If you are an avid Miami Dolphins fan, chances are you’ve been here before. Tua Tagovailoa’s narrative hasn’t been anything but constant criticism from certain over-zealous fans and media personalities. Because media personalities are fans themselves, most of their Tua bashing rants should be considered nothing more than trash (talk). Most of it is unfair and unrealistic.
It is a fantasy world the sports media lives in that wants to see Tua fail so they can say their take was always correct. But their take is unreal and doesn’t support the analytics of Tua’s numbers and what his entire story is about.
We’ve heard all the Cowherd, Florio, Simms, Tannebaum, Ryan Leaf’s, Ryan Clark’s takes on Tua and whomever else is out there in the sports world criticizing the Miami quarterback. I even wrote a previous article about why Tua is getting all the criticism entitled, “Has the media been lying to us about Tua Tagovailoa’s playing ability?”
The gratuitous criticism against Tua seems to never stop. Sam Acho is the latest to join in on the Tua bashing train. On Monday’s August 23rd episode of ESPN’s Get Up, Acho said, “I think he’s on a short leash…Miami is trying to win right now. Tua needs to be near perfect to continually to be the guy for this team. I don’t think he will be…When you’re Brian Flores, you’re like we ‘gotta beat whoever is winning the division. Right now that’s Buffalo. They’re young, they’re hungry, they’re talented…That’s why Tua may not have as long of a leash as we all think he does.”
What makes this an unrealistic take, for actually any quarterback, let alone Tagovailoa, is that perfection is making 100% completed passes of every pass attempt made in every NFL game. And to be near that is always being in the 90-99% accuracy range all the time, every game. That is literally impossible and has never been done in the history of the NFL. That kind of absurdity comes from the same family of fantasy takes such as an Orlando newspaper columnist that once said that the Miami Dolphins should trade FOUR first round picks for Aaron Rodgers.
The best analogy I can use for Tua Tagavailoa is that fans have treated Tagovailoa like a DC Comics owned Superman that has landed in the NFL from the alien world of college football. With that, the sports media personalities are the Lex Luthors of the world using the kryptonite of trying to convince the NFL fanbase that Tua is actually the bad guy alien that isn’t who they think he is.
Even though the criticism toward Tua has been unwarranted, there have been several reasons for those critical takes that I’ve written about before. Probably one of the biggest reasons for his criticism is because people expected Tua to break NFL records like he did in college as a NFL rookie without realizing the extent of his medical situation.
Tagovailoa’s offseason trainer, Nick Hicks has already confirmed that Tua played last season, coming off of hip surgery, that only allowed him to be able to perform at 60% capacity in the NFL. Additionally, the offensive coordinator more or less admitted that he had preferred Fitzpatrick over Tua during certain situations due to Tua’s rookie status. Tua also wasn’t surrounded by superstar talent on the offensive side of the ball during the 2020 season.
Perhaps if Tua Tagovailoa never had two tight rope surgeries to repair two high ankle sprains on each leg, never broke his finger, never got a concussion, never broke his nose, never dislocated his hip, never broke his hip, never had hip surgery, never jammed his finger in the NFL, never tried to play with the 22nd ranked NFL offense, then maybe we would be having a discussion today about Tua being one of the better 2020 NFL rookie quarterbacks instead of the 100% healthy OROY Justin Herbert (whose last major injury was in college when he broke his collarbone in 2017), playing on the 9th ranked NFL offense surrounded by superstar talent with the likes of Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and pro bowler Keenan Allen.
What makes Sam Acho’s comments about Tua a bad take is that maybe he didn’t fully know about Tua Tagovailoa when he said that he doesn’t think Tua will be near perfect. Actually, Tagovailoa has been near perfect as a healthy quarterback. Tua holds the career record for being the most accurate quarterback in the history of the college game (199.4-highest passing efficiency rating) with only 11 interceptions his entire college career.
Now that Tua is healthy this year, during his NFL preseason games, according to Miami Dolphins communications manager, Brett Brecheisen, tweeted on Twitter this past week that Tua is the only NFL player to have a 100% completion percentage with at least 5 attempts during the first quarter of a game this preseason. Even in training camp, Tagovailoa has been turning heads this offseason with his performances.
Needless to say, Tua Tagoavailoa has returned to the same form he had that made him a superstar while playing for Alabama. What the Miami Dolphins are seeing this year is something they never had a chance to see last year, a 100% healthy Tua that also isn’t limited to certain playmaking situations.
