Would We See the Same Justin Herbert in Miami?

Credit: Oregon Live

It is very clear that Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert is the real deal. Through five games this year, he’s thrown for 1,576 yards, and 13 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.

Herbert’s recent play and Tagovailoa’s injury have led to people questioning whether Miami drafted the wrong player.

If Miami drafted Herbert, would we see the same Justin Herbert in Miami?

Pre-Draft

Before Tagovailoa suffered a severe hip injury, most scouts and draft experts had him as the consensus first pick. In 2019 the plan was obvious, Miami assembled their roster to fail.

They were going to have a high pick in the 2020 draft, and most people had believed since the start of the rebuild that the Dolphins were aiming to select Tagovailoa. The phrase “Tank For Tua” was seen all over social media and had even been mentioned in National media.

The local Miami media was calling the Dolphins to “Tank For Tua” on the second day of 2019.

Tagovailoa being the consensus QB1 wasn’t without reason either. He threw for 7,442 yards, a completion rate of almost 70%, and 87 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions.

Tua is the quarterback who took over for Nick Saban’s team at halftime in the National Championship game and led a comeback win in OT to beat Georgia as a freshman. The hype around Tagovailoa was warranted.

After Tagovailoa suffered a near career ending-injury and LSU QB Joe Burrow broke NCAA records, most people began to fall in love with Burrow as their QB1. However, Tagovailoa was still QB1 for some people. For everyone else, he was QB2 at worst. No one had Justin Herbert higher than QB3. 

Heading into the draft, it was clear the Cincinnati Bengals were going to select Joe Burrow with the first pick. It was very likely that Miami was going to select Tua Tagovailoa, which would have left the LA Chargers to “settle” for Justin Herbert.

With draft season many smokescreens are sent into the media. The Dolphins set smokescreens to cause chaos and uncertainty among other teams, many did not know if they wanted Herbert or Tagovailoa; however, some knew Tua would be the pick.

Rumored Disagreement

A recent article by DolphinsNation.Com stated that Brian Flores wanted to draft Justin Herbert.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this though. Over the last year, people in the National Media would speculate that there was discourse in the Dolphins Organization and not a unanimous decision on the right pick at QB.

Brian Flores has spoken in support of Tagovailoa numerous times and emphasized how he feels about Tua’s leadership and ability.

The right pick?

Hindsight is always 2020. If you told Chris Grier and Brian Flores that Justin Herbert would win OROY last year and be in MVP conversations after 5 weeks in his second season, I’m sure they’d have selected Herbert.

Unfortunately that’s not how it works. Really that’s not how anything in life works. Hindsight is always 2020, and you have to work with what you have.

Again, Justin Herbert is an amazing quarterback. He’s reached Star status after just 20 games and is being compared to Miami Dolphins Hall of Famer Dan Marino. 

He’s doing it all well right now.

Is he Dan Marino level already? No. He looks like he could be though.

The point is, saying “Miami drafted the wrong QB” isn’t fair or true. At the time, most people would agree that Tagovailoa was the better prospect and a better pick at 5th overall than Herbert. 

Herbert is going to be a great QB in the league for years to come. This does not mean that Tua can not be a good QB. Tagovailoa has 12 games to prove he’s the guy in Miami.

Contextualization

Let’s get one thing clear. It is by no means a safe assumption that Justin Herbert would have the same success in Miami. 

The system in Miami is different, the offensive line is the worst in the league, and the offensive coaching staff is a mystery, and the WR corp has the highest drop percentage in the league since last year. 

Through five games, Jacoby Brissett and Tua Tagovailoa have been sacked 16 times. That number would be a lot higher if Jacoby Brissett didn’t use his superhuman strength to avoid sacks. Justin Herbert has only been sacked 9 times. In week 4, the Dolphins allowed 2 sacks but a whopping 11 pressures. 

That clip sums up the Dolphins OL performance through the first 5 weeks of the season. 

This season, the Chargers of Los Angeles have a top-10 OL.

The offensive line’s performance has a huge impact on QB play, and there is a drastic difference between the Miami OL and the LAC OL.

Career Path

Since Herbert and Tagovailoa arrived, they’ve had different paths to reach where they are today. After taking over for an injured Tyrod Taylor in week 2 last year, Herbert played well enough to earn the starting job. It was his team going forward and there was no doubt he was the starter.

In Miami, Tagovailoa took over after the Dolphins bye week with the team sitting at 3-3. Unfortunately, it’s been rumored that Chan Gailey did not agree with the decision. Downfield success was clearly an issue when Tagovailoa. Clearly the playbook was limited for Tagovailoa.

The Dolphins were also in playoff contention last year. In games where Tagovailoa was managing the game but not doing enough to win the game, Brian Flores pulled him in favor of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick went 1-1 in his save attempts.

Having a veteran QB who was clearly unhappy with his benching looking over Tua’s shoulder probably was far from the best case scenario.

This year, the Dolphins have two offensive coordinators and a QB coach who all have a part in the play-calling. Similar to playing “telephone” in elementary school, it never ends how you want it to. Tagovailoa is already on his 2nd and 3rd offensive coordinators in just his second year. 

Lastly, playmakers and supporting cast were a big issue for Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense. In just week 17 alone, the Dolphins had 13 dropped passes. There were games in which Tagovailoa’s starting wide receivers were Antonio Callaway and Mack Hollins. Callaway isn’t with the team, and Hollins is primarily a special teams player. 

Herbert on the other hand had Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Austin Ekeler for a little more than half the season.

These are by no means an excuse for the underwhelming start to Tagovailoa’s career. Last year, they were valid reasons. To say Herbert would be having the same start to his career in Miami as he is in Los Angeles is almost laughable.

Herbert is an excellent player and will be for years to come, but his supporting cast, coaching staff, and improved offensive line are all due credit.

The Future

It’s clear that Tagovailoa isn’t as physically gifted as Herbert. He’s smaller and doesn’t have as strong of an arm. That does not mean he can’t be a great quarterback in the NFL going forward. 

Tagovailoa is in Miami and we can’t change that. He has shown flashes of potential. He will need to rely on his weapons to become the player we think he can be.

Herbert is a stud. Tagovailoa can still become really good. Both can be true. Sitting here and saying Miami chose the wrong player is a useless and untrue(at the time) conversation to have. 

Tagovailoa makes his return from IR this Sunday in London and hopes to make his presence felt over the next 12 games of the season.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter.

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