Tua gets a lot of unfair criticism for his lack of deep ball film. That absence of film could result from a multitude of reasons: dysfunctional coaching staff, lack of time due to the offensive line not holding up, play calling, or even his comfort level due to being new in the league. 

The Facts

The excitement of the deep ball has blinded the NFL community. And who can blame them? Watching a deep pass completed for a touchdown or an explosive gain may be one of the most exciting football plays. But just because someone can throw far doesn’t make them a great quarterback.

The Deep Ball Isn’t Everything

  • JaMarcus Russell was a hyped-up draft prospect because he could throw 70 yards down on a knee. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a disappointment in the NFL, with his career not exactly working out.
  • Carson Wentz, who still has promising potential, has a cannon for an arm but is criticized for his decision-making and (rumored) leadership skills. Wentz is now on his third team, which some consider his last chance as a starting quarterback.
  • Justin Herbert, who a lot of critics say the Dolphins should have drafted, has as many playoff appearances as Tua Tagovailoa (0) with an arguable better roster over the last two years.

Then there is This

  • The highest average of yards per pass was Joe Burrow at 8.6%. Josh Allen averaged 7.1%. Tua Tagovailoa averaged 6.8%. That shows that a lot of the NFL passing game happens within the 10-yard to gain marker. 6.8%-6.9% is said to be average for an NFL quarterback.
  • Patrick Mahomes’ average air yards per completion was 4.9%. Tua Tagovailoa’s average air yard per completion was 5.5%. The highest air yard per completion was Justin Fields at 7.4%. This again shows that a lot of distance on traveled balls depends on scheme compared to quarterbacks just flinging the ball down the field.
  • Tua Tagovailoa’s farthest completion traveled was 53.1 yards, resulting in a 64-yard touchdown vs. the Jets on November 21, 2021.
  •  Tua Tagovailoa was seen throwing 70-yard passes to Lynn Bowden on Twitter on March 15, 2022.
  •  Tua’s completion percentage for passes 20+ yards is 66.2% in his career.

The facts are that there are maybe a handful of quarterbacks that can throw 70+ yards. There are far fewer times where it is a practical need for a team to throw 70 yards downfield in a game. Tua can throw a deep ball and can throw far enough to force a defense in worrying about the deep pass. A quarterback with a cannon of an arm should be looked at like a player with elite speed. It’s an asset, a great benefit if the player can use that asset to their advantage in the league, but it does not define them to be elite. Production does. Tua Tagovailoa does not need to throw 40 deep balls for touchdowns to prove to critics that he can throw deep. He does need to produce to prove he is elite. The argument shouldn’t be, can Tua throw far enough. The argument should be can Tua produce enough plays to be elite.

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