Questions exist following the 2023 Miami Dolphins’ all-too-familiar season-ending collapse. The most prominent among them are how can a team at the top of the league in multiple offensive and defensive statistical categories fail to win a playoff game, and what is the contract situation surrounding quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.  With respect to the first question, that discussion typically revolves around the quarterback since the quarterback is generally regarded as the most important position on the team.

Tua finished the 2023 regular-season first in passing yards with 4,624, a 69.7 completion percentage, 29 touchdowns, a 101.1 passer rating, and was ranked third by pro football focus in their 2023 final analysis using Bayesian statistical method.  Despite these impressive numbers, Tua failed to elevate the Dolphins to their first playoff win since 2000.

If a quarterback is the most important position on the team, and Tua is–statistically speaking–a top-three quarterback, why has he not been able to get the Dolphins over the hump to a playoff win? Are there aspects of quarterback play that can’t be explained by statistics alone? Are there hidden variables–“spooky action at a distance” as Einstein famously said when describing quantum entanglement?  Does Tua not possess an “it” factor?  This is doubtful. The Bayesian quarterback rating used by pro football focus is a more sophisticated statistical method than ratings based on simple arithmetic formulas alone. In the Bayesian method, prior information and new evidence are considered when assigning their rankings. These rankings account for uncertainty and variability in performance and provide an understanding of a quarterback’s true skill level.  This can be particularly useful when comparing quarterbacks from different teams and systems.

Reasons for the Dolphins league season collapse are likely multifactorial.  A large portion of the blame has centered around head coach Mike McDaniel, and this is deserved.  Logic doesn’t follow that McDaniel’s playcalling is to blame, given Miami’s prolific offense of statistics, and he is revered by many players in the league for his playcalling ability. Other aspects of McDaniel’s approach, such as discipline, maturity, and attention to detail, should clearly be called into question. But one thing is certain, among the many problems facing the Miami Dolphins, quarterback is not one of them. Tua Tagovailoa is an elite quarterback. And he should be paid as such.