Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Dolphins May Not Wait Long for Tua Time to Begin

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMay 27, 2020

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Tua Tagovailoa and his quarterback class are coming soon to an NFL game near you, Jalen Ramsey stays true to his word, and who do the betting markets think will be the NFL's Coach of the Year? All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.


1. Fast start

On Monday, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported that the Dolphins coaching staff "isn't opposed" to playing rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa at some point this year "if he earns the opportunity."

The obvious response is: Well, yeah, of course. He's the fifth overall pick, so the Dolphins should try to find out what they have as soon as they can.

The more compelling question isn't whether Tagovailoa starts at some point this year; it's whether he will start at the beginning of it. And according to every coach I've spoken to, it's a foregone conclusion that he will beat out veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and start Week 1 against the Patriots on Sept. 13.

It's difficult to put into words how high some coaches are on Tagovailoa. They think that when we look back at this draft, he will be one of the best, if not the best, players from it.

Tagovailoa's adaptability and smarts fuel their optimism, as they think he'll fit in any offensive system and will grow rapidly in the pros. His injury history is a legitimate concern, but these coaches believe in his ability to beat out Fitzpatrick and start right away.

During a virtual press conference, Fitzpatrick said he'll be supportive no matter who starts.

"I'm an open book and try to make sure that [other quarterbacks] know and are comfortable with coming to me with questions. I'm also going to express my opinions and thoughts on plays that we are watching and two-minute drives. We've been going over some of that stuff, and my mind and the process and how I think through it, right or wrong, just to provide some perspective.

"I'm excited for [Tagovailoa] to be here. I loved watching him play in college. I think he's going to be an awesome addition to the team for a long time."

And it's possible, if not probable, that he'll be an awesome addition right from the beginning.


2. High class

Danny Karnik/Associated Press

Tagovailoa won't the only rookie QB to make a substantial contribution this season, one AFC East assistant coach told B/R. While he didn't necessarily expect them to start, he felt that so many of them are so talented, they will force teams to use them in some way.

For instance, it's almost a lock that the Packers will find some type of use for Jordan Love. He won't replace Aaron Rodgers (duh), but he could still be a significant part of the offense in special packages. The same goes for Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.

The coach isn't the only one high on this draft class. Some think this group of quarterbacks could end up being one of the most talented to enter the league in years.

Don't be surprised if they force their way onto the field sooner than later.


3. The show will go on

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

For weeks, I've been saying there will be a 2020 NFL season. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross concurred Tuesday during an interview on CNBC.

"I think there definitely will be a football season this year," Ross said, per ESPN's Cameron Wolfe. "Real question is, will there be fans in the stadium? Right nowtodaywe're planning to have fans in the stadium."

Things get really tricky when it comes to the idea of playing in front of fans.

As this Wall Street Journal video illustrates, through proximity, contact and shared environment, stadiums provide more opportunities for transmission of the virus. But if owners dramatically cut back on the number of fans or prohibit anyone from attending, they could potentially lose hundreds of millions, if not billions, in revenue.

And that gets to the tricky part of the equation: How much is risk worth?

In the past few weeks, I've repeatedly been told by people around the league that they believed games would return without fans. Now? Those people aren't so sure.

That leaves me more certain than ever that the NFL will try to find a way to have fans because teams don't want to lose all of that money.


4. Referees are people, too

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Plans for games may be moving forward, which obviously involves the players and coaches. But what will game officials do?

They will likely participate, but there are a handful wondering if the risk is worth it. The numbers aren't overwhelming, but some game officials have privately registered concern with some coaches in the league.

Remember, most officials have other jobs. They don't necessarily need the NFL.

We likely won't see any officials refusing to work, but there are some contemplating it. Not just to protect themselves, but their families and friends, too.


5. Perception is reality

Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Two key political decisions in the past week have made it all the more likely that the NFL has a clear runway to return.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said professional sports could resume in his state without fans in June. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said sports teams could begin training camps in his state immediately. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy followed suit quickly thereafter.

New York has only one team that practices in the state (the Bills), and New Jersey has only two (the Giants and Jets). But the symbolism and influence of two of the states hit hardest by the pandemic opening up to sports cannot be overstated.

