The Dolphins are getting off their bye week 3-3 after winning three of their last four games after starting 0-2 thanks to the game of 37-year-old bridge starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. That didn't stop them from making the sudden decision to bring Tua Tagovailoa in the first round for the remainder of the 2020 NFL season.
With this record, which is half a game better than the Patriots for second place in the AFC East, they surprisingly fight for a place in the playoffs. With seven postseason slots now available in the AFC, the Dolphins are currently number 9, slightly behind the Browns and the Raiders.
Miami wins because of Fitzpatrick, not despite him, though the game in progress and defense have been a big boost lately. He executes Chan Gailey's well-known offense at a high level, making good use of all of his wide receivers, narrow ends and backs. He has a rating of 95.0, 17th in the league, and his ESPN Overall QBR of 79.6, which includes his underrated race, got him 7th.
The Dolphins probably didn't realistically expect they would be in a decent playoff competition for six weeks. When Fitzpatrick started slowly and the team lost the first two, the writing seemed to be on the wall.
But with the launch of Tagovailoa, it seems that Miami was written with its mid-season schedule. It's clear the team intended to switch from Fitzpatrick to rookie during his bye week, provided Tagovailoa made a full recovery from his hip injury in Alabama about a year later.
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Who would have thought that Tagovailoa, who made his mop-up debut at the end of week six, would immediately lead to that 24-0 home crash for the Jets? While seeing Tagovailoa for the first time in an NFL field was an emotional moment, the Dolphins shouted more with their heads than with their hearts.
Really, her heart would say stay with Fitzpatrick. With his production and efficiency, which has proven itself in his stints, as a starter or as a backup, he can be a roller coaster ride with eight teams in 16 seasons. But there is no doubt that he was an important fiery leader for the team, rejuvenated by his reunion with Gailey.
The Dolphins may be a playoff long shot at .500 based on the 0-2 start, but the math says they were alive and well with Fitzmagic. Whether you don't believe a team is really after the season, it is Brian Flores' job, like any coach, to enable his team and players to win as many games as possible.
With Tagovailoa's health an issue but not wanting to recruit from scratch to lose a valuable season of development, the Dolphins' coaching team found itself in a difficult position. Really, if this was the plan after just six weeks, they should have just rolled with Tagovailoa, lumps and everything from the start.
Instead of waiting for things to really go south with Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins put their season in limbo. Sure, from the outside it's easy to tell that they were rebuilding and not gaining much from anything anyway. But then Fitzpatrick gave them juice and hope, marked by his winning performance against the reigning NFC champions in San Francisco in week 5.
Look, the Dolphins would be major underdogs against the Rams with Fitzpatrick in week 8 too. Now you're throwing Tagovailoa into a starting debut that could rattle a young QB facing Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and a dangerous pass save. Then the Cardinals hit the streets not long after Arizona finally increased their defensive game against Dallas on Monday night. Then the chargers come to Miami with Joey Bosa and her strong secondary school.
From a different perspective, wait for Fitzpatrick to break in again against these three defenses and start Tagoavoila when the dolphins are back below .500. The opponents of the Dolphins in weeks 11 through 13 are the Broncos, Jets and Bengals, versus Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall winner. If Tagovailoa had not started in week 1, this would have turned out to be the best route for the official handover of the Key exposed.
Knowing how to deal with a talented rookie on the first lap is critical and delicate. The teams that get it right and that build and support QB's trust with early success have positioned themselves well for its second year. The Chiefs, Ravens and Texans played it right and waited just enough. The Bengals and Chargers have set the timing of when to play Burrow and Justin Herbert, sooner rather than later.
In terms of all of these recent situations where a seasoned QB played well ahead of the rookie, the Dolphins had a difficult reputation against Fitzpatrick against Tagovailoa. Let's hope that despite a better judgment, they decided to really wait.