With Miami falling to 0-1 on the season and with Ryan Fitzpatrick miscues serving as a critical factor as to why, the calls are already beginning to trickle in. Miami’s quarterback of the future awaits — and unlike last season the team’s hand-selected heir is already in place. His name is Tua Tagovailoa. And, after Miami made him the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, his installment as the team’s starting quarterback feels inevitable.
But the Dolphins have already reaffirmed that their Week 2 starter will be Ryan Fitzpatrick. Expect the performance of the Dolphins over the coming weeks to play a heavy hand in when that is no longer the status in Miami’s offensive backfield. How might different outcomes from here impact the Dolphins’ decision making process with Tagovailoa?
Here are three potential outcomes for the Dolphins offense with Fitzpatrick at the helm: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Dec 22, 2019; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins fullback Christian Wilkins (94) celebrates his touchdown with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) during the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Miami’s transition to a new offense suffered merely a hiccup in Week 1 and the quarterback we saw Fitzpatrick play as throughout the back half of 2020 returns in Week 2 against the Bills. In such a scenario, Miami stands a strong chance to win the football game and push for .500 into the heart of the season and beyond.
If Fitzpatrick plays well and finds his groove, Miami figures to be a fringe playoff contender throughout the course of the season and in such a scenario it will be difficult to envision Brian Flores making the change. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This scenario would indicate that things aren’t as broken as the Week 1 showing would indicate.
- Key development: wins in Week 2 versus Buffalo & Week 3 versus Jacksonville before never dipping one game below .500 the rest of the season
Tagovailoa’s estimated transition to starter: 2021 Week 1
Sep 8, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Chris Wormley (93) tackles Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Purgatory. The Dolphins know all about it. But if the first half of a season comes to a close and the team is threatening to fall into a tailspin without actually being in one, it might be time to pull the plug and make the change. If the Dolphins tease with improvement but don’t actually make those needed leaps as a unit on offense, let’s not waste away the season and neglect Tagovailoa of needed reps.
- Key development: Miami splits against Jacksonville and Buffalo before stumbling to 0-1 wins over their next three games against Seattle, San Francisco and Denver
Tagovailoa’s estimated transition to starter: 2020 Week 7
Nov 17, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) reacts after being hit by Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Corey Liuget (94) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Things are bad. Very bad. Fitzpatrick continues to suffer from turnovers and the Dolphins can’t absorb them without losing football games. The Dolphins need a clear spark and a different flair about the offense — which could be prompted with the more RPO-heavy style of play Tagovailoa could provide. Miami falling flat on their faces may push for this change before the season is considered “lost”, much like Flores tried to do in 2019 by inserting Josh Rosen into the lineup in Week 3 versus Dallas.
- Key development: Miami falls to both Buffalo and Jacksonville to start the season 0-3
Tagovailoa’s estimated transition to starter: 2020 Week 4