It worked short term. Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores decided to pull rookie starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the second time this year in the fourth quarter and it paid off. Ryan Fitzpatrick came in relief of Tagovailoa on Saturday and led the Dolphins to an improbable comeback against the Las Vegas Raiders. In Week 11 against the Broncos, Fitzpatrick’s comeback attempt failed. While the Dolphins got the win over the Raiders, Tagovailoa, despite what he’s saying publicly, has to be questioning himself as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
The Miami Dolphins are in the playoff hunt
The Miami Dolphins have 10 wins. That is a story in itself. The Dolphins finished dead last in the AFC East a year ago with a 5-11 record. Miami has quickly turned things around, compiling a 10-5 record heading into the final week of the regular season.
Under head coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt. Entering Week 17, the Miami Dolphins can earn a postseason berth with a victory. Actually, the Dolphins can make the playoffs in one of four ways this weekend, although none of them are expected to happen.
The Dolphins control their own destiny. A win at the favored Buffalo Bills on Sunday would get them into the playoffs. Should the Dolphins lose to the Bills, they could still get in if one of the following three scenarios occurs: The Indianapolis Colts lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Cincinnati Bengals, or the Cleveland Browns fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers. All of the team the Dolphins need to lose are favored by at least a touchdown.
Tua Tagovailoa having a solid rookie season
After a storied college football career at Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa was a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The Miami Dolphins selected him with the fifth overall pick. Tagovailoa was brought along slowly in his first year, opening the season as a backup to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Dolphins, coming off a 5-11 season a year ago, entered 2020 with not many believing a postseason berth was a reality. The Dolphins got off to a rough start, losing three out of their first found games. Miami then caught fire and won five straight and seven of eight. After Fitzpatrick won the first of those two games during that streak to get the Dolphins to 3-3, Flores decided to bench him and go with his rookie.
The Dolphins won three straight with Tagovailoa as the starter, including his first start in which he threw for 93 yards. Tagovailoa has been effective, throwing 10 touchdowns against two interceptions. In eight starts, he’s thrown for more than 200 yards just three times but has compiled a 6-2 record.
Brian Flores has pulled Tagovailoa twice in the last five weeks
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has certainly made some unconventional decisions in his second season with the team. Just about everything he’s done has turned out well as he’s guided the Dolphins to 10 wins through 15 games. Some of his decisions, however, can’t be sitting well with rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, despite what Tagovailoa is saying to the media.
In Week 11, as the Dolphins were shooting for their sixth straight win, Flores yanked an ineffective Tagovailoa in a game at the Denver Broncos. Fitzpatrick came in and couldn’t muster a potential game-tying touchdown in a 20-13 loss. Flores pulled Tagovailoa once again on Saturday and Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins to a thrilling 26-25 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. “If we have to go to a relief pitcher in the ninth, that’s what we’ll do,” Flores said, according to ESPN. “Fitz is always ready to go. He went in and moved the ball for us. We were able to make enough plays to win the game.”
If Flores believes Fitzpatrick is the guy to go to when the game is on the line, why isn’t he starting? What’s going on in a rookie quarterback’s head when he’s given the chance to be the starter, only to be yanked because the head coach doesn’t think he can pull out the victory? Tagovailoa is saying all the right things publicly. He’s been a professional, but if he’s pulled from a game twice in five weeks in a close game, it’s sending the wrong message.