Many journalists and analysts pull on the polarizing name of Tua Tagovailoa for reactions, clicks, and views, but that’s not what I’m here to do. I simply want to offer a perspective. My question is simple: is Tua Tagovailoa the Dolphins Moses, or is he your Joshua? For those who are confused by the question, let me elaborate.
I’m not religious, but I grew up as a Christian and remembered the story of Moses, the man who freed the Israelites out of captivity and had the task of leading the people of Israel to the promised land. As weird of a comparison that it may be much like Tua, Moses had a turbulent beginning; he was even exiled from where he grew up and found himself in the wilderness. Let’s call Tua’s first couple of seasons his “wilderness.” Then, out of a burning bush, the God of Israel speaks to him and tells him to lead his people out of captivity, but Moses doesn’t see anything special about himself, even saying that he’s not a good speaker and people may not listen to him.
Let’s say that Mike McDaniel has been the burning bush for Tua Tagovailoa and was charged with leading the Miami Dolphins out of mediocrity. Much like when Mike McDaniel put together a 700-play tape of Tua’s highlights to give him confidence, the God of Israel shows Moses the great works he can do through him. The God of Israel even provides Moses with a mouthpiece, his brother Aaron, while Mike McDaniel provides Tua with Tyreek Hill to maximize his strengths and equip him to lead the Miami Dolphins. I’ll skip through some parts of Moses’ story to get to the point.
But Moses finally convinced Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go after some miraculous work from the God of Israel. Tua finally puts together an MVP-caliber season in 2022 with an offense Mike McDaniel has constructed to the strengths of Tagovailoa. Fast forward, the people of Israel are free, and there is a new dawn for the Miami Dolphins behind a rejuvenated Tua Tagovailoa.
Why am I telling this story? Well, if you know how that story ends, Moses never gets to see the promised land, though he did free the people of Israel. It is Joshua who actually leads the people into the promised land. While there is a lot of nuance to the story, I’ll spare you the details for the sake of the comparison. Mike McDaniel and Tua Tagovailoa have helped bring a brand new brand of football to the Miami Dolphins organization, and the goal has been nothing short of winning a Super Bowl. But what if Tua isn’t the Quarterback that gets this team over the hump? What if Tua is just the quarterback who brings winning football back to an organization that has been starved of it, while there is someone else who is better equipped to not just win, but win the big one?
I know my suggesting such a thing upsets a lot of fans and makes others happy, but I’m not here to fuel anyone’s narratives. I love the person of Tua Tagovailoa and would go to hell and high waters to defend him when the criticism is unjust. Tua is a good quarterback, and he’s proven that he belongs in the NFL. But he hasn’t proven that he can win the big ones in the NFL. He’s put up great stats in the last two seasons, even historically, but great stats alone don’t win you Super Bowls. They’re aesthetically pleasing, and thus far, under Mike McDaniel, all Tua has proven is that he puts up aesthetically pleasing stats. I haven’t seen him with his team to a victory when they needed him in key moments.
With such a talented team around him, it’s not enough to just put up numbers; matter of fact, it’s expected. Tua Tagovailoa has displayed the ability to be an elite quarterback in this league, but he has not shown that he has “IT.” This season, I’ve watched him fail to rise to the occasion when his team has needed him the most. Throwing an interception in the Philadelphia Eagles game when they could’ve tied the game when it was 24-17, the last drive of the Kansas City Chiefs game, and even the last game against the Raiders where Tua didn’t rise to the occasion when the offense could have extended the lead and pulled away.
Of course, the defense stepped up, and football is a team sport. However, it’s no secret the weight of glory and responsibility is laid on the shoulders of the Quarterback, and you must carry both.
Right now, I want to dispel any notion that I hate Tua or want to see him fail. I’m a fan of his, but I must approach this objectively. There have been examples of teams that were a Quarterback away from being a good team to an elite team. Before Patrick Mahomes became the starting Quarterback, may I present you with the Kansas City Chiefs? Do you remember who the starting Quarterback was before Mahomes? That’s right, Alex Smith. Now let me see, I’m not comparing Tua to Alex Smith and suggesting that they’re the same caliber of player. But I would like to point out that Alex Smith was no slouch, and the Chiefs had winning seasons with Smith as the starting Quarterback and reached the playoffs each season. Just the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs began a new regime, bringing Andy Reid along as head coach, another offensive genius, I might add, and changed the tide of the franchise. Alex Smith performed well with Kansas City; he spent four seasons with them, playing 76 games, putting up 17,608 yards, 102 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 94.8. I would say those are pretty decent numbers, but he couldn’t get them over the hump; he kept them competitive and got them close to the promised land but ultimately never saw it.
Then the Kansas City Chiefs made a move no one was expecting: they drafted a young Patrick Mahomes with the 10th pick in the 2017 NFL draft. No one, including Alex Smith, expected this move. That season, Alex Smith led the Chiefs to a 10-6 season, winning the AFC West division but losing in the AFC Wild Card divisional round. Kansas City would go on to trade Alex Smith to the Washington Commanders, and Patrick Mahomes would go on to etch his name into history. Alex Smith was the Moses for the Kansas City Chiefs, but Patrick Mahomes would be their Joshua. If we’re only going to measure Tua Tagovailoa by his impressive stats, then he could very well be another Alex Smith; he could just be a Moses. Only Tua can decide who he is going to be, but with how talented this team is, he is either going to be the reason that this team doesn’t reach its full potential or be the reason it reaches the promised land.
And it’s okay if we, as fans, can accept both realities; it isn’t the end all be all. If Tua is this team’s Joshua, he will prove to the world that he can win the big one, and it’ll be one of the greatest underdog stories in sports. If not, then possibly his purpose changes. I think taking a young Quarterback in next year’s draft as an insurance policy isn’t a bad idea if Tua can’t get this team over the hump or at least display that he can. Maybe a Quarterback like Florida State’s Jordan Travis, who is now on his own journey of a comeback story with his leg injury that has ended his collegiate career much like Tua’s end to his collegiate career. We know how much Mike McDaniel loves an underdog story, and his injury may afford Miami to get him with a late draft pick.
Maybe if Tua can’t become the Joshua for this team, he takes Jordan Travis under his wing much like Moses did for Joshua, and teaches him to lead in his own way, even if it looks different than how Moses led. With Tua’s relationship with Mike McDaniel and his outstanding character, I don’t think he’d abandon the opportunity to still be an integral piece in this franchise, whether he is just Moses or is, indeed, Joshua. Only time and Tua can tell what he becomes and how this team will reach its promised land.