Is It 'Tua Time' In Miami?
By Martin Rogers
Three weeks into the NFL season and could it be Tua Time already? Or is it Tua soon? Either way, in terms of careless puns, it is already Tua much so let’s just get on with the question at hand.
The Miami Dolphins meet the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night and all the reasons why this might be a good time to introduce Tua Tagovailoa to life on a National Football League field are the same arguments why it might be too early.
A nationally televised game against an opponent whose defense has been severely depleted by injuries? A perfect opportunity to shine … or a scenario where failure would be a crushing blow to an underprepared youngster?
For many, it simply has to be now. The Dolphins will play just once in primetime all season. Tagovailoa comes with a weighty reputation, a proven big-time mentality and the still-fresh memories of "that" touchdown pass to win a national championship as a freshman. Now let’s see if all the hype is for real – and if it can convert to the pro ranks.
Rookies have had a decent start to the campaign under center. Joe Burrow has been impressive for the Cincinnati Bengals, Justin Herbert made a splash when coming in for the Los Angeles Chargers, and Jalen Hurts is gaining some traction with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Then there are the understandable calls for patience. Tagovailoa has an ideal opportunity to sit and watch and gather all the experience brought by Miami’s current starter and savvy veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick. There may be no one better suited for such a thing than Fitzpatrick, a Harvard graduate and a 15-year veteran of the league.
Tagovailoa is a philosophical young man who has already seen a lot, from the highs of Alabama triumph to the bitter crush of serious injury. He can certainly grow more as a quarterback, but he’s already had to do a lot of growing up.
"I got the experience at the top of the mountain," Tagovailoa said on "TUA", a documentary from FOX Sports Films. "And, also, being at the valley, being low. It is good in a sense because that’s just how life is."
Tagovailoa clearly feels he is ready but a watch-and-wait option is one that has served elite QBs with high expectations well in the past. Aaron Rodgers is a fine example, Patrick Mahomes is a good recent one, and each were able to glean solid knowledge from Brett Favre and Alex Smith, respectively.
Frankly, who knows what the right move is? If Tagovailoa is able to come in and make an impact quickly, why not make use of him now? All those hours of sideline viewing surely cannot compete with actual game time in terms of experience value.
"I think it’s time to play Tua," FS1’s Colin Cowherd said on The Herd earlier in the summer. "I was always somebody saying ‘what’s the rush?’ I’ve become more of a ‘draft them and let them play’ guy. The NFL is adopting lots of college schemes. There are a lot of great young offensive coaches. The rules are changing, which makes it easier to be dynamic earlier. Young QBs have 100,000 reps by the time they are high school juniors. I can surround them with all sorts of weapons."
Selfishly, we all want to see him play, don’t we? If you are a fan of the NFL then why wouldn’t you want to watch this electrifying talent come and try his hand sooner? Why wouldn’t you want someone capable of mind-jangling moments like his walk-off touchdown in the national title game as a freshman, out there battling away?
But Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has to make decisions based on the health of his franchise rather than the vagaries of television ratings and the public’s introspective wishes. Furthermore, time and experience tell us there is no such thing as a can’t-miss QB in the NFL, although it is a widespread opinion that Tagovailoa might be the closest thing to it.
The FOX Sports documentary gave a glimpse into Tagovailoa’s psyche and provided some indicators as to why his first NFL game, whenever it comes, won’t be something he has been getting ready for since the draft. No, his whole life has been geared up towards this.
His father, Galu Tagovailoa, trained him from a young age in strengthening drills, fundamentals and character building.
"In Hawaii, most people think of the beach as something for fun," Galu said in the film. "I believe in making good use of the beach. You are not there to take your shirt off and get a sun tan. It is work."
The young Tua performed endless runs and sideways movements and squats in the sand, all designed to build up the explosive core of strength and agility that always catches the eye. All that effort helped build him into a college star, as well as build his mystique.
It isn’t Alabama anymore, where nothing less than winning each game in any given season is demanded. The Dolphins have been trying to figure out their quarterback situation for longer than anyone can remember and they desperately hope that the long-term answer is sitting right in front of them.
But whether he stays sitting there, or gets sent out to roll the dice, will soon be answered.