Dolphins officially announce Tua Tagovailoa as starter; Brian Flores explains why he made the move now

Frank Schwab
·3-min read

Promoting the fifth pick of the draft over a 37-year-old journeyman to start at quarterback wouldn’t seem too controversial most of the time.

But with the Miami Dolphins coming off a two-game winning streak to move to one game behind the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East, it was surprising that Dolphins coach Brian Flores made rookie Tua Tagovailoa his starter over Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Dolphins officially announced the move on Wednesday.

It wasn’t an easy decision, Flores said.

Tua Tagovailoa is Miami’s new starter

Fitzpatrick didn’t do anything to lose the job. He had three touchdown passes in each of his last two games, both Dolphins wins. Flores made sure to praise Fitzpatrick.

“Fitz has been great the last two years, year and a half,” Flores said, via the Miami Herald. “I don’t know that there’s been anyone more instrumental trying to instill a culture and embody what we’re looking for — toughness, competitiveness, team first [attitude].

“He’s made an impact on Tua and a lot of players on this team. I have a great respect for him. That made this decision very tough. But as a team, we felt this was the best thing to do for our team moving forward is go with Tua.”

Tagovailoa came in late in the Dolphins’ blowout win Sunday against the New York Jets. He completed both passes he threw as Miami was running out the final couple minutes. It obviously was a lot more than two garbage-time completions that led to the change.

“We’ve seen a lot of improvement from Tua. He’s gotten more comfortable. Accuracy, decision-making, all those things have been good in practice,” Flores said, via the Herald. “But practice is very different from the games.

“We are going to do everything we can from a meeting, walk-through, practice standpoint to get him ready to play in a game. We’re confident he’ll be able to be competitive in those games when the time comes.”

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) will make his first start after the team's bye this week. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) will make his first start after the team's bye this week. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Tagovailoa was ready to play

The move was inevitable. First-round quarterbacks don’t sit full seasons anymore, especially on teams like Miami who, despite the 3-3 record, are still rebuilding. Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are already starting for their teams and doing very well. Sitting Tagovailoa just to sit him is imprudent. He’s the future.

The difference with Tagovailoa is the health questions. His final college season at Alabama ended when he suffered a bad hip injury. The Dolphins weren’t going to risk his long-term health to rush him into the lineup.

Flores expressed that the team thinks Tagovailoa is ready. That must mean from a health standpoint, and also being able to go out and run the offense well. Miami has a bye this week before facing the Rams on Nov. 1, which helps the transition. Tagovailoa is an exciting prospect and once he was ready it made sense to put him in the lineup, regardless of what the Dolphins’ standing was at the time.

Hopefully Flores is right on the timing, because there’s no turning back now.

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