If you entered Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida to watch a Miami Dolphins football game in 2020 and Tua Tagovailoa was the quarterback, you might have not actually seen Tua Tagavailoa play football…that is figuratively, the real Tua Tagovailoa. The Tua Tagovailoa that played football for the Miami Dolphins last season was not the real Tua Tagovailoa, whom was the phenom out of the University of Alabama, that when healthy was able to do incredible things on the football field.
The Tua Tagovailoa that played during 2020 was a half-shell of his former self performing at only 60% health capacity, not fully recovered from hip surgery; that is according to one trainer that helped Tua Tagovailoa this past off-season. Trainer Nick Hicks said in an interview earlier this year, “When I first started training him, he was a shell of himself…He was at 60% health and that’s not an exaggeration.”
However, there has been so much overstock of criticism that states that Tua Tagovailoa isn’t as talented as other quarterbacks, that it’s enough to fill almost every social media shelf on the world wide web. Even a Miami Dolphins beat writer, Armando Salguero, said in one of his most recent articles, “Yeah, a lot of Dolphins fans are going to be upset. But not as upset as they’ll be when they are still waiting for Tagovailoa to be in the same company as (Josh) Allen and he never will be. Allen is elite.”
Again, this is an opinion and it is not factual. There is no factual evidence whatsoever in Salguero’s statement. In fact, the entire article is based on Salguero’s opinion and indirectly says it is only an opinion by offering anyone to feel free to disagree with him in that same article.
Non-opinionated, but factually, Tua is elite. In 2016, Tua Tagovailoa was the MVP of the Elite-11, the United States premier quarterback competition of high school quarterbacks. And to win that MVP, one of his competing quarterbacks he beat out was former college teammate and now New England Patriots quarterback, Mac Jones.
For the nay-sayers, let’s move on to more facts, college. While Josh Allen was quarterback in junior college at Reedley College and at Wyoming, he had a combined 908 attempts for 7,121 yards and 70 touchdowns. For the three years at Wyoming, in 649 attempts, he had a 56.2 completion percentage with a 137.7 rating. In the three years Tua Tagovailoa played at Alabama he completed 474 passes in 684 attempts. In those 684 attempts, Tua passed for 7,442 yards with 87 touchdowns, had a 69.3 completion percentage, and a 199.4 rating, the highest ever in the history of college football.
Tua Tagovailoa also won a college National Championship, the college National Championship MVP, the Orange Bowl MVP, the Sporting News College Football Player of the Year, the Maxwell Award (best all around college football player of the year), Walter Camp Award (the collegiate American football player of the year), SEC offensive player of the year, Consensus All-American, First Team All-SEC, and Second Team All-SEC.
If college isn’t enough, let’s move to the pros, the NFL. The opinion that Tua will never be in the same company as Josh Allen is a very bad comparison. The fact is, at this point in Tua Tagovailoa’s career, he is even more elite than Josh Allen. Tua has only played in the NFL one season as a rookie so he technically can only be compared to other QBs’ rookie season, not to present day established three and four year veterans.
Factually, as a rookie, Josh Allen completed only 169 passes in 320 attempts for a 52.8% completion percentage. In those attempts, he threw 10 touchdowns but 12 interceptions and only for 2,074 yards. As a rookie, Tua Tagovailoa completed 186 passes in 290 attempts for a 64.1% completion percentage. In Tua’s 290 attempts, he passed for 11 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions and for 1,814 yards. So the information that Tua will never be as elite as Josh Allen is statistically incorrect.
Tua Tagovailoa was way much better as a rookie than Josh Allen was a rookie, even while being only 60% healthy. And before the argument is mentioned, even though Josh Allen missed an entire month of football his rookie year due to an elbow sprain, Tua played in all of his games with the limited 60% capacity which affected his entire mechanics of his entire body movement. I don’t know see why this is so difficult to understand.
What sports media is doing is taking a fourth year NFL veteran and seeing his previous third NFL year and comparing how he is playing today to how Tua Tagovailoa played as a unhealthy rookie. During that rookie season, he also had limitations put on his plays by an offensive coordinator that wasn’t that good.
Miami Dolphins 2020 offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey, has publicly admitted because of certain situations, the play calling was different, not because of quarterbacks. However, the eye test clearly reveals during the 2020 season, those play calling schemes only appeared to change when Ryan Fitzpatrick entered the game. Gailey even went as far to say when it came to the Denver game that his play calling was to blame for the loss, not Tua. “They did some things we didn’t plan on, and it hurt us. That’s my job. It wasn’t him as much as it was for me in that ball game.”
TUA TAGOVAILOA HAD A WEAK SUPPORTING CAST
When Tua Tagovailoa entered NFL play as a rookie for the Miami Dolphins, he had his back against the wall from the start. The odds were already against him. He was coming off of a major hip injury that required surgery, which now, according to his trainer Nick Hicks has been verified that Tagovailoa was playing NFL football at only 60% health. He had an offensive coordinator, which according to former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, “…didn’t know what the h*** he was doing.”
Chan Gailey has been an assistant or head football coach on and off his entire career with a mediocre or subpar record everywhere he coached. Gailey has faced numerous firings or resignations during his football tenure. And Tua came into a situation that had an older OC that in the past few years that had football records of going 5-11 his last season as a NY Jets coordinator, a 4-12, 6-10, and 6-10 record as a Buffalo Bills head coach and a 2-14 record as a Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator.
