For all the talk about the Miami Dolphins’ two-quarterback system that saved the day against the Las Vegas Raiders last weekend, that conversation has become moot practically overnight. 

As a final goodbye, 2020 gifted Ryan Fitzpatrick a positive COVID test the week leading up to the season finale in Buffalo. In by far the biggest game of the season, with the playoffs on the line, the Dolphins will be without Fitzmagic.

In what we hope will be typical 2021 form, however, the Dolphins were spared a COVID outbreak, at least as of this article’s writing. What’s the significance of that lucky break?

It means that Tua Tagovailoa, in addition to being the unquestioned starter and closer for Sunday, should have a mostly full complement of weapons on offense as long as Devante Parker can suit up after missing the past few games. 

Above all that, it means that Tua should be in a position to succeed on Sunday. This Bills defense is talented and extremely competent, but statistically, they hover right around the league average in most categories. They’ve played well lately, but they’re not unbeatable.

This backdrop for Sunday’s game is important because the ramifications for Tua are especially significant. This Dolphins team as a whole has been an amazing surprise this season and is unquestionably trending upwards. Still, the chatter surrounding Tagovailoa’s long-term prospects has increased tenfold since the rookie was pulled in favor of Fitzpatrick to close out the Raiders game. 

If it were up to me, the Miami Dolphins fanbase and the national media would be patient with Tua; they would realize that a rookie quarterback coming off a major injury, without the benefit of a normal offseason program and surrounded by what has been at times a woeful collection of talent on offense, should be given time to develop. 

If it were up to me, the Dolphins front office would invest in weapons to surround Tua with this offseason — namely, a true RB1 to pair with Myles Gaskin and a receiver who can create after the catch. Maybe an Oregon offensive lineman by the name of Penei Sewell as well.

To me, that seems like the best way to unlock Tua’s full potential, which I think is sky-high. There’s only one problem.

It’s not up to me.

And it’s not up to you either, dear reader. We’ve got no say in this thing, no matter how much we swoon over draft prospects and free agents or tweet out our plans for year three of the ahead-of-schedule Dolphins rebuild.

It’s up to the people who get paid the big bucks in Miami, Chris Grier and Brian Flores. 

Considering how the Dolphins have looked this year, Miami’s front office deserves our trust for the time being. And while I think they are committed to Tua Tagovailoa being the Dolphins franchise quarterback, the only way to be sure is by watching Tua leave no doubt about that sentiment.

So while I’d love to say that Tua’s performance this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills isn’t a huge deal, it is. How the Dolphins’ rookie quarterback plays in such a crucial game does matter because, for as much as I love Tua, we can’t afford to turn a blind eye to his struggles. 

Don’t get me wrong; I think Tua has been quite good on the whole this season. I look at the Cardinals and Chiefs games and know that he can be special, something amazing for this franchise. 

But again, my glowing opinion of Tua isn’t the one that we’ll all be hearing about this offseason. We’ll all be inundated with hot takes about Tua’s future in Miami if he doesn’t follow up last Saturday’s uninspiring performance with a statement game against the Bills.

I can already hear Colin Cowherd going back to his comments that Tua lacks the “wiggle” to succeed in the NFL, whatever that means.

But of course, none of that will matter if Tua can put together a winning effort and get his team into the playoffs on Sunday.

Normally in this space, I’d pepper you with stats about the opponent coming up, but this week the stats don’t matter so much. All that matters is that Flores’ team takes care of business against the Bills, and Tua will be a massive part of that. Whether or not Buffalo chooses to rest their starters on Sunday, a playoff-clinching win would quiet the Tua doubters for a time — perhaps even for the entire offseason. 

If Tua struggles with the pressure on, however, any current detractors will have that much more ammunition heading into an NFL draft flush with quarterback talent. Especially with the Dolphins owning the Texans first-round pick that could be as high as third overall, you’d likely rather Miami be able to look at Penei Sewell or the wide receiver position than doubling down quarterback two years in a row.

Games for Tua like this one coming up on Sunday — missing the bearded hero from the week before, possibly playing in the snow for the first time, with the playoffs on the line — are the ones that the greats show up for.

Tua may only be a rookie, but games like this matter in a big way if he is to become who we all hope he can be. 

Come Sunday; the game will start with Tua time and close with Tua time, good or bad. Without Fitzpatrick, there will be no turning back. 

Let’s hope Tua, the bearer of the hopes and dreams of so many Miami Dolphins fans, can silence the doubters with a massive win on Sunday. My money’s on the rookie.