April 23, 2020, the day of the 2020 NFL Draft, which saw multiple quarterbacks selected in the first round. However, two quarterbacks, in particular, will be linked, compared, and contrasted for the rest of their careers. Sitting at the fifth and sixth picks, the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers both needed a franchise signal caller, and both teams got who they believed to be their guy. The Dolphins selected Tua Tagovailoa out of Alabama, and the Chargers immediately selected Justin Herbert from Oregon. These two selections have led to numerous debates among fans, pundits, and league circles about which team chose the right or wrong. If you ask either team, they’ll tell you they got the quarterback they wanted. 


When Tua took over for Jalen Hurts during the National Championship game in January 2018, it seemed like the sky was the limit for him. The Dolphins fan base immediately began the #TankforTua campaign during the 2019 season, which was met with huge scrutiny. However, something happened that led to a different tune. Tua was tackled and ended up with a pretty bad hip injury. This led to quarterbacks such as Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert to rise up the ranks. The Dolphins won more games in 2019 than anyone thought they would, so they ended up with the fifth overall pick, and at this pick, they decided who they wanted for the future. 

Tua is not the physical specimen that some would prefer at the quarterback position. Still, he possesses what current Giants head Coach and Tua’s former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll would call “keyhole accuracy.” When a quarterback like Tua is drafted, he’s drafted for his precision passing and his decision-making ability. Tua’s strengths include effectively running an RPO (run-pass option) style system. Although highly criticized during his time as an NFL starter, Tua has also been one of the best in throwing the deep ball. Tua finished 2022 going 27 of 50 on deep attempts for 891 yards, ten touchdowns, and two interceptions for a 122.1 passer rating which had him ranked second according to Next Gen Stats. Justin Herbert was outside of the top 10. 

Now we turn to Herbert, the quarterback most NFL executives will tell you they are looking for. At 6’6”, 236lbs, and with a rocket for an arm, the Oregon product was crowned elite the minute he took his first snap. If you stand these two quarterbacks side by side, with only their physical stature known, most people will immediately choose Justin Herbert. Only when you start to dive deeper into what it takes to be an NFL quarterback does the decision begin to get murky. As I mentioned previously, both organizations truly believe they have their franchise guy. However, because their draft positions are back-to-back, the story will always come back to “what if?” 

So far, Tua and Herbert have faced off twice in their careers; the first time came during their rookie season when the 2-6 Chargers came to visit the 5-3 Dolphins. Both quarterbacks threw for two touchdowns; Tua had 169 yards to Herbert’s 187. The biggest difference was Herbert’s one interception which came at the beginning of the 4th quarter courtesy of Xavien Howard. The Dolphins won the game 29-21, giving Tua the first win in the media-created rivalry. The second matchup created so much excitement that the NFL decided to flex the game into Sunday Night. This game ended up being the Justin Herbert show, as he threw for 367 yards and a touchdown versus Tua’s 145 yards and lone score (albeit a 60-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill.) The media quickly awarded Herbert the title of better quarterback and “right choice” despite their record now tied 1-1. 

For week 1 of this year, the 5th and 6th overall picks from 2020 will face off once more in what is sure to be another spectacle in the story of Tua and Herbert. For what it’s worth, this is the tiebreaker. Both teams are starting the season relatively healthy on the offensive side of the ball and will look to begin their seasons with a win as they battle in two of the toughest divisions in football. Regardless of the outcome, these two quarterbacks have tremendous respect for each other, and they both recognize the talent that the other possesses. At the end of the day, it is the Miami Dolphins vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, but we all know deep down that everyone is ready to watch the battle between these two signal callers. Grab your popcorn; it’s week 1 of the 2023 season, and for Fins fans, there’s no better way to kick it all off.