Tagovailoa has certainly been criticized for not throwing deep passes as well. Most recently, one of Tagovailoa’s arch nemesis when it comes to being criticized is Colin Cowherd who compared Daniel Jones to Tagovailoa. In that comparison, he said that Jones throws a beautiful deep ball, but Tua tends not to throw the deep pass. The fact is, Tua wasn’t exactly surrounded by wide receiver talent that did an excellent job catching passes or any deep passes that Tua may have thrown in 2020.
Most Dolphins fans won’t forget the touchdown that could’ve been when Jakeem Grant dropped what was going to be a touchdown for over 90 yards. During that dropped pass, Tua launched the ball from the edge of the end zone to the hands of Grant on the opposing team’s 45 yard line for approximately 55 air yards that Grant dropped.
Could Tua’s deep ball tendency been better if he had Sterling Shephard, Darius Slayton, or Evan Engram on his team last year as Daniel Jones did? Sure it would. Would Tua’s situation have been different if Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, or Hunter Henry had been on the Dolphins as they were on Justin Herbert’s Chargers team? Most definitely.
Tua Tagovailoa’s size has also been the center of his scrutiny among media. Cowherd’s take is that other quarterbacks that Tagovailoa faces this season are going to be bigger and faster. Salguero’s take on Tua’s smaller size than other quarterbacks is that he is going to be damaged by bigger defenders. It does amaze me that how moot some of the points that media members and sports journalist attempt to make with Tua. Remember when Nick Foles was damaged by breaking his collarbone? Foles is not small. He is 6’6″ and weighs 243 pounds.
I don’t even want to begin with how many injuries “Big” Ben Roethlisberger has had in his career while he has played football games standing at 6’5″ and weighing 240 pounds. Even Miami once had Dan McGwire, brother of former baseball player Mark Mcgwire, on their roster who had an ankle injury. McGwire was the biggest quarterback to ever play in the NFL standing at 6’8″ and weighing 240 pounds.
On the other hand, Russell Wilson is only 5’11”, Kyler Murray is only 5’10” and 207 pounds, Drew Brees was only 6’0″ and 209 pound, Doug Flutie was only 5’10” and weighed only 180 pounds. Russell Wilson and Drew Brees won a Super Bowl. Kyler Murray won a Heisman. And Doug Flutie passed for over 6,000 yards in the CFL. Tua Tagovailoa is bigger than Wilson, Murray, Brees, and Flutie, but yet is scrutinized by being labeled in the media as “Tiny” Tua.
Then there was the Armando Salguero statement that he made about Tua’s Tagovailoa’s brain. In that recent article the following statement was made: “He has a sort of weird delay mechanism to his passing. It’s as if his brain sometimes has to deliver the message when to throw the football once and then again to his arm. So sometimes a pass comes out late.”
That section of the article is wrong in so many ways. Salguero went on to say, “This was a flaw last season. And it remains a flaw now. We never saw that flaw at Alabama because Tagovailoa only had to make one read and typically throw to a wide open receiver who was soon to be drafted in the first round.”
That flaw that you saw last year that had a weird delay mechanism was that 60% health status that limited Tua from being able turn his body and not being able to be as freely mobile on his hip as he wanted to be. The reason we didn’t see that flaw at Alabama was because Tua didn’t have the hip injury until it ended his college career, not because he was throwing to open wide receivers that were to be first round draft picks. That was an awful take as well.
Alabama once had two quarterbacks named John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy. They were not elite quarterbacks, even though McElroy won a National Championship because Alabama had one of the best defenses in their school’s history. But neither of those two quarterbacks were even close to the elite ability Tua had at Alabama. Yet, they had a wide open all purpose running back named Mark Ingram, who won the Heisman and a wide open wide receiver named Julio Jones.
One of the most impressive stats that any quarterback could ever have is that Tua Tagovailoa has never had a losing season at any level of play that he has played at. This is a stat that is never mentioned and blatantly overlooked and kept silent among his naysayers. Sports personality, Chris Simms can continue to say that Justin Herbert is more talented than Tua. The gap will never be closed as much as he wants to. But at the end of the day, football fans want to see their team win, not a quarterback that passes for over 4,000 yards but can only lead their team to a miserable 6-9 record under his watch.
Yes, Tua was coming off hip surgery when he entered the NFL. No, he wasn’t completely recovered. No, nobody got to see Tua Tagovailoa’s full potential when he is at 100% health. So the Tua that was seen last season wasn’t the same Tua that set the record books on fire for Alabama. The healthy Tua in 2021, will be that same healthy Tua from Alabama. So, until you see that healthy Tua play this season, nobody can legitimately say he is not as talented as other quarterbacks. The moment that mindset goes into place and teams begin to sleep on him is the very moment for Tua to shine like he never has before.
This upcoming NFL season is a big season for the Miami Dolphins. Big expectations are placed on Tua and he knows it. This year, Tua is healthy, he has better coordinators, and he has better playmakers around him. And if you are wondering how he will deal with crowd noise and opposing team’s home field advantage, almost every college football stadium Tagovailoa played in was much bigger than any NFL stadium. This year’s Tua Tagovailoa will be a different Tagovailoa. And the different Tagovailoa will do things that he was unable to do before. Get ready Dolphins fans. It’s almost Tua time!