The 2021 season is quickly approaching, and expectations are high for the Miami Dolphins. They came within one win from making the playoffs a year and improved their win total from 5 wins in 2019 to 10 wins in 2021.
This year’s season is going to go by how well second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa performs. Tagovailoa played in 9 games last went 6-3 in those games. He threw 11 touchdown passes, 5 interceptions, 1,814 yards, and a completion percentage of 64.1%. If you look at those stats, I’d say those were pretty good for a rookie quarterback starting 9 games, but stats don’t tell the whole story. Tagovailoa was benched in two of those games for ineffective play, and he played poorly in the season finale against the Buffalo Bills with playoffs on the line throwing 3 interceptions. The season-ending on a down note for Tagovailoa with his two benchings and poor performance in the last game led to speculation whether the Dolphins should look for another quarterback because the two other rookie quarterbacks drafted in the top 6, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, both had better rookie seasons. Burrow ended up tearing his ACL midway through the season, but most fans and experts are very optimistic. In the case of Herbert, the Dolphins passed on him, and the fact that he had a much better rookie season than Tagovailoa has caused people to come out and say the Dolphins made a mistake drafting Tagovailoa over Herbert.
The problem I have with all of the Tagovailoa talk is it’s just his rookie season, and not all rookie quarterbacks come in and play lights out. When I grew up, in the 1980s into the 90’s rookie quarterbacks playing right away was unheard of, and they were given a chance to sit on the bench and grow. There were circumstances where some quarterbacks played right away, but they were given time to grow. Today it’s different for many reasons, mostly being money being invested in these quarterbacks, and the rule changes today make it easier for a quarterback. However, you still have to develop, and everyone’s circumstances are different. Burrow was the only real starting quarterback on the Cincinnati Bengals roster with a good supporting cast but a poor offensive line that led to him taking many hits and eventually injuring his knee. Herbert went to a team in the Los Angeles Chargers in the playoffs two years ago, with a talented offense with all-pro receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and all-around tight end Hunter Henry. Tagovailoa didn’t have a good supporting cast around him, and by the end of the season, he was playing with his number 4 and 5 receivers. Now Tagovailoa has to play better no matter who’s on the field with him.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) June 7, 2021
Last year, the biggest thing that I feel people forget was that Tagovailoa was coming off a broken hip injury and used all off-season rehabbing his hip to get ready. Burrow and Herbert were working on these throwing mechanics and other things to prepare them for the draft. The fact that Tagovailoa could get ready for training camp, let alone a game, is a modern-day medical miracle. How coming back from the hip affected only he would know. I personally think head coach Brian Flores made a mistake benching starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for Tagovailoa because he wasn’t playing poorly, and there was no need to play Tagovailoa, not even a year removed from his injury. Tagovailoa went out and played as well as he could, but the reality is it would take a full post-hip injury off-season to get healthier. There is no way he was 100 % last year. I’m not trying to make excuses for him, but that’s a fact.
This offseason, what I have been encouraged by is how Tagovailoa has been putting time in the weight room to get stronger, go on the field to work on his throwing mechanics and footwork. The biggest thing I liked is how he got his teammates together to work on routes, timing, etc. It shows good leadership and character on his part that you need in your quarterback and these things he couldn’t do last year. I also liked his candor about last year and taking ownership of what went wrong and what he needs to do. He probably went overboard about not knowing the playbook, but many players who are rookies or going to a new team don’t know the playbook as well and won’t admit it.
I really believe we are going to see a better quarterback in Tagovailoa this year. I think as coach Flores says, you’ll see the fruits of labor with all of the hard work pay off for Tagovailoa. I’m not one of these fans that want to give up on a young quarterback after a sub-par rookie season. I want to see a young quarterback go through the trials and successes and failures to see how they respond. If Tagovailoa has another sub-par year and gets benched multiple times, then the Dolphins should look for another quarterback next year. With Tagovailoa being another year removed from the injury and the new weapons the team added, I think you will see a better player, and his hard work will translate on the field.