Tua Tagovailoa Makes NFL Debut, Replaces Ryan Fitzpatrick in Blowout vs. Jets

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2020

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) warm up before an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

It's Tua time.   

The Miami Dolphins put rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa into Sunday's game against the New York Jets with 2:27 remaining in the fourth quarter and the team holding a comfortable 24-0 lead. So yes, Tagovailoa's debut came in garbage time. 

There will be no quarterback controversy in Miami, at least for the time being. Fitzpatrick did more than enough to lead the Dolphins to a win against the Jets, finishing 18-of-27 for 191 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.  

Tagovailoa finished 2-of-2 for nine yards. 

The Dolphins selected Tagovailoa No. 5 overall in the 2020 draft, making him the second quarterback off the board after Joe Burrow went No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Justin Herbert went one pick later to the Los Angeles Chargers, with Jordan Love rounding out the first-round quarterbacks when the Green Bay Packers shockingly took him at No. 26. 

Tagovailoa will always be compared to both Burrow and Herbert, though unlike that pair, he hasn't played much this season. His counterparts have been very good in their rookie campaigns.

  • Burrow: Six starts, 1,617 passing yards, six passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, four interceptions, 65.0 completion percentage, 1-4-1 record. 
  • Herbert: Four starts, 1,195 passing yards, nine passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, three interceptions, 68.8 completion percentage, 0-4 record. 

Were it not for his previous injury history and Fitzpatrick's solid play this season, Tagovailoa might be Miami's starter at this point. There's little doubt he has the talent and resume to thrive in the NFL, throwing for 7,442 yards, 87 touchdowns and 11 picks in his three seasons at Alabama. 

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But the Dolphins aren't going to rush Tagovailoa into the starting role just yet. At 3-3, they are somewhat surprisingly in the playoff conversation early in the season. It's very likely he'll spend his first season learning under Fitzpatrick. 

By next season, however, the expectation will be that he takes over the starting role. The team's foreseeable future is inexorably tied to Tagovailoa.