Credit ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum and NBC’s Chris Simms for being the only national analysts (to my knowledge) who publicly said before the 2020 NFL Draft that they would select Justin Herbert over Tua Tagovailoa.
Giving them a tip of the cap for that is not an indictment of Tagovailoa, who has been solid in two years and could blossom with a better supporting cast.
But based on Herbert’s fabulous first two seasons (69 touchdowns, 25 interceptions, 9350 yards), any general manager would choose Herbert over Tagovailoa if starting a team.
So why bring this up now? It’s interesting that those two — the only two to implore Miami to pick Herbert — now seemingly expect less of Tagovailoa than virtually any other prominent national commentators.
Simms is in the midst of rolling out his annual top 40 quarterback rankings this week, and Tagovailoa is 29th, which seems way too low considering he was 18th in QBR last season.
More surprising are the names Simms ranks ahead of Tagovailoa. His quarterbacks 21 to 28: Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Jalen Hurts, Jameis Winston, Mitch Trubisky and Marcus Mariota.
Tagovailoa was clearly better than Wilson, Fields and Lawrence last season, and Mariota was a backup now transitioning back to a starting role with Atlanta.
Simms ranks Jared Goff, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold, Geno Smith and Tyler Huntley directly after Tagovailoa. Simms has new Dolphins backup QB Teddy Bridgewater 38th.
Meanwhile, Tannenbaum, the former Dolphins executive who is very good on television, said this offseason: “Outside of Davis Mills and Mitch Trubisky, I’m not sure what other quarterback Tua would be in front of in the AFC. Tua has missed 10 games. His play has been average at best. He has trouble seeing the middle of the field and can’t get the ball downfield consistently.
“Bridgewater is a very capable quarterback. It’s not unreasonable to think he could be playing sometime by midseason... sooner than later if Tua hits any bump in the road given everything he has to work with. My concern with Tua is he was 23rd in the NFL last season in yards per pass attempt. He struggles to get the ball down the field consistently.”
Tannenbaum and Simms were right about predicting big things for Herbert. If they’re right about Tagovailoa, then Miami will be searching for a new quarterback next offseason.
THIS AND THAT
Considerably more optimistic about Tagovailoa is ESPN’s Marcus Spears, who took note of Tyreek Hill’s effusive praise this week.
“Players are the most honest when they’re around you,” Spears said. “Players aren’t going to have glowing remarks when you’re out there sucking. Now they’re not going to talk about you bad. I have all the confidence in the world that the Dolphins have surrounded Tua with everything he needs to have success, including a left tackle who they gave 80 million dollars. I look forward to seeing him have success.”
▪ According to overthecap.com, Dolphins running back Sony Michel’s deal has $500,000 in guaranteed money, including a $350,000 signing bonus.
His deal is one year and $1.75 million.
▪ Christian Wilkins, on where his career stands after a season in which he tied Cameron Hayward for most tackles by an NFL defensive lineman (89):
“I felt like I definitely improved last season. But there is still so much — I’m not even scratching the surface of where I think I can be.
“I try to make it a conscious effort each and every day to come in and get better at something. I have a focus of the day and I try to lock in on that and be dominant at that for that day.”
▪ Dolphins cornerback Nik Needham, on how first-year coach Mike McDaniel is handling his team: “In team meetings he’ll say some jokes or just funny stuff, show stuff on film. Like activities for conditioning, we did a putting contest to run one time. I think all that stuff is building the camaraderie on the team. We all feel the energy in here and it just feels like a different vibe this year for sure. I love what he’s doing here. He’s a great coach.”