Dolphins fans, the wait is over: it’s officially “Tua Time.”
The Miami Dolphins announced that rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa will be the starter moving forward, beginning Week 8 against the Los Angeles Rams. NFL insider Adam Schefter was the first to break the news on Twitter.
The move comes as a surprise, as the Dolphins are in the thick of the division race at 3-3, and riding a two-game win streak largely due to the play of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick has been electric this season, throwing for 300+ yards in half the games he has started this year. If the Dolphins ride with Tua for the rest of the season, Fitzpatrick will end the year having completed 138-of-197 pass attempts (70%) for 1,535 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions according to Pro Football Reference.
Not to mention, his uncanny ability of scrambling to extend drives and a nose for the end zone as well. In a valiant attempt to hold his 2019 rushing champion crown from last season, Fitz also had 25 rush attempts for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns.
This more than likely will be the end of the “Fitzmagic” era in Miami, and his contributions to the Dolphins organization on the field, in the locker room, and the development of Tua have helped turn the wheels of change in motion in Miami.
“You have a 16-year vet like Fitz who has no animosity towards it, as well, who’s just been supportive the entire time… I’m very fortunate to have a mentor like him who is just very encouraging on the field,” Tagovailoa said on his veteran mentor.
For Miami fans starved for a true franchise quarterback since the legendary Dan Marino, the mere act of Tua walking on the field late in last week’s game against the New York Jets spurred the loudest cheer from the crowd all afternoon.
Backed up near his own end zone, Tua completed 2-of-2 pass attempts for nine yards and converted Miami’s only third-down conversion of the day on a 7-yard pass to WR Jakeem Grant.
Given it was a small sample size but displayed Tua’s athletic prowess that the Fins simply didn’t have with Fitz under center. On his first pass attempt, Tua found RB Patrick Laird for a two-yard strike after rolling out to his left and backtracking into the end zone from the Jets pressure.
On the very next play, Tua showed poise in the face of more New York pressure. As the pocket collapsed, Tua calmly stepped up in the pocket and hit Grant for the first down in double coverage.
Tua isn’t going to consistently hurt you with his legs like Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray, but his athleticism will give Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey more freedom in his play calling. Gailey will now be able to utilize more designed quarterback runs, roll outs, and run-pass options (RPO) in his play calling to keep defenses on their heels, and ultimately harder to defend.
His meteoric rise happened after replacing now-Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts against the Georgia Bulldogs and leading Alabama to a 26-23 comeback victory in the first College Football Playoff championship game in 2017.
All he did after that? Lead the Crimson Tide to a 22-2 record over the next two seasons, including a win against the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2018 College Football Playoff semi-final, and a loss to the Clemson Tigers in the championship the following week.
Tua stuffed the stat sheet over the course of his three year collegiate career at Alabama, completing 474-of-684 pass attempts (69.3%) for 7,442 yards, 87 touchdowns, and just 11 interceptions according to Sports Reference College Football.
After suffering a dislocated hip with a posterior wall fracture in his final year at Alabama, some teams shied away from the former Crimson Tide signal caller in this year’s draft. Miami bet on not only Tua’s collegiate production, but his winning mentality when they made him the fifth-overall pick in this past year’s draft. Thankfully, Tua is healthy and has been clamoring to play, at least according to his father.
“He is dying — I’m telling you — he is dying to get in and play,” Tagovailoa’s father, Galu, told the Sun Sentinel. “He doesn’t want anyone to think about his health. His health is good. He doesn’t want anyone to think about or worry about his hip. He’s all good. He just wants to play. He is dying, wanting to play. Believe me.”
Armed with a bevy of playmakers and a much improved defense, Tua will have an opportunity to lead Miami to their first playoff berth since the 2016 season in which they lost in the Wild Card Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He’ll have the opportunity to play against both other rookie first-round quarterbacks, squaring off against Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) in Week 10 before meeting Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals (1-4) in Week 13.
For now, Tua will get two full weeks of preparation before taking on the Los Angeles Rams at home in Week 8.
Here’s to the new era in South Beach Dolphins fans!
(Photo Credit: Miami Dolphins)