The only Miami Dolphin that national studio shows had any interest in discussing on Thursday was the guy who wasn’t playing.
How soon the Dolphins should play Tua Tagovailoa has been a polarizing topic for months, and that continued in the hours before Miami played Jacksonville.
On Thursday, the networks were compelled to discuss the Dolphins, and NFL Net’s Michael Irvin and ESPN’s Marcus Spears and Keyshawn Johnson all made impassioned calls to play the rookie quarterback.
“He should have been playing from the beginning,” Spears said. “It was smart to put Ryan Fitzpatrick in, but I don’t think you wait long for Tua. You get him some reps, even if it’s not starting him for a full game.
“He needs to start seeing some of this action. He’s deemed healthy, put him in there and see if he can make some plays, and then determine how you want to move forward with him.”
Johnson chimed in: “You’re absolutely right Marcus. About the fifth game of the year, they are going to play the San Francisco 49ers. They are banged up, so they won’t be in my opinion that good. You put him in so you can get those reps, see where he is. You don’t wait until the end of the year, three or four games left and then you look up [and don’t know what you have].”
On NFL Net’s studio show, Irvin said: “I don’t think there’s a way you can make the maturation process in the NFL without the meat grinder. I think the kid needs to get in there as soon as he can.”
Irvin doesn’t want to hear anyone point out that Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre.
“It’s OK to sit behind Brett Favre,” Irvin said. “Pat Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith. Alex Smith took that team to the playoffs with a 104 passer rating.
“Tua is sitting behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. God knows, love him, has done a great job providing for his family but he hasn’t provided any wins to the organizations he has played for. That’s why I would rather lose with some substance. If I’m going to lose these games - and Miami is going to lose a lot of games - I would rather at least get my young quarterback the experience right now so he will be ready when I get the players around him to win games like we did.”
Irvin said “put in this young Tua guy and now [teammates will have] hope. They will give a better effort. They will play better.
“They know they are not going anywhere with Ryan Fitzpatrick, because they know the other 25 teams he played for didn’t go anywhere with Ryan Fitzpatrick, so they’re just trying to stay healthy. If they can put a young quarterback in, that will make a difference. I don’t know why you guys can’t see it.”
Among network analysts, ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky has been by far the strongest advocate of Tagovailoa not playing this season:
“You are so wrong on this,” he told Spears and Johnson. “Can we get the kid a year removed from injury? They’ve got the worst offensive line in football. They start two rookies at tackle. You want to put Tua out there when this team is not going to the playoffs? And you want to rush him out there to get him reps? I don’t want to subject him to the worst offensive line in football and two rookie tackles.”
We like Orlovsky -who correctly pointed out that UM needed to move to a modern offense - but the Dolphins start one rookie tackle, one veteran tackle (Jesse Davis) and one rookie guard.
And we side with Spears and Johnson on this. As ESPN’s Tim Hasselbeck said, the only way rookie quarterbacks will improve is by playing.
Spears shook his head as Orlovsky spoke and cracked: “Let’s put him in the rose garden, put pillows around him, let’s crown him with everything that’s protective. Let’s wrap him in bubble wrap. The man is healthy. He’s said he’s healthy. They have said he’s healthy. What are we waiting for?
Back on NFL Network, former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Joe Thomas and receiver Steve Smith disagreed with Irvin.
“Do not play Tua before he’s ready. Four of the five offensive line starters are new,” Thomas said. “It’s been a meat grinder in the backfield. They have not had enough time to get on the same page. Do not put Tua out there until the offensive line has had more time to gel so they can protect Tua and his surgically repaired hip. Let the old man Fitzpatrick and his beard take the hits right now.
“Maybe after week 11 is their bye week. That would give him enough time to get valuable playing experience but not enough time to get turned in and out of the meat grinder and enough time to lose that confidence, which is so important in young quarterbacks.”
Steve Smith, the former Pro Bowl receiver, said: “Keep that luxury vehicle in the garage. Don’t let that line get together and have a sack party on Tua. Continue to invest in an offensive line, get some playmakers out there. Don’t put that young man out there.”
Fox’s Troy Aikman said, “What a blessing for Tua to get to watch and observe a real pro who has been doing it a long time” with Fitzpatrick. “There are a lot of holes within this Dolphins team.”
Thomas, the former Pro Bowl offensive tackle, said the play of the rookie Dolphins offensive linemen “has not been up to snuff.”...
Former Patriots executive Scott Pioli, now a broadcaster, was the one who hired Brian Flores in 2004 as a scouting assistant, and he offered insight on NFL Network’s pre-game show:
“I met him when he was still getting ready to finish school at Boston College. Hired him for the personnel department.
“He was smart, driven, respectful, confident, but had enough nervousness during the interview to know it was important to him and he wasn’t too confident. He wasn’t an elite athlete, so he was really humble about his career. The other thing I noticed quickly was he was a film watcher, paid attention to details.
“Hired him immediately. When he started working, one of the first jobs I gave him was the pro board…. Here’s a guy we weren’t paying very much to at all, and he was sending money every week to his mother back in Brooklyn. Brian’s dad was in the merchant’s marines. They didn’t have a great deal of money and he also had a younger brother who was autistic. He was helping his mom take care of his family, just doing the right thing.”
Here are my 20 Thursday nuggets on Tyler Herro, with lots of national reaction.
Here’s my Thursday Heat notebook.
Here’s my Thursday piece on what players the Dolphins can get rid of without financial consequences and which players they can’t.