Former Miami Dolphins linebacker, Channing Crowder blasted Colin Cowherd during a Cowherd interview this week by saying, “Y’all must have forgot. Tua was the most efficient college quarterback of all time. His accuracy is off the chain and he is showing it this year…I do not give people passes Colin. I don’t give guys passes. The one thing I will give a guy a pass for is on an unprecedented pandemic year, no OTAs, no mini camp, a new OC in Chan Gailey and Gailey retired after that and he didn’t know what the hell he was doing. You have to look at it and see what Tua went through. And this preseason, Tua is making some amazing throws, reading, moving in the pocket, making some off-timing throws, creating some things.”
What is amazing for Tua is that he actually had a decent season as a nine game starting rookie with all the limitations he had last season. There are many fans that are under the impression that comparing anything that Tua Tagovailoa does to Dan Marino is absolutely absurd because Marino is the G.O.A.T. of Miami Dolphins quarterbacks.
But in all truthfulness, with the exception of throwing only 396 more yards and 9 more touchdowns, there isn’t much difference in a healthy and unlimited Marino rookie season than in Tua’s unhealthy and limited rookie season. Both Marino and Tagovailoa started nine games with Marino’s win/loss record at 7-2 and Tua’s win/loss record at 6-3. As far as accuracy, Tua was better than Marino.
Tua completed more passes in less attempts (186/290) than Marino did (173/296) with a 64.1% completion percentage compared to Marino’s 58.4% completion percentage. Marino threw 6 interceptions in those 296 attempts while Tua only threw 5 interceptions in his 290 attempts. As far as that bad three interception Buffalo Bills game Tua had to end the Dolphins 2020 season, Dan Marino’s fate against the Bills his rookie season was similar. While Tua was sacked once and threw 3 interceptions agains the Bills, Marino was sacked three times and threw two interceptions. They both passed for over 300 yards in that game as well.
There is also some irony surrounding Dan Marino and Tua Tagovailoa’s college career and their rookie season as well. Both Tua Tagovailoa and Dan Marino wore #13 in college. They both won a college National Championship in the final moment of the game with a touchdown pass against the same team, Georgia.
The first time Marino entered an NFL game was against a Los Angeles team (Raiders), and with the exception of the two passes late in the 4th quarter against the Jets, Tua’s next game was his first start against a Los Angeles team as well (Rams). How many passes did Marino complete against Los Angeles? 11. How many passes did Tua complete against Los Angeles? 12. How many passing yards did Marino have against Los Angeles? 90. How many passing yards did Tua have against Los Angeles? 93. How many touchdowns did Marino have against Los Angeles? 2. How many touchdowns did Tua have against Los Angeles? 1.
With all of the similarities from college and from their rookie years, any over-zealous Dan Marino fan that says there has nothing been similar with Tua Tagovailoa and Dan Marino at all, or thinks it’s to sacrilegious to make those comparison is not being factual. Facts are facts and they can’t be changed. Marino has even gone as far to say he wasn’t joking when he said that Tua was a better college quarterback than he ever was.
Jalen Hurts, whom was the 2019 Heisman runner up (as an Oklahoma quarterback) because he rushed for 1298 yards and 20 touchdowns and passed for 3851 yards and 32 touchdowns transferred from Alabama because he was benched from his starting job in favor of Tua Tagovailoa.
A COMPLETELY HEALTHY TUA TAGOVAILOA COULD DOMINATE
If Tua’s rookie season being similar to Dan Marino’s is any indication of things to come, then the Miami Dolphins and the rest of the NFL should be prepared for a giant leap forward during his second season. However, it isn’t just his comparison to Marino’s rookie season that should propel the second year QB to better success.
The fact that he is completely healthy, has been surrounded by talented receivers, and has better coordinators, along with his training camp and preseason performances, should be a positive indicator that his ceiling is now unlimited and could potentially go into uncharted territory.
Unfortunately, no matter how well Tua Tagovailoa may be doing on the playing field, people are still going to be critical of him. That is nothing new. It is human nature to despise a player not on your favorite team that excels at his game. When that player excels so much that he is constantly being hyped in media for his outstanding performances, it seems like it has to be an obligation to nitpick their flaws.
It has happened with Tom Brady. People have gotten so tired of hearing about Tom Brady and how well he has done in Super Bowls. People who are not Brady’s fans now watch his Super Bowl games with hope that they might get to see him lose. Tua Tagovailoa has fallen into the same “you either love him or hate him” category. Tua represented the University of Alabama.
Tua was constantly praised for his outstanding play at Alabama. You either loved him or hated him. If he’s not playing for your team, chances are you hate him. When Tua Tagovailoa didn’t have the Superman rookie season playing for the Miami Dolphins the way he played for Alabama, media and fans seized the opportunity to find every critical flaw known to him.
When Sam Acho was being critical of Tua on ESPN’s Get UP he let it be known that he played for the Buffalo Bills in 2019. If you are wondering, the Buffalo Bills is a rival to the Miami Dolphins. Ryan Clark said he hated Tua for the way he dominated his alma mater, LSU in college. Colin Cowherd is from Pac-12 country, constantly giving critical takes of the SEC college football conference.
