Tua Tagovailoa was the Miami Dolphins‘ No. 5 overall pick no more than 18 months ago. Drafted to be the franchise’s face for the next decade-plus, the Dolphins had extremely high hopes for the Alabama quarterback.
Fast forward to August of 2021, and things are already looking murky for Tagovailoa.
Tua Tagovailoa had a rocky rookie season
For the sake of context, Tagovailoa’s rookie campaign with the Dolphins needs to be highlighted.
The lefty gunslinger was coming off a nasty hip injury the year prior at Alabama, and the league was in the early stages of coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols. This rookie QB struggled to get much work in during training camp due to these two reasons, putting him in a tough situation at the start of the year.
Luckily for the Dolphins, they had veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick to lean on. Fitzpatrick started the first handful of games for Miami and found moderate success before turning things over to Tagovailoa when the coaching staff concluded he was ready for NFL reps.
Tagovailoa won 6-of-9 games, recording 1,814 yards, 11 touchdowns, five interceptions, and a 64.1 completion percentage. It was a fine first nine games for a rookie QB. However, that didn’t stop Dolphins head coach Brian Flores from benching him at times due to poor play.
Fitzpatrick played three more games during the second half of the season despite Tagovailoa being named the starter Week 8. A major red flag for the rookie.
The Miami Dolphins are showing interest in Deshaun Watson
While the Dolphins ultimately finished the 2020 season with 11 wins, they still missed out on the postseason. It was a disappointing year for a Miami team that felt they had a playoff-caliber roster.
Whether justified or not, it appears the Dolphins are placing a majority of the blame on Tagovailoa and his up-and-down rookie campaign. The organization has been nonstop linked to Deshaun Watson this offseason despite the numerous legal issues he currently faces.
The Texans have relayed an asking price of multiple first-round picks. While the Dolphins are reportedly unwilling to meet such a lofty asking price, they’ve yet to walk away from discussions altogether. They’re definitely interested in Watson.
Red flag number two for Tagovailoa.
It’s a make-or-break year for Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins pulling off a blockbuster deal for Watson feels unlikely, but that doesn’t mean Tagovailoa’s long-term future with the team is safe.
If the Miami front office is desperate enough to consider acquiring Watson, one can only assume they’d be willing to pursue other QBs moving forward as well.
The Dolphins’ offensive line is still weak, but Tagovailoa has the weapons needed to silence critics this year. Miami acquired veteran WR Will Fuller in free agency and drafted WR Jaylen Waddle sixth overall. The Dolphins have an abundance of speed at receiver now. It’s up to the QB to get them the ball.
Tagovailoa is facing serious pressure this year. He would be a fool to ignore all the warning signs being relayed his way over the past year-plus. The Dolphins might have drafted him top-ten, but they’re clearly not sold on his talent. It’s up to Tagovailoa to prove them wrong and run away with the job.
However, if he struggles? It’s reasonable to expect the young Miami QB to be with a new team next offseason.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.