While shocking at first glance, it was the plan all along.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was scheduled to hold the keys to the Miami Dolphins offense until rookie Tua Tagovailoa was ready to go.
“I don’t know how much time it will be before Tua will be in the lineup,” Fitzpatrick said in early August. “I know that I am the placeholder. We’ve already had that conversation. I’ve told him, I’m going to do the best I can to lead this team and win football games when I’m out there.
“Whenever it is that Tua gets his chance, whether it’s early or late or whenever, I’m going to be his biggest cheerleader.”
As of Tuesday, those keys have been handed over, with Tagovailoa officially being named the starting quarterback for Miami’s Week 7 contest against the Los Angeles Rams. Unlike past experiments with Josh Rosen, this decision by coach Brian Flores and the Dolphins seems to be permanent.
For obvious reasons, that hurts for Fitzpatrick.
“I felt like it was my team and that’s why my heart was so heavy yesterday,” he told reporters Wednesday. “My heart just hurt all day. It was heartbreaking for me.”
Although it wasn’t perfect, the 16-year pro did what was necessary to put Miami at a 3-3 record, deserving of second place in the AFC East standings. Fitzpatrick had notched a career-high 70.1 completion percentage, racking up 1535 passing yards alongside 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Despite the respectable statistics, Miami felt as if it was ‘Tua Time.’
“We feel like this is the best move for our team right now,” Flores said. “Fitz has done a great job. This is productive. His leadership has been great. It’s not an easy decision. …We feel like now, moving forward this is a decision that we needed to make.”
The question everyone’s asking is: why now? Why bench Fitzpatrick when he’s on a two-game winning streak and on an increasing path to a playoff run?
In the eyes of Flores, Tua’s simply the better player, capable of doing that and more. And in some regards, he’s not wrong.
“We feel like through practices, walkthroughs and meetings, we feel like he’s ready,” Flores said.
Using a bye week to better prepare the former Alabama star, Week 7 is seemingly the best time to get Tagovailoa on the field as he prepares to become the future of this franchise. It was the plan when Miami drafted him at No. 5 overall, and it’s the plan they’ll be running with going forward.
The ‘FitzMagic’ show seems to be over, considering that any injury or COVID-19 related issue doesn’t occur. With his contract running out after the season, it’ll be no surprise to see Fitzpatrick with another club or simply call it a career.
Regardless of the matter, there’ll be nobody who will forget the bumps and bruises Fitzpatrick took for the better of the team. The 37-year-old gave it all he’s got. Now, it’s time for the rookie signal-caller to takeover.
Tua time has arrived.