In other words: See you in the fall, NFL.


6. Kaepernick's cause

John Bazemore/Associated Press

When Colin Kaepernick began protesting police brutality in 2016, he and fellow protestors were called unpatriotic and sons of bitches. He hasn't played a snap since.

It's almost four years later, and perhaps it's fair to wonder how much has changed. Just this week, four Minneapolis police officers were fired after a black man named George Floyd died after he was held down on the ground by one of the officer's knees placed on the back of his neck.

Whether you believe Kaepernick was right or wrong, it's hard not to be frustrated with how the issue for which he essentially sacrificed his career is still an issue today.


7. Team player

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 21: Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Los Angeles Rams runs to the side line in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Get
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Rams defensive back Jalen Ramsey has a reputation—an unfair one, to meof being a selfish jerk. He isn't. He never has been.

With one year and around $13.7 million left on his rookie deal, it wouldn't have been shocking if he had demanded a new deal now. But in a conference call with reporters this week, he said he won't hold out and will show up to training camp.

Don't forget, Ramsey has an extraordinary amount of power over the Rams in this situation. They traded two first-round picks (two!) and a fourth-rounder to the Jaguars to get him. Ramsey could say "jump," and the Rams would be forced to say "Sir, yes sir."

Ramsey hasn't (and apparently won't) flex his contractual biceps. That doesn't sound like the action (inaction?) of a selfish jerk, does it?


8. Idle time makes for creative minds

Marlon Humphrey @marlon_humphrey

Creative Workout with my brothers this morning lol https://t.co/Y5eBooAkzI

Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey and some of his friends came up with the most creative workout I've seen yet among a universe of them.

I'm not sure how safe it is, but it's fun to watch.


9. Interesting numbers

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on prior to Super Bowl LIV between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Maddie M
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I normally don't do odds, but I found the numbers on who might be named the NFL's Coach of the Year this season from BetOnline.ag really interesting:

Bill Belichick 12-1
Bruce Arians 12-1
Mike McCarthy 14-1
Frank Reich 16-1
Andy Reid 18-1
Kevin Stefanski 18-1
Kliff Kingsbury 18-1
Sean McDermott 18-1
Kyle Shanahan 20-1
Mike Vrabel 22-1
Brian Flores 25-1
Doug Pederson 25-1
John Harbaugh 25-1
Vic Fangio 25-1
Mike Tomlin 28-1
Mike Zimmer 28-1
Pete Carroll 28-1
Anthony Lynn 30-1
Dan Quinn 30-1
Matt LaFleur 30-1
Matt Nagy 30-1
Sean McVay 30-1
Sean Payton 30-1
Matt Patricia 33-1
Matt Rhule 33-1
Zak Taylor 33-1
Joe Judge 40-1
Jon Gruden 40-1
Ron Rivera 40-1
Adam Gase 50-1
Bill O'Brien 50-1
Doug Marrone 50-1

First, poor Doug Marrone.

Second, how does a Tom Brady-less Bill Belichick have better odds to win the honor than Andy Reid?

Yes, Belichick is the best ever to do it (maybe I answered my own question), but Reid has Patrick Mahomes.

Tennessee's Mike Vrabel and Baltimore's John Harbaugh also should have better odds.

Or one of my dark horses, Washington's Ron Rivera.


10. A hero

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 18:  Honoree Jake Wood accepts the Pat Tillman Award for Service from Jon Stewart onstage during The 2018 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Memorial Day has passed, but it's important to remember one of many people who gave their lives fighting for their country: Pat Tillman.

By now, most people know his story about leaving an NFL career as a safety with the Cardinals to join the Army and fight in Afghanistan, where he was tragically killed by friendly fire. For me, his life always has been about more than sacrifice, but fairness. Also, something else.

I always found Tillman to be a smart, engaging, funny and opinionated. While I never asked him outright, I always felt he joined the Army Rangers not just out of a sense of duty, but because, as noted on the Pat Tillman Foundation website, he felt he owed something of himself for the freedoms and life he was afforded in the U.S.

It's a legacy no one will ever be able to take away. Ever.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL


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