Tagovailoa stepped onto the field for the first time in Sunday's 24-0 win over the New York Jets. He went 2-of-2 for nine yards.
Tagovailoa was clearly going to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick at some point. To see him elevated to the starting job after six games is a bit of a surprise, though.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported in September the Dolphins preferred to have the former Alabama star ride the pine in his rookie season. The COVID-19 pandemic limited how much he could prepare for his first year, and he had a lengthy recovery from a dislocated hip.
Head coach Brian Flores made it clear on Oct. 6 that he wouldn't lean on Tagovailoa unless the southpaw was physically ready, per ESPN's Cameron Wolfe:
"He's checked all the boxes from a medical standpoint. He has. Look, the honest thing for me is if it was my kid, and he had a serious injury like that, I wouldn't want his coach to throw him in there because of media pressure or anything like that. That's kind of how I approach this situation and really all situations. The players, essentially, they are my kids. So no one is going to pressure me into doing anything. When we feel like he's ready to go, we'll put him in."
Fitzpatrick's performance is another reason why the change was unexpected now. He has thrown for 1,535 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and his 255.8 yards per game are the second-highest of his career.
At 3-3, the Dolphins are only one game back of the Buffalo Bills for first place in the AFC East, so they're doing about as well as anybody could have reasonably expected.
Sal Capaccio 🏈 @SalSports
The Tua era had to begin at some point. Maybe he’ll be really good right away. But they are in a position to contend for playoffs and Fitz has played well. So if he isn’t and it backfires there’s going to be A LOT of valid criticism towards Brian Flores (or whoever made the call)
Still, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero spoke to a source who said, "It's just time," in response to why Flores is pulling the trigger.
Miami's Week 7 bye will allow him more time to get ready to lead the offense before the team is back in action Nov. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Assuming he's still the starter, Tagovailoa is slated to face off with a pair of fellow rookies down the line. The Dolphins host Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 10 and welcome No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13.