Should the Miami Dolphins move on from Tua Tagovailoa

(Mark Brown/Getty Images)

By: Jamie Goldman

For the first time since Dan Marino retired, the Miami Dolphins have a very bright future ahead. The Dolphins have absolutely aced their rebuild. After years of mediocrity, they finally found the right head coach in Brian Flores and have built themselves a top three NFL defense. Their defense led the league in takeaways this season and star CB Xavien Howard led the league in interceptions. Their special teams unit was on the money as well. Jakeem Grant earned All-Pro special teams honors and Jason Sanders was one of the most automatic kickers in the NFL this season. So, the defense and special teams units were great and this team missed the playoffs. Why? What was the problem?

The problem was, without a doubt, the offense. Time and time again they were bailed out by a defensive play or big time special teams magic. The offense struggled to move the ball all season. Especially when Tua Tagovailoa was at the helm. With Tua at the QB position, it was clear that the coaches and staff did not have any trust in him. The OC would conservatively limit his play calling to little short passes, screens and slants within 5 yards. This did not produce the success that the Dolphins coaches were hoping for; evident by the fact that Tua was benched 'TWICE' in his Rookie season for aging veteran Ryan Fitzatrick. When Fitz would enter the game, the playbook seemed to completely expand. The coaches called plays that allowed Fitzpatrick to go out and sling the ball all over the field and it worked. Side by side the offensive stats this season from Fitz are leaps and bounds better than Tua’s. Fitzpatrick threw for more YPG, better completion percentage, and had a better passer rating. This was with the same weapons, and same offensive line, so it truly is an accurate side by side comparison.

Also, it is worth noting that I believe the Dolphins could be successful with Tua. They proved that this season, going 10-6 despite the poor play of Tagovailoa. And yes, Tua is young and has plenty of room to grow and develop. So I am not saying that Tua is a bust. Yet. What I am saying is geared more towards Pro-Dolphins than Anti-Tua. If you’re the Dolphins GM right now, you’re looking around the league, (hell the AFC even) and seeing rising stars everywhere such as Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Deshaun Watson, and Josh Allen. The Fins are going to have to compete with those guys in the playoffs every year. As of right now, Tua just doesn’t stack up.

What's the next step?

So, what should the Dolphins do? Well, they have some very powerful assets beginning with four picks in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, One of those being the third overall selection. The Dolphins acquired this pick in a trade with the Texans last offseason. Speaking of the Texans, their star quarterback Deshaun Watson is rumoured to want out of town. Watson has a no trade clause and this is where things get interesting. Earlier this week, ESPN released a report that said that Deshaun Watson wants out of Houston and he’d strongly consider a trade to the Miami Dolphins. If I am Chris Grier and the Miami Dolphins, I jump on this possibility right away. There have been a multitude of rumors involving possible trade packages and in those discussions many Dolphins fans are apprehensive of the idea to trade Tua and the third pick for Watson, citing Tua’s “potential”. In my opinion, not making this move would be a critical mistake for the Dolphins. Sure, Tua has lots of potential and who knows what he could develop into. But why would it make sense for the Dolphins to bank on that when they can get a top 5 QB in the NFL right now. Watson has already proven himself in this league. He’s mobile, he’s accurate, and his passion and energy for the game is unmatched. Even with one of the worst rosters in football, he still managed to lead the NFL in passing yards. This guy is a can’t miss. The Dolphins already have a spectacular defense, the only thing missing is a great offense. The most important part of the offense is the QB and Watson has already shown the NFL that he is a star. Why should the Fins commit to taking a shot on Tua, who has shown them next to nothing, with a guy like Deshaun out there.

Of course, acquiring Deshaun Watson is no easy task, so given the event that the Dolphins strike out on Deshaun, what should they do? If the Dolphins fail to land Watson, this puts them in a bit of a predicament. The players in the locker room seem to be split on whether or not Tua is the guy. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald recently reported that three anonymous Dolphins players expressed their concerns about Tua multiple times throughout the season. When he showed up at training camp, when he got the starting job in week 8 and when Fitzpatrick was ruled out for their week 17 game against Buffalo. However, many argue that we haven’t seen enough from Tua to judge him yet. This should be a red flag for Dolphins fans. For example, the Chargers had about the same sample size from their first round pick, Justin Herbert. There isn’t a sane Chargers fan out there who doesn’t believe that Justin Herbert is the future of their franchise. The same thing goes so Cincinnati Bengals fans and their young star, Joe Burrow. So, if Tua has played around the same amount of NFL snaps, then why isn’t he producing the same results?

The Dolphins have the number three pick in this year’s draft. They should strongly consider taking Justin Fields with that pick if he’s available and here is why. The value of Tua Tagovailoa may never be as high as it is right now. The more he plays, the more film NFL defenses will have on him. If his stats and his game don’t get any better, then his value will start to exponentially decline. Right now Tua is still regarded around the league as a very high potential prospect. The Dolphins could receive a haul in return for a prospect such as Tua. So what they should consider doing is trading Tua for as much in return as possible and take a shot on another top prospect in Justin Fields.

I realize it may seem absurd to move off of a guy that they chose fifth overall a year ago, but let's look at the facts for a moment. College quarterbacks are entering the league better than they ever have before, so when a player doesn’t shine quick, he is sure to be replaced. For example, we saw this a few years ago with Josh Rosen and the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals moved off of Rosen (10th overall pick) after just one season, to get another rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray instead. That move seems to have worked out pretty well for Arizona, as Murray has turned into a rising star and Josh Rosen is currently on the 49ers practice squad. The Cards realized that Rosen wasn’t the talent they originally thought he was, so they moved off of him. A similar situation seems to be brewing down in Miami. There is no reason for Chris Grier and the Dolphins to force Tua to be their new franchise QB. If they missed on him, that’s okay. They just need to redirect and again I’m not saying Tua is a bust. Yet. I’m just saying there may be better options out there for the Dolphins at this point in time.

All things considered, the Dolphins should be fine either way. A great defense mixed with a great head coach is definitely a recipe for success in the NFL. Also Tua showed he can be the starting quarterback on a winning NFL team. The concern with Tagovailoa is just the fact that experts see no “it” factor with him. You see the “it” factor with guys like Mahomes and Josh Allen. Big and mobile quarterbacks with strong arms. You see the “it” factor with Lamar Jackson, hyper athletic quarterback with a solid arm. Tua doesn’t have any of that right now. If I am Chris Grier and the Miami Dolphins I do whatever it takes to get Deshaun Watson and if that doesn’t work out, the Fins should strongly consider taking Ohio State’s Justin Fields with the third overall pick.

You need an electrifying quarterback to win Super Bowls in this league. Very rarely do we see a Nick Foles type story. If you look back at quarterbacks who are winning Super Bowls, they all are superstar talents in their own way. So far, Tua hasn't shown that superstar potential. He looked frightened out there last season. He appears small in the pocket. Dolphins fans need to open their eyes and realize that the time to strike with this team is right now. The coach is set. The defense is set. The only thing missing is the quarterback.