QB Switch: Good Move or Bad Move?

The Miami Dolphins were on a roll heading into their bye week but reportedly decided to make a quarterback change anyway
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Tua Tagovailoa's time has arrived.

We can now stop wondering when he'll take over as the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback because news came out Tuesday morning, via an Adam Schefter tweet, that the team has made the switch away from veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

It was inevitable it was going to happen at some point, but it's impossible to look at this move at this time and not ask: Why now?

Yes, there was a school of thought all along that the logical time to make the switch was during the bye week, which is exactly what ended up happening.

Except that the original bye was supposed to come in Week 11 (Nov. 22) before it was moved up because of the reshuffling of the NFL schedule necessitated by positive COVID-19 tests involving the New England Patriots.

Oh, and the original thought also included an assumption that the Dolphins would not be in playoff contention when they made the move or that Fitzpatrick simply wouldn't be performing up to par.

Well, the Dolphins head into their bye week sitting at 3-3 and only one game behind the now-slumping Buffalo Bills atop the AFC East.

And Fitzpatrick? He's playing up to par.

In fact, it's not a stretch to suggest he's the biggest reason the Dolphins have won three games so far, as his torrid first-half performances helped propel the team to big leads in their victories against Jacksonville, San Francisco and the Jets.

Again, why now?

The Dolphins are coming off back-to-back victories by 26 and 24 points. The last time they won by 20 or more in consecutive weeks was in 1990. The last time they won by 24 or more in consecutive weeks was in 1983.

Fitzpatrick had three touchdown passes in each of those games against the 49ers and Jets.

Fitzpatrick was the team MVP in 2019 when he managed to help the Dolphins win five of their final nine games despite a roster filled with players who came into the NFL as seventh-round picks or undrafted free agents.

This is a move that, strictly on the basis of timing, completely came out of left field.

At this time last year, the question about the Dolphins was whether they'd be able to win a game all season. Now, they've actually put themselves in position to make a playoff push.

So one more time: Why now?

Just 13 days ago, head coach Brian Flores said Fitzpatrick gave the team the best chance to win and that the coaching staff in terms of Tua being a starter, "We just don’t feel like he’s ready there just yet."

So what happened in the two weeks since then?

It's not like Fitzpatrick has done anything to justify getting benched. Yes, he threw two interceptions against the Jets, but he also threw two touchdown passes for a second consecutive game — something no other Dolphins quarterback had done since 2014.

Was Tagovailoa's cameo appearance in the late stages of the Jets game significant enough to convince the Dolphins he's ready to start?

Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said there definitely were positives to take out of Tagovailoa's stint against the Jets, which included three handoffs and two completions — a 2-yarder to running back Patrick Laird off a naked bootleg in the face of pressure and a 7-yarder to wide receiver Jakeem Grant where Tagovailoa stayed in the pocket.

One wouldn't think a quarterback change would be based on that snippet. Maybe Tua has been lights out in practice the whole year and the Dolphins were just waiting for the bye to make the switch to give him extra prep time.

But there's no getting around the strange timing of this move.

The Dolphins are a team on the rise heading into the bye, and Fitzpatrick is a big reason.

And we haven't even talked about intangibles and Fitzpatrick's status as a beloved leader and teammate.

Why disrupt a good thing?

Flores has been adamant since he took over as head coach — even though the pains of 2019 — that the mission is to win games as opposed to focusing on the long term of building a consistent winner.

The move to Tua at this time sure looks like one made with an eye to the future, because Tua clearly is the future at quarterback.

But what about 2020? Are the Dolphins really going to be better off for their potential playoff push with Tua at quarterback than with Fitzpatrick?

If Tagovailoa comes in and the Dolphins keep winning, this move will have been a no-brainer. If they falter, there will be  some major second-guessing heading their way and it most definitely will be justified.

Bottom line: Is it a lock that Tua lights it up from the start and is every bit the player he was at Alabama?

Sorry, Tua fans, the answer is no. He does absolutely, positively have the chance to become a very good NFL quarterback because of his accuracy and his intangibles, but he still doesn't have an elite arm and — while some don't want to hear this — he doesn't have four first-round picks at wide receiver anymore.

The Dolphins offense obviously will now be tailored to his strength, so you can expect a lot of quick, short throws.

But can anybody say the Dolphins will have a better chance to defeat the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 1 with Tagovailoa at quarterback instead of Fitzpatrick?

That's a no from here.

The Dolphins should have stayed the course with Fitzpatrick until his play dropped or the team dropped out of playoff contention.

Yes, this move was inevitable.

The timing is just highly questionable.