The Dolphins’ Costly Mistake Makes Tua Tagovailoa Both the Luckiest and Unluckiest Man in Miami

You can’t fault the Miami Dolphins for trying to lure the greatest quarterback of all time to South Beach. For a franchise that’s been desperate to find a worthy heir to the legendary Dan Marino for nearly two decades, it made total sense to make a run at Tom Brady — on multiple occasions. 

Yet it’s also entirely fair to criticize the organization for its failed plot to bring TB12 to South Beach. After all, not only did the Dolphins do all of that behind-the-scenes work for nothing, but they damaged their reputation in the process. Plus, the tampering scandal undoubtedly impacts the player who faces the most pressure heading into the 2022 season: Tua Tagovailoa

Ironically, while the Dolphins’ desperate attempts to turn their longtime enemy into the face of the franchise resulted in stiff penalties instead of the ultimate payoff, their current QB1 stands to benefit. Yet even though the fallout from the franchise illegally pursuing Brady has at least some positive implications for Tagovailoa, the unlucky southpaw signal-caller also faces a more arduous road to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Miami due to no fault of his own.

Tua Tagovailoa’s job may be more secure than ever thanks to Tom Brady

On one hand, the fact the Dolphins got caught on tampering charges might have been the best thing for Tua Tagovailoa. Why’s that the case? 

Job security, of course. 

With TB12 still calling Tampa home, it’s clear Miami swung and missed badly at trying to build an offense around the living legend. However, the cost of attempting to do business in such a shady manner makes the entire plot look even worse. 

By violating the league’s tampering rules, the Dolphins must surrender their first-round pick in 2023 and a third-rounder in 2024. And when you consider the price teams have paid in recent years to move up to draft a quarterback, it’s clear that losing a valuable potential trade chip is a positive development for Tagovailoa’s chances of remaining atop the depth chart next season. 

Although they still own the San Francisco 49ers’ first-round pick thanks to the Trey Lance deal, the Dolphins are no longer part of a select group of teams that owns multiple Day 1 selections. Instead of being able to package two first-rounders to move up the board, they have far less leverage and flexibility in a draft class expected to have several high-end quarterback prospects.

For Tagovailoa, that should take at least some of the pressure off his shoulders heading into his third NFL season. Without a viable path to move into striking range for an elite passer, the Dolphins may have no choice but to run it back with the fifth overall pick from the 2020 draft–no matter how the 2022 season goes.

Disciplinary actions against the Dolphins do nothing to set Tua up for long-term success

Tua Tagovailoa during a Dolphins-Patriots matchup in January 2022
Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins in action against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 | Mark Brown/Getty Images

From one perspective, the penalties imposed by the league make it more likely that Miami will remain status quo at the most important position in sports a year from now. Unfortunately for Tagovailoa, even if he plays well this season, he will still suffer the consequences of the front office’s transgressions. 

Instead of having two chances to surround their quarterback with first-round weapons or linemen, the Dolphins will only get to select one player on the opening night of the 2024 draft. Surely Tagovailoa would have benefitted from the team adding multiple Day 1 talents on either side of the ball. Yet, that possibility no longer exists with Miami being forced to give up its first-round pick. 

Let’s not forget that the Dolphins traded 2022 first-, second-, and fourth-round picks to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Tyreek Hill deal, along with fourth- and sixth-rounders in 2023. And by making the six-time Pro Bowler one of the league’s highest-paid receivers, the team tied up significant cap space, too. 

At the end of the day, the Dolphins didn’t benefit one bit from the Brady tampering saga. They lost valuable draft capital, exposed themselves to criticism, and certainly did nothing to strengthen their young quarterback’s chances of success over the long haul.

Will Miami take a step forward in the first year of the Mike McDaniel era?

Even though they would obviously prefer to have a seven-time Super Bowl champion leading the huddle, the Dolphins aren’t in the worst position heading into the first season of Mike McDaniel’s tenure as head coach.

Tagovailoa certainly hasn’t been perfect, but it’s not as if he hasn’t shown flashes of Pro Bowl potential. When healthy and protected, the former Alabama standout is capable of making accurate throws consistently, and he has a bevy of talented weapons to work with, including Hill, ex-Crimson Tide teammate Jaylen Waddle and athletic tight end Mike Gesicki. 

Tagovailoa’s success hinges largely on how McDaniel makes all those pieces work together. On paper, the Dolphins look like a team that can inflict damage in multiple ways, especially given their explosive speed at receiver.

Given how the 49ers deployed Deebo Samuel, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Waddle and Hill utilized out of the backfield on reverses and designed runs. Plus, keeping defenses guessing could alleviate some of the pressure off an offensive line that lacks high-end starters other than longtime New Orleans Saints left tackle Terron Armstead. 

Can McDaniel figure out a way to bring the best out of his players? That’s why Miami hired Kyle Shanahan’s trusted sidekick. 

And if the first-time head coach doesn’t turn Tua Tagovailoa into a star in 2022, maybe the Dolphins will have to give Tom Brady a call — again.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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