The Miami Dolphins are a good football team in a strange situation. On the one hand, they are 10-5 and control their own playoff destiny heading into the final week of the regular season. On the other hand, they are trying to develop a rookie QB while also winning games, with arguably the best 2nd string QB in the NFL sitting behind him. Very weird. A balancing act, for sure. But the 10-5 Dolphins are making it work, somehow, someway.
I don’t think it will work for much longer, though.
Option 1: Keep Playing Baseball
“If we’ve got to go to our relief pitcher in the ninth, that’s what we’ll do,” said Brian Flores after Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins to a miraculous win over the Raiders in Week 16. Fitzpatrick replaced Tua Tagovailoa, who was having trouble moving the ball. This is not the first time Tua has had issues producing, and each time Flores has gone with Fitzpatrick mid-game. Ya’ know, like in baseball.
This was a weird quote that doesn’t sit right with me as a Dolphins fan. Why are we using a baseball analogy here? What team has ever had a “relief pitcher” QB who comes in when the going gets tough? The fuck is that? I’m not a fan. Good quarterbacks can shake off three bad quarters of football and light up the defense in the fourth. Tua isn’t allowed to do that, apparently. ‘Cause we have Mariano Rivera waiting on the sidelines. Should they play “Enter Sandman” the next time Fitzpatrick comes in?
I don’t care for the “relief pitcher” QB. But that seems to be the current route Flores and his 10-5 Dolphins are taking.
Option 2: Let Fitz Play
Brian Flores could consider starting Ryan Fitzpatrick against the Bills in Week 17, or in the playoffs. Fitzpatrick sports a 95.6 QB rating and 76.6 QBR, both a shade better than Tua this season (93.2, 58.2, respectively). He’s turned the ball over more, but has produced more big plays. Such is the Ryan Fitzpatrick experience.
The problem with turning to Fitz is the team still needs to look at the big picture. Playing in such meaningful games is invaluable experience for the 22-year-old Tua. Fitzpatrick just turned 38 and is on the final year of his contract in Miami. What’s the main objective of this season? Is it to win the Super Bowl, or is it to develop your franchise QB? Sadly, these two things do not always coincide.
Option 3: Ride Tua
I’m in the minority here, but I was okay with Tua not playing one single second this season. Take a redshirt. Get fully healthy. Learn as much as you can. Come back in Year 2 with a better understanding of NFL defenses and be ready to hit the ground running. I’d rather not have my franchise QB coddled, like the Dolphins have done with Tua.
It’s plainly obvious OC Chan Gailey does not trust Tua. His play calling is hyper-conservative when he’s in the game. Couple that with the fact that Tua has been a bit too conservative himself, and you get stat lines like the one he put up against the Raiders before being taken out: 17-22, 94 yards.
Let Tua play, damnit! They opened things up for him against the Cardinals and he looked like he was back at Alabama. Same thing happened late in the Chiefs game with the Dolphins trying to mount a comeback. Tua is deadly accurate and can handle a wide-open offense. If you’re going to play him, play him. None of this “relief pitcher” shit. Ride or die with Tua Tagovailoa if he’s your guy; he’s shown he can handle it.
I guess? Brian Flores is an excellent coach, there’s no denying that, but is this two-QB system really the best approach for the 10-5 Dolphins? I have my doubts. I say it’s shit-or-get-off-the-pot time. Play Tua, or play Fitz. You want to see how your star rookie responds to the bright lights? Great. You want to ride your proven veteran into the playoffs? Awesome. But this isn’t baseball. The time for tinkering is over.