ineptitude over the years. I hadn’t really gotten into football until around the mid-2000s, and so I’ve never experienced the bliss of getting excited over a draft pick. Tua Tagovailoa changed all of that.
Yes, the injury history was concerning, and quite frankly, it still is. But I do know that this kid is special. The city of Miami knew that this kid was special. The organization didn’t need to play things safe and select Justin Herbert(who by the way has been absolutely electrifying to start the season). I wanted them to take the risk on the player who took college football by storm and lit up every single team, season after season. I wanted them to draft the kid who broke college football records for efficiency. I wanted them to draft the quarterback who spearheaded the miracle at the Mercedes Dome. I wanted them to take Tua.
And so they did.
To say the city was excited might be selling things short. According to ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe, Tua’s jersey instantly became the hottest piece of NFL gear; claiming both the number 1 and number 2 slots for highest-selling jerseys since being drafted(I still haven’t purchased mine yet). To really put things into perspective, he sold more jerseys than new Buccaneer Tom Brady and golden boy Joe Burrow. Tua sold more football merch than Russell Wilson, Odell Beckham Jr., Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes. Patty freakin’ Mahomes! I think you get the picture.
After presenting you with all of this glorious lore, you might be wondering “well Meshach, where are you going with all of this?” I’m now getting to that. After starting the season 3-3, the Miami Dolphins have officially named Tua Tagovailoa the team’s starting quarterback. Now, there is speculation around whether or not this was a coaching staff decision, or if this was a decision made by ownership. However, none of that matters now. What matters is that “Tua Time” has arrived. The Tua Tagovailoa era is now upon us.
The unknown behind who pulled the trigger on the quarterback change isn’t the only controversy surrounding the decision. NFL veteran and journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, really let his emotions fly and expressed a side of himself that we rarely ever see. Rightfully so, he expressed displeasure with the decision. He did just lead the Dolphins to back to back blowout wins against the decimated 49ers and the hapless New York Jets. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Dolphins score 67 points in a 2 game span. But they did. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ryan Fitzpatrick string together back to back wins with a QBR average of 123.9. But he did.
The team benched him after that.
Polarizing? Sure. But we all knew this time was coming. Even Fitz knew this time was coming. Taking a rough quote from ESPN’s Dan Le Batard — these guys in the pros are competition-a-holics. You don’t get to where they are without a maniacal obsession to be better than the next guy. So when you take a veteran journeyman who just put together one of the best stretches of his career, during perhaps the twilight of his career, and then bench him afterward for a player who many agreed should be brought along as slow as possible, then one can understand if he’s a little bit peeved.
But like I said. None of that matters now. What matters is that Tua will make his debut during Week 8 against Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams.
With a current record of 3-3, this team doesn’t necessarily scream juggernaut; but I would argue that this Dolphins team is playing some very underrated football. Courtesy of ESPN, the Miami Dolphins boast a point differential of +47 through 6 games. This is easily the best mark of the AFC East and is good for 5th in the conference. Of course, all advanced metrics come with a grain of salt, but it’s a pretty good indicator of how the Dolphins have beaten their opponents thus far. More often than not, they’ve been smoking fools on Sundays.
This was all done with Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the charge by the way. Imagine what a healthy Tua Tagovailoa could do. Now, I’m in no way shape, or form saying that he’s some football deity and that he will transform the offense into the Kansas City Chiefs; hell, some rough patches are to be expected, because he is still a rookie. But I do think that he is an upgrade over Fitz, and that’s good enough to get this team to the playoffs. After all, we are talking about a prospect who, at one point, was projected to be the number 1 overall pick of his class.
The Dolphins have 10 games remaining on their schedule, with a stretch that includes matchups at home against the Chargers, on the road against the Broncos, at the Jets, and then back home against the Bengals. Those 4 teams have a combined record of 5-20. If New England can’t right their ship and with the Raiders playing pretty average football, the Dolphins have a legitimate chance of securing their 2nd winning record in the last 11 years. This would also be coupled with them making the playoffs for the 2nd time in the last 13 years!
Could this all blow up in the team’s face? Sure. Could Ryan Fitz and the Tantrums get inserted back into the starting lineup at some point? It’s possible. But it’s a risk you have to take.
At some point, the rebuild has to start producing wins. Brian Flores has already shown that he can get his players to play hard for him every week. Now it’s time to reward their dedication. How can he do that? He can put them in the best position to succeed, and I strongly believe that Tua gives them that opportunity. Hell, I mean it’s the least he can do; what with them literally laying their bodies on the line (or lines) for him every Sunday. It’s time to turn this feel-good story into something much more. All of the other rookies are getting some shine, so it’s only right that Tua gets his as well. This is about more than just making a playoff push. This is about a comeback story for a great kid quarterback and bringing meaningful football back to the city of Miami.
And if you’re a fan of sports in any way, then you should love yourself a good comeback story.