If you haven’t heard his criticism against Tua Tagovailoa and his praises for Justin Herbert, whom he invited and interviewed on his show this month, it sounds almost hypocritical in some shows. Mike Bianchi, the Orlando Sentinel sports journalist who wrote that the Miami Dolphins should trade four first round draft picks for Aaron Rodgers this year is the same writer that embarrassed sports journalism when he published to the world that UCF, who never played in a National Championship game, were the true college National Champions, not the 2017 Alabama team; yes, that Alabama team where Tua Tagovailoa threw the infamous 2nd and 26 miracle pass to win the National Championship.
There is no denying that the disdain for Tua Tagovailoa is real; and unfortunately for Miami Dolphins fans that bleed Aqua and Orange, it isn’t going away.
When the 2021 NFL football season ends, Tua Tagovailoa could be one of the better quarterbacks in the league. CBS and Bleacher report have Tagovailoa projected to pass for over 4,000 yards this season while ESPN has him projected to pass just under the 4,000 yard mark. What many people forget is that Tua Tagovailoa didn’t stop knowing how to play football because he got hurt.
Not only was Tua Tagovailoa the most efficient quarterback in college football history, he also threw 87 touchdowns and 7,442 yards in 684 attempts for his entire college career. How does that equate to other stats? Matthew Stafford had 727 attempts for the Detroit Lions in 2012 and didn’t pass for 5,000 yards. Since it isn’t a true comparison to compare college to the NFL, Stafford had 51 touchdowns and 7731 passing yards in 987 attempts during his college career.
Even Patrick Mahomes had to throw the football 591 times at Texas Tech to reach his 5,052 yards. If Tua Tagovailoa had thrown the ball 591 times the year he injured his hip he would have had 6,678 passing yards since he was averaging 11.3 yards per attempt. To give an idea of how well Tagovailoa is performing in preseason this year compared to Patrick Mahomes’ preseason in 2018, the year Mahomes passed for over 5,000 yards, Mahomes played 3 preseason games and threw the ball 43 times for 367 yards for an average of 8.5 yards per attempt.
Currently, Tagovailoa has passed for 282 yards in 34 attempts for an average of 8.3 yards per attempt. In almost all cases, yards per attempts increases during the regular season by a very small margin as they did for Mahomes that 2018 season when he averaged 8.6 yards per attempt. Conservatively speaking, if Tagovailoa’s yards per attempt only increases to 8.4 yards per attempt during the regular season from his 8.3 yards per attempt in preseason and passes the ball for 580 times as Mahomes did in the 16 game 2018 season, then Tua would have 4,872 passing yards this season. With the added 17th game to the regular season, the potential is there for Tagovailoa to definitely pass for over 5,000 yards this season.
If Tagovailoa returns in full Alabama form during his 2021 NFL season with the added talented receiving support, then the potential for him could be almost unstoppable. Tua Tagovailoa definitely has the talent and accuracy to get the job done to win a football game as a NFL quarterback. Only this 2021 season will tell if he is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game this year.
The downside to Tua Tagovailoa being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, if that happens, is that there is the possibility that he may get snubbed from receiving the NFL MVP award. Whether deserving the MVP award or not, the entire sports world is aware of the constant undeserved criticism that’s been thrown to him this year. In college, Heisman voters like to see quarterbacks turn into running backs during the season; and being a dual threat QB in college seems to make a better quarterback to Heisman voters than the traditional pure pocket passer. Fortunately in the NFL, that’s not always the case for MVP voters. Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan aren’t always the speediest players on the field.
The question would be if Tua Tagovailoa was in the MVP race “Who are all of the MVP voters?” There are 50 voters that vote for NFL MVPs. Are any of those voters anyone that had the same mindset of the critical takes on Tua that we’ve seen this entire NFL offseason? If so, then it may have an affect on the MVP voting. Many people in the sports world believe Tua Tagovailoa was snubbed from the Heisman trophy in 2018 when it was awarded to Kyler Murray. Would this year be any different if Tua performed with the same type of awesomeness that he did playing for Alabama in college? The honest answer is that nobody actually knows. Only time will tell.
Whether Tua Tagovailoa performs in the NFL during the 2021 season with a MVP performance, is yet to be seen. If he does, then maybe he actually will be like the Superman from the Superman 2 film that returned in the end to defeat his enemies after losing his powers earlier in the movie. Tua Tagovailoa’s time to shine is now. Thus far this offseason, to be one of the top NFL QBs in 2021, Tua Tagovailoa has been throwing the ball in the right direction. Whether that is enough to get him a MVP award is yet to be seen.