The Miami Dolphins return to primetime on Sunday night to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, with Tua Tagovailoa back at QB1 to lead the team.
Many scrutinized the Dolphins and the NFL’s management of Tua’s health. Some went as far as saying Tua should walk away from the game.
Well, he didn’t, and here are some notables about his return.
All he does is win.
The Dolphins are 3-3 this season. Coincidentally, they’re 3-0 in games where Tua started and finished the game, and 0-3 otherwise.
This statistic is not an anomaly either. If you look back to last season, the Dolphins were 8-1 under the same circumstance of Tua starting and finishing the game.
Some of you reading this piece will not credit Tua with the team’s success in the snapshot provided. I will agree with you to some extent, but Tagovailoa has been the best quarterback for the Dolphins over the past two seasons, and gives them their best chance to win.
This year, if you combine Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson’s statistics, Tua leads them in total yards, 1,035 to 777 (Bridgewater 522, Thompson 255), and touchdowns eight to three (Bridgewater 3, Thompson 0).
Tua’s passing rating is 109.9, which still qualifies for a top-five ranking in the league, compared to 85.6 for Bridgewater and 63.2 for Thompson.
Perhaps the most intriguing statistic is Tua’s nine yards per attempt leads the team also. Intriguing because the offseason storyline was the perception of Tua not being able to stretch the field.
The problem with this narrative is some attributed stretching the field to having the biggest arm. Tua probably doesn’t have the strongest arm in the league, and might not even be the strongest on the team.
What Tua does have is exceptional ball placement and timing on his throws. Not knocking the other quarterbacks in Miami, but Tua’s passes consistently give the receivers a chance to ‘catch and run’ after the pass.
By the way, Tua does have enough of an arm to hit the occasional home run ball that the fans crave. The bottom line is with numbers like these, it’s easy to see why the Dolphins win more often than not when Tua is on the field.
Do you sense the theme here yet? As important as it is for Tua to be back under center, it is equally important to keep him off of his back.
Miami’s offensive line struggles have been highly publicized. While the line is still in need of improvement, especially with both tackles struggling to stay healthy, this has been some of the best pass protection the Dolphins have experienced in years. The hope is for them to get healthy and continue to improve as the year progresses.
Nonetheless, this is not all on the offensive line. Tua now has to realize how important his availability is to this team’s success.
This means that he might have to give up on a play in order to stay on the field. This is something that he has struggled with since his college days playing for Alabama.
Tua’s college coach, Nick Saban, previously spoke out on his former QB’s tendency to not give up on plays.
“He doesn’t give up on a play and it’s because he’s a great competitor,” Saban said. “You certainly don’t want to inhibit that spirit in any way shape or form, but there’s also a time to be smart.”
We now hear the same sentiment coming from current Mike McDaniel. Tagovailoa recently acknowledged that it’s something he needs to work on.
In as, who has it?
Tua has been a very polarizing figure for the Dolphins. There are many that criticize him, but there are many who love him. The latter is what matters.
In fact, it really matters more so who the people, in particular, are that have his back. His teammates have his back. They voted him as one of their captains and have been very clear on what that means to them.
Tyreek Hill has been the biggest vocal supporter of Tua. Equally important, Jaylen Waddle has been the biggest on-field supporter, having some of the best games of his career with Tagovailoa at quarterback.
But more notable than all of this is McDaniels’ unwavering belief in Tua as his starter. Notable because this game features another return of sorts. Brian Flores is making his return to Hard Rock Stadium as a member of the Steelers coaching staff.
It was no secret that Flores did not believe in Tua.
A slew of benchings and the pursuit of the controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson are evidence of this. Tua is humble and probably will never admit it, but he should be eager to prove to Flores and the world that he was and is the answer at quarterback in Miami.
So the theme of this week and the rest of the season is definitely “Tua’s Back.” For the Dolphins to hit their goals this season, he will have to put the team on his back at times too.
However, the bigger question is, we know who has his back, do you?
I do, and I believe that the Dolphins get back to their winning ways this week.
Side Note: This was a return of sorts for me as well. Those that follow and enjoy my content may have noticed that I took a little hiatus. All is well with me and the 305 Sports Family and I look forward to providing you with more content moving forward.