Statistics that promote Dolphins’ decision to make swap at QB

Kyle Crabbs
·3 min read

The Miami Dolphins stunned the football world yesterday when the news broke that the team was going to be making a monumental change during their bye week — and that rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would be taking over as the team’s starter. Tagovailoa takes over a team that sits at 3-3 and hopes to keep up the offensive scoring output the team has seen from veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has played well on a lot of fronts through the first six games of the season.

But if you’re looking for clues that this may have been coming, there are a few key statistics that would presumably promote Miami’s decision to make the change here and now on their bye week this week.

Turnover worthy plays

Fitzpatrick currently ranks second in the NFL with 11 turnover worthy plays according to Pro Football Focus — Fitzpatrick has thrown 7 interceptions but has had several other throws that are maddeningly close to being intercepted. This includes a ball that hit a Jets defender in the hands in the red zone last weekend against New York. If ball security is of a premium to the Dolphins, they were always going to be toeing the line with a gunslinger like Fitzpatrick at the helm.

The question, of course, is how a rookie handles the same responsibility. We no longer have to wait to find out.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) celebrates a touchdown pass to Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe (81) in the second quarter to give the Dolphins a 21-0 lead against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 18, 2020. [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]

Red Zone Touchdown %

58% of the Dolphins’ red zone possessions are converted into touchdowns. That number is one of the bottom 10 figures in football — and it needs to get better if Miami is going to stay proficient in closing out games against better competition. That will come down to accuracy just as much as anything, which Ryan Fitzpatrick can be scattershot with at times because his mechanics are so lax when he gets off script or pressured. Tagovailoa has a stronger arm and is more accurate, so presumably those tight window throws in the red zone will be converted with greater frequency.

Sep 24, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) looks to hand the ball off to running back Myles Gaskin (37) against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Third Down Conversion Rate

Miami is currently 22nd in the NFL in 3rd-down conversions (40%). That number is much improved from last season but, alternatively, it still isn’t good. How can the change to a rookie quarterback make things better on third downs? Miami can enjoy the presence of a more effective RPO passer — which can allow Miami to key and read defenders after the snap and force them to be wrong in their decision making on third down. That can loosen up the box a bit and potentially see Miami enjoy more run lanes as well. The team will have to change up their offense a bit to get results, but you have to imagine this has been in the works behind the scenes for Miami as they’ve prepped for this change to begin with.