Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa made his first NFL start Sunday when his team hosted the Los Angeles Rams. For Dolphins fans, the anticipation of waiting for the future of their team to lead the way ended when Tagovailoa took his first snap as a starter Sunday. Tagovailoa’s initial snap from center was the first taken by a left-handed quarterback in five years.
Tua Tagovailoa replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick
In an oddly-timed move, Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores named rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback in Week 8. Tagovailoa had been under the guidance of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick during Miami’s first six games of the season. Miami had its bye week last week and that gave Tagovailoa an extra week of preparation in making his first NFL start.
The move to start Tagovailoa came at a strange time. In Week 5, The Dolphins blew out the San Francisco 49ers 43-17. Fitzpatrick closed out the game, raising the question of why Tagovialoa didn’t come in late to get some NFL experience. Flores said he didn’t think Tagovailoa would get anything out of just handing off the ball while Miami ran out the clock.
Flores’ response made sense. A few das prior to the Dolphins victory over the 49ers, Flores also said he didn’t believe Tagovailoa was ready to be the starter. “As far as (Tagovailoa) being a starter, we just don’t feel like he’s ready there just yet,” Flores said. “Right now, we feel like Fitz gives us the best chance to win.” Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins beat the 49ers and the Jets to get the team in the thick of the AFC East race at 3-3. After that win over the Jets, Flores made the switch.
Tagovailoa has the tools to get it done
When head coach Brian Flores announced his team’s quarterback change, eyebrows were raised. They were raised simply because of the timing, not because of any questions surrounding Tua Tagovailoa’s skills. Ryan Fitzpatrick had been playing well and the Miami Dolphins were on a two-game winning streak.
The Dolphins were not expected to make any noise in the division this year. At 3-3, they are in second place behind the Buffalo Bills. Tagovailoa has shown he’s a leader and can thrive under pressure. As a freshman at Alabama, he was asked to come in at halftime of the NCAA title game to fill in for an ineffective Jalen Hurts. Tagovailoa rallied the Crimson Tide to victory, throwing a 41-yard touchdown in overtime.
In two years as a starter at Alabama, Tagovailoa put up Fantasy Football-type numbers. In his sophomore season, he threw for 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns. He also ran for five scores. His junior year was limited to nine games because of a hip injury and he still threw 33 touchdown passes and had a pair of touchdown runs.
Tagovailoa is the first lefty to start an NFL game in five years
Tim Tebow was the last left-handed quarterback to win a playoff game. Kellen Moore was the last lefty to play in an NFL game and that came during the 2015 season. Tua Tagovailoa ended that left-handed quarterback drought by making his first start Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
In a recent interview on ESPN, Tebow struggled to answer why there aren’t many left-handed quarterbacks in the league. It’s a tough question, but Tebow said Tagovailoa would be successful no matter what hand he throws with. “I’ve seen every game Tua’s played in college,” Tebow said. “I think what gives Tua an advantage has nothing to do with which hand he throws it with, it has to do with the way he throws it. I think he’s the most pure thrower of the football I have ever seen on the college level.
“Tua has a special gift to throw the football from different angles, to throw it with velocity, but also, so catchable, on time and in rhythm,” Tebow said. “He just has a unique feel and gift and it is incredible to watch him. He will go through practices and warm-ups where it doesn’t even come close to being an incomplete pass. Every ball will be right on the money.”
All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.