Is the Dolphins 2020 Goal The Playoffs or The Future?

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick just had a solid performance against the New York Jets in the team’s victory at Met Life Stadium on Sunday.

Two touchdowns. No turnovers. The Dolphins won 20-3.

Fitzpatrick demonstrated the same qualities we saw the previous week when he stepped in for Tua Tagovailoa during Miami’s game against the Denver Broncos after Tua was benched for poor performance.

Fitz showed poise, knowledge of the offense, command, confidence, ability to go through the progressions, and chemistry with receivers.

Even when it appeared those receivers were covered, Fitz knew how to throw them open. Something Tua admitted he needed to recognize and work on— to trust his receivers in single coverage, and give them a chance to make a play.

It was like Fitzpatrick never left. We saw all the same things from him in Week 12 that we did in Week 6 during the Dolphins and Jets first meeting (a 24-0 shoutout, if you remember).

These were similar things we saw from Fitzpatrick during Miami’s convincing victory over the San Fransisco 49ers in Week 5.

Yet the job was still taken away from Fitzpatrick.

I will remind readers that Tua never earned the job. He was given the job. There was no indication during practices that Tua was lighting it up or beating Fitzpatrick out.

(Do we remember that Ryan Tannehill was once handed the starting job in 2012? How many questions arose from that decision during his first few years as a quarterback?)

Yes, Tua went on a 3-0 winning streak with no turnovers. But Tua’s statistics still weren’t impressive.

Good enough, but not impressive.

Tua demonstrated good decision-making, accuracy, and ball-placement during his run.

But then the Broncos game exposed the elements to Tua’s game that he lacks right now— the ability to recognize when a receiver is open in small NFL windows, getting the ball out quickly, the struggle to progress from his first read to his second or third when his first isn’t open and adjusting the offensive line for the right protection.

Fitzpatrick’s statistics haven’t exactly been impressive either. And if you take out the turnovers, Fitzpatrick’s and Tua’s statistics are pretty similar.

But while Fitzpatrick plays more like a Philip Rivers —a gunslinger with extreme intelligence— Tua looks more like a 2020 Baker Mayfield hoping that everything stays on-script.

Don’t get me wrong, the Dolphins can win with everything staying according to plan, and the rest of the team doing their part. The Browns are 8-3, aren’t they?

But there’s going to come games where things aren’t going according to plan, and you are going to be down by a couple of scores and you will need that veteran command, confidence, and intelligence from your quarterback to throw you back into a game or lead the team on a game-winning drive in a dire situation.

That’s why head coach Brian Flores put Fitzpatrick in towards the end of that Broncos game. Because he has that mental-processing and football IQ that Tua doesn’t possess at this moment in time.

Flores cannot be playing quarterback-carousel in these situations for the remainder of the season. The team needs to know who their guy is.

Physical ability is one thing, but the mental part of playing QB in the NFL is another. That goes a long way.

And if I’m going to pick a quarterback to lead my team in a season—especially in an offense that is lacking in many ways: injuries, less than ideal talent at WR and RB— I’m willing to take a dip on physical ability, for an increase in intelligence and leadership.

I have no shame in saying that I think Fitzpatrick is the better all-around QB for this team in 2020, despite Flores publicly stating Tua remains the starter if healthy.

But that all depends on what Flores deems is the goal for this season.

Is it Tua’s growth? Or is it a playoff birth?

The Dolphins currently have a spot in the Wild Card, but who does Flores think is the best QB for this team once playoffs start and it’s “win or go home”? Who is he willing to ride and die with?

Obviously, Flores thinks Tua is the right guy to steady the ship on the way to the playoffs. But is he willing to bet the season and/or postseason on a wily veteran in Fitzpatrick—who has the love and respect of the locker room (including the young Tua)—or a rookie QB in Tua who obviously has a ways to go mentally?

Flores knows Tua is the future. But he also clashes internally with wanting to win immediately.

That’s why he benched Josh Rosen in 2019 in favor of Fitzpatrick during the “Tank for Tua” season.

That’s why he benched Tua in Week 11 because he felt Fitzpatrick gave the team a better chance to win the game. He did that, instead of letting the franchise’s future QB prove himself during a test of adversity in the game’s final minutes.

Flores wants to do what’s best for the team. But what’s best for the entire team, the entire locker room, may not be to work on the future.

Playoffs are hard to come by. Especially, for the Miami Dolphins.

Don’t believe me? The last 3 Dolphins playoff appearances were in 2001, 2008, and 2016.

This season is different than most Miami Dolphins seasons in recent years. There is something on the line for 2020. There is something to lose.

And when you have to protect the season’s livelihood, you play your best guys.

And the Miami Dolphins best quarterback, as it sits today, is Ryan Fitzpatrick.

If this was a year when the Dolphins had a losing record by this point in the season and were on the outside-looking-in for the playoffs, I would endorse starting Tua all day long.

The Dolphins have Tua for another 3 seasons through 2023. Perhaps 4 seasons, if they wish to exercise his 5th-year option for 2024.

The Dolphins only have Fitzpatrick for the remainder of 2020.

The future is the future. The future will come.

But now is now.

So let’s have fun with Fitz.