Despite what should be regarded as a successful 2020 campaign, this offseason has been full of question marks surrounding the future of starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Following on from endless criticism from the likes of Colin Cowherd, Chris Simms and Skip Bayless amongst others, Tua finally broke his silence on his rookie season at the start of OTAs this past week. In what can only be described as an incredibly honest and self critical interview, much of what he said leads to the question, were the Dolphins right to play Tua in 2020?
Looking back, it is very easy to see the argument in favor of red shirting Tua. After all, the same approach was taken by the Kansas City Chiefs when they elected to roll with veteran QB Alex Smith and to sit the future MVP and Super Bowl winner Patrick Mahomes in his first season. Tua is not Mahomes. In fact Tua has endured a much more challenging ordeal.
A rookie QB coming off a potentially career ending injury, with rehabilitation and a global pandemic hampering any chance of a productive offseason, to enable him to hit the ground running in his first season in the NFL. It is now clear that despite what fans were told about Tua’s hip being ready to play in the NFL, it was not ready for him to be Tua, the most efficient and accurate passer in college history; the Tua that Dolphins fans thought they were getting with the 5th overall pick.
Tua himself admitted to not having the confidence in his first year to make the appropriate alerts and checks, caused by his own failure of not knowing a playbook designed for Fitzpatrick well enough. It is therefore very easy to come to the conclusion that knowing this, the Dolphins should have elected to redshirt Tua, not risking the season or the health of an unprepared QB. So why did the Dolphins take that risk and did it pay off?
Following on from the 2019 season, nobody seriously expected the Dolphins to progress in their rebuild as far as they did. From improving from 5-11 to 10-6 in one season, highlights the direction of the team moving forward as a legitimate AFC contender. Whilst some questions may continue to linger throughout the media and on Twitter, had Tua not seen the field at all last season, even more questions would have arisen, following successful rookie campaigns of both Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.
After being selected 5th overall and to not see the field over the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen, comparisons will have inevitably been made with Jordan Love in not being NFL ready. By allowing Tua the opportunity to make his mistakes in a weakened AFC East, with both the Jets and Patriots very much below par, meant that any rookie mistakes that were made did not come at the expense of winning in the moment.
Therefore, whilst it may be seen that electing to play Tua was setting him up for failure in 2020, it has subsequently created a platform for him to succeed in 2021 and beyond.
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