Earlier this year, the Dolphins had a few important decisions to make at the NFL Draft. With top quarterback talent available for the Dolphins, including Justin Herbert of Oregon, Jordan Love from Utah, Joe Burrow from LSU, and Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama, the Dolphins had three fantastic options to help build their offense.
Despite the fact that the Dolphins could have drafted Herbert (who went to the LA Chargers), the squad opted for Tagovailoa. While his numbers compare to Herbert’s, the Samoa native has had a string of injuries from his freshman year to his senior.
Though the Dolphins may not be able to hold up a Lombardi Trophy this season, they’ll need to inch into the middle of the pack to make choosing Tagovailoa over Herbert a good move in the long run.
Currently, the Packers and Seahawks are performing well enough that Super Bowl futures from a variety of sportsbooks could shift from the Chiefs and Ravens. With weeks of season play left to go, there’s time for odds to shift to make room for the Seahawks, Packers, or even the Saints.
Yet to Start
Despite Tagovailoa’s promise as a player, he’s struggled to gain popularity amongst most fans. Given he’s stepping into the season with an ongoing hip injury, there’s plenty of anticipation to see how the player stacks up.
Others point to his lack of flash. Unlike, say, Mahomes, Tagovailoa is less likely to stun crowds with a showy play. Instead, he’s a consistent player who throws with deadly, dependable accuracy that saw him leave the NCAAF with a 70% pass completion rate. This stability can’t be downplayed for a team as erratic as the Dolphins.
At the moment, Tagovailoa isn’t just riding the bench. He’s been observed standing by offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s side during offensive play to take notes. He does the same for starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. It’s an encouraging sign that the young QB is dedicated to learning by respecting senior players like Fitzpatrick.
Rather than take the gridiron charging and demanding the NFL see him as a top quarterback, Tagovailoa is in it for the long haul. Educating himself, at this point, is time well spent for the Dolphins.
Monitoring Missed Opportunities in Bell & Herbert
If undue pressure is being cast on Tagovailoa, it won’t be erased by the recent loss of potential running back Le’Veon Bell, who recently signed with the Chiefs. Compared to the Dolphins’ current RB, Myles Gaskin, Bell would have paired well with an all-star QB like that which may bloom in Tagovailoa.
Still, there’s little surprise that a senior player with two All-Pro running back titles like Bell to opt for a failing franchise like the Dolphins over the NFL’s new golden boy in the Kansas City Chiefs.
If anything, Tagovailoa could help attract players like Bell, assuming he heals and then thrives on the Miami squad. Though some like to make a case for Gaskin through comparison to Bell, head coach Brian Flores is focused on pushing his players while also supporting them to perform at their optimal level.
With this perspective in mind, Flores seemed primed to groom Tagovailoa into a strong player while pulling the best from RBs like Gaskin. Still, it’s impossible for Dolphins fans to refrain from taking a look at how Bell performs with the Chiefs—and how Herbert does with the LA Chargers.
Despite their lackluster season with a 1-4 record in the AFC West, the LA Chargers can rely on their rookie QB. In fact, analysts and pundits fear it’s the team’s hesitancy to rely on Herbert that has led them to their current record, siting comeback wins for rivals like the Saints.
It seems that Herbert needs a bit more freedom before he can thrive, while Tagovailoa needs a few more months before his hip is action-ready. Again, it seems likely that Tagovailoa will provide long-term relief for the Dolphins if he can establish himself as a leading QB.
Though Herbert may shine bright on the west coast, he may not have the lasting power to turn around a franchise as Tagovailoa could.