Tuesday was the day most Miami Dolphins fans have been waiting for.
Head coach Brian Flores officially named rookie quarterback, and No. 5 overall draft pick, Tua Tagovailoa the starter for the Dolphins going into their next matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, and the foreseeable future. That matchup will be in week eight, giving Tagovailoa two weeks of sole first-team repetitions and even more time to prepare.
Tagovailoa Faces Tough Upcoming Defensive Opponents
Tagovailoa will have the pleasure of going up against defensive tackle Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams and defensive ends Joey Bosa (Los Angeles Chargers) and Bradley Chubb (Denver Broncos) before he gets a break against the New York Jets in week 12. It is also worth noting that Tagovailoa may still be getting off easy with both Broncos DE Chandler Jones, who has the most sacks of all players since 2015, and Denver linebacker Von Miller being out for the season.
Did Miami’s Upped Bye Week Play a Part in the QB Switch?
Even though QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has looked very good leading Miami to a 3-3 start to the season, head coach Brian Flores felt this was the best time to make the transition. With so many schedule changes because of COVID-19, Miami’s bye week got moved up in the process, likely playing a role in the decision to start Tagovailoa.
“I don’t think it hurts, but we just feel like this was the best move for our team right now,” Flores said about the moved up bye week playing into the quarterback change. “Look, ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) has done a great job. He’s been productive. His leadership has been great. It’s not an easy decision for me or for us as an organization, but we felt like for the team now and moving forward, this is the move we needed to make.”
Tagovailoa Brings Mobility, Outside Pocket Presence to Dolphins
Tagovailoa is much more mobile and has the better ability to extend plays outside of the pocket. After last Sunday’s game that saw Tagovailoa play Miami’s final series, he said he felt healthy. Tagovailoa is coming off of college-season-ending hip surgery.
On his first completion he rolled out to the left and completed the pass while avoiding the pursuit of two Jets defenders while in his own end zone. With Tagovailoa now at the helm, the offense could look very different than with Fitzpatrick.
“I think every week is a little bit different based on the opponent – what they do well, where their weaknesses are, where their strengths are – so I think the offense is different every week,” Flores said on the impact Tagovailoa will have on the offensive game plan. “But ‘Fitz’ did a lot for us offensively as far as communication, getting guys lined up. Tua’s going to have to do a good job of that as well and we’re going to need everyone to step up.”
Veteran Fitzpatrick: Crucial Member of Miami
Having a veteran and locker room favorite like Fitzpatrick over the past two seasons has helped Miami create a new culture the Dolphins have been looking to build for the past few years. He has led the way for the many young players on the team by being competitive every day and always having a team-first approach.
“He (has) made an impact on Tua, but also a lot of players on this team, so I have a great respect for him. That made this decision very tough,” Flores said. “But at the end of the day, as a team, we felt like the best thing to do for our team, now and moving forward, was to go with Tua. But I think ‘Fitz’ and the way he handles himself and his impact on the team, I think it will still be there. He’s been a tremendous asset and leader on this team.”
Change Was Known
Fitzpatrick has known for a while that this change would be coming, as he has called himself Tagovailoa’s “placeholder”, and has promised he would be the rookies biggest supporter when it happened.
“Fitz has been great. He (has) been great really for the last year and a half,” Flores said. “I don’t know if anyone has been more instrumental in trying to instill a culture and embody a lot of the things we’re looking for from a toughness, competitiveness, team-first [perspective]. He’s made an impact on Tua and a lot of other players on this team.”
It was only a matter of time before Flores handed Tagovailoa the keys to the offense. But for it to happen as early as week seven was a surprise for many. Flores has seen Tagovailoa get more comfortable in practice, and his development in decision making is what helped push Flores to make the move he said.
For many Dolphins fans this will probably feel like the longest bye week in the team’s history, but by next Sunday we may be seeing Miami’s QB of the future make his first of many starts in a Dolphins uniform. The franchise has waited for a long time and next week will be the first glimmer of hope in that department in years.