The Tua Tagovailoa Hate is Unjustified
It wasn't so long ago Tua Tagovailoa was on top of the football world. For whatever reason, the narrative has flipped since taking over as the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins.
Life comes at you fast.
Wednesday morning the Miami Herold released an article detailing the concerns of a few anonymous teammates of Tagovailoa's questioning his potential to lead the team into the future.
Here are just a couple of quotes from the article:
But the players also say they don’t see a special trait in Tagovailoa’s skill set beyond his accuracy.
One defensive player said he isn’t impressed with Tagovailoa’s ball velocity or arm strength or ability to make off-schedule plays with his legs. So he ultimately questions whether Tagovailoa will ever be able to match the feats of other quarterbacks in the AFC such as Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson.
“Those are the boys we got to beat, right?” this player said. “It looks right now like that’s going to be a big challenge.”
“We always think next man up no matter what,” the player said. “But I saw Tua as the next man up because Fitz was better.”
Firstly, these players chose anonymity, which is their right. I cannot fault a journalist for running with anonymous sources either, it's part of the job. But even if their concerns are valid, there's an equally valid reason for head coach Brian Flores to have the rule set in place, to begin with, to "never voice any concerns in the media." Former players agree.
Today on The Jay Barker Show, both Barker himself and former Alabama running back Trent Richardson voiced their frustrations with the situation.
"This is a guy that just came off of major hip surgery, give him some time," Barker said on his show. "I never liked to see players from a team coming out and talking about another player to the media or to anybody outside the locker room."
"I think it's childish," Richardson added. "I'm really pissed about it, Jay. One thing you don't do as a player, for the code in the locker room, you do not put your business out there, the locker room talk, out there in the media."
The frustrations of these players can be understood on the business side to a degree. Sure, Ryan Fitzpatrick did nothing in 2020 to warrant losing his starting position to Tagovailoa. The other 51 players on the roster are due the peace of mind that they won't be replaced on a whim due to higher management.
To be fair to those players, sometimes first impressions can be wrong. Here's what Tyreek Hill first thought of Patrick Mahomes.
Notice, how that was dated in December 2020. Hill didn't say that until after the verdict on what kind of player Mahomes was revealed itself over time.
Of course, play on the field matters, as it should. Tua Tagovailoa, nor any quarterback, should be put on the field because of draft position or potential. The best player should play. For this, the players who voiced their opinions to the Herald are right to be disgruntled in Fitzpatrick's benching. It caught everyone off guard, including Tagovailoa.
While Tagovailoa did not, in some ways, perform better than Fitzpatrick in the 2020 season, he isn't deserving of these criticisms.
At the end of the day, Tagovailoa is a rookie. When he's on the field, coaches are aware that he will do things a 15-year veteran like Fitzpatrick wouldn't do. Tagovailoa did finish and win five of the nine games he started.
Ironically, another Miami Herald article/series looks at Tagovailoa's rookie season. In part one, it's pointed out that Tagovailoa graded out rather poorly compared to his peers in nearly every passing category, barring one. His deep throwing was excellent.
From the first article in the series: "Tagovailoa’s deep numbers — 10 for 29 for 259 yards, two touchdowns and one interception — were better than Joe Burrow’s (9 for 48 for 293 and one drop), Mitch Trubisky’s (6 for 33 for 171, no drops), Jimmy Garoppolo’s (1 for 10 for 35 yards, no drops), Sam Darnold’s (11 for 38, 303 yards and one drop) and Jarred Goff’s (13 for 43 for 416 yards and two drops), among others."
Tua's deep throws showed where the bulk of his problem truly lays: a lack of talent around him. Fans and analysts critical of Tagovailoa are quick to compare him to Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert who both turned in fantastic rookie seasons. Hilariously forgotten is the receiving talent both enjoy. Burrow's weapons include AJ Green, Tyler Boyd and equally impressive rookie Tee Higgins. Herbert enjoyed Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Tagovailoa had the oft-injured DeVante Parker.
The second article is linked here, and it compares Tagovailoa to 25 rookie quarterbacks in the past century. Some of the names he outperformed: Peyton and Eli Manning, Josh Allen and Carson Palmer. A few he was on par with: Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan and Lamar Jackson. A few he woefully underperformed against: Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Deshaun Watson.
That last name is everything this conversation centers around now. Watson is a top-10 NFL quarterback and the Dolphins are in the market having missed the playoff by one game. When a significant upgrade is available, it's wise to take what is given. If the Denver Broncos hadn't taken Peyton Manning over Tim Tebow, the franchise clearly would have two fewer Super Bowl appearances and one fewer championship. It makes sense.
But the immediate dismissal of Tagovailoa is wholly short-sighted. The narrative on rookie quarterbacks has been incredibly frustrating for years since Matt Ryan opened the entire NFL's eyes to the idea of playing first-rounders if they are clearly ready. The frustrating side of the narrative is because guys like Mark Sanchez and Mitchell Trubisky are shoe-horned in because they are the best available in weak classes. Then guys like Josh Rosen and Jimmy Gorappollo are sent to the gallows for not being world-eaters from the jump. Meanwhile, give Josh Allen a couple of years to grow in quiet Buffalo and now he's an NFL MVP candidate.
Huh, give a guy time to grow. See, Josh Allen's first-round talent was seen in his size and arm strength, two things Tagovailoa is thought not to possess at an ideal capacity. But Tagovailoa's first-round talent was seen in his accuracy, anticipation and intelligence, traits thought nearly uncoachable in the NFL; either you get there with those traits, or you make it work without them.
Again, from the anonymously-sourced Herold article, "One defensive player said he isn’t impressed with Tagovailoa’s ball velocity or arm strength or ability to make off-schedule plays with his legs."
Tom Brady lacks ball velocity or arm strength or the ability to make off-schedule plays with his legs. He's been eating the Dolphins' and the entire NFL's lunch for over 20 years. It doesn't take a flavor-of-the-generation quarterback to be successful. Tagovailoa was the first of his kind at Alabama and saw massive success, after all.
I'm not saying Tua Tagovailoa is Tom Brady. I'm not even saying he will explode into an MVP candidate within three years like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson did.
I'm saying he deserves time. He deserves the opportunity to have an offense and franchise built around him. He deserves better than unjustified hate, especially from his own teammates.
Alabama Career Passing Yards