With the Dolphins currently on their bye week, it will give Tagovailoa two weeks to prepare for the transition.
Tagovailoa’s first NFL start will come 351 days after he suffered a dislocated right hip and posterior wall fracture. It has been a remarkable recovery from an injury that some thought could derail his ability to play high-level football again.
The move comes as a bit of a surprise because of the timing. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick had been playing well, leading the Dolphins to two consecutive wins by a combined score of 67-17. He also has the seventh-best QBR (79.6) in the NFL.
For the Dolphins, this is the beginning of a new era. They believe Tagovailoa is their franchise quarterback — the one to lead them to being a consistent championship contender. That’s a standard the Dolphins haven’t had since Dan Marino was their starting quarterback.
Tagovailoa saw his first NFL action Sunday in a blowout win over the New York Jets. He went 2-for-2 for 9 yards while playing just five snaps, but he showed his mobility while rolling out on a pass to the left and gave the Dolphins coaching staff a small glimpse of how he can lead an offense.
“Oh gosh, yes, you go out there and you look at it — he got under duress and made an accurate throw. He sat in the pocket on third down and made a throw for a first down,” offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. “Those are positives. Those are real positives. For a guy that hasn’t played a snap, those are real positives.”
The Dolphins’ fan base erupted in cheers and chanted “Tua” at the first glimpse of their potential new franchise quarterback.
“I definitely could hear it. There’s nothing else playing in the stadium, so I could hear that,” Tagovailoa said of the reception. “And that was awesome. But to just be out there with my teammates, being my first time, and getting the support and love from them, I think that was super awesome.
“And then you have a 16-year vet like Fitz, who has no animosity toward it as well, who’s just been supportive that entire time. Good drive, bad drive, he comes to the sideline and just talks through his process with why he did some things. I’m very fortunate to have a mentor like him who is just very encouraging on the field and then this guy is, like, he’s just very personable off the field as well.”
Dolphins coach Brian Flores has handled the situation by allowing Fitzpatrick to lead the early portion of the season while Tagovailoa learned from him and got prepared for his opportunity.
Tagovailoa will be the 22nd quarterback to start for the Dolphins since Marino retired in 2000. None of the previous 21 made a Pro Bowl appearance; none led the team to a playoff win in nearly 20 years.
In his three seasons at Alabama, Tagovailoa was the most efficient passer in college football history. He won the Walter Camp and Maxwell awards and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2018.
Miami selected him with the No. 5 overall pick in April’s draft despite all the uncertainty about his hip injury.
But now, it’s about what he can do on the field in NFL games.
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SOURCE: ESPN, Cameron Wolfe