After Sunday’s playoff loss to the Bills, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said all the right things regarding the future of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Ultimately, Tua’s future in Miami will be determined by actions, not words.
“You guys know how I feel about Tua and that hasn’t changed at all,” McDaniel told reporters. “I see, I think we all see him as the leader of this team and when it’s appropriate for him to lead the team, I will jump on that opportunity. He’s a great player with only improvement in front of him as well. We’re talking about a 24-year-old quarterback that I think when I signed up for this job, I spent six months trying to convince people that he was good. So the fact that people are – the fact that Las Vegas saw it as a four-point swing when it was announced that he was – it means that, he’s a — yes, this is a challenging time for him, yes, his health is of primary importance, but I would be a fool to not embrace him when he’s healthy and ready to go. We’ll all be excited for that.”
There’s no question that Tua can play. Even if the Dolphins flirted with the idea of trading for Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2022 offseason (and Garoppolo claims they did), Tua played very well this year. When he was able to play.
The issue isn’t his ability when playing but his ability to play. He’ll surely be cleared to play again after two or three concussions in 2022. But what happens in 2023? Will he suffer more head injuries?
He hasn’t taken big, dramatic hits. His head strikes the ground when a much larger player pulls him to the ground. It’s a matter of basic physics. And the physics aren’t on his side. Unless he can better protect himself, it possibly will continue.
The Dolphins know this. That’s why what they do will mean so much more than what they say. If, for example, they’re fully committed to Tua, they could pick up his fifth-year option. Not on May 3, but today.
Or they could sign him to a long-term deal. Not during or after the coming season but now.
Those are the kinds of actions that will breathe much more life into their plans for Tua than anything anyone could ever say. And the simple truth is that, until they pick up his option or extend his contract, there’s a chance that they won’t.