Passing Thoughts: More Questions About the QB Move
It's now been a couple of days since news came out that the Miami Dolphins were making a switch at quarterback from veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to rookie Tua Tagovailoa, but a lot of questions remain.
Head coach Brian Flores discussed the decision during a Zoom media session where 10 of the 11 questions dealt with the quarterback switch. While he answered each question, it's clear that many issues remain cloudy.
-- Whose decision was it?
Flores indicated it was a group decision that involved the coaching staff, General Manager Chris Grier and the personnel department.
It certainly wouldn't be out of the ordinary for an owner to "suggest" this kind of move, especially involving a first-round pick.
But a source with knowledge of the situation said that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was not involved in this particular move.
Even then, it seems odd for the general manager and personnel department to be involved in the decision about the starting quarterback.
-- Why now?
This, of course, is the biggie, what with the Dolphins coming off convincing wins against the 49ers and Jets that put them at 3-3 on the season and just one game back of the Buffalo Bills atop the AFC East.
"We feel like through practice and meetings and walkthroughs, that he’s ready," Flores said.
When asked for what prompted the move, Flores said, “Practice. We just felt like it was the best move for the team right now. That’s how we’re going to move forward.”
So Flores said practice was the reason the Dolphins made the switch, but later in his media session he downplayed the significance of what happens in practice.
"Accuracy, decision making, all of those things have been good in practice," Flores said, "but again, practice is very different than games."
-- Why pull Ryan Fitzpatrick from the lineup when he's on track to set a franchise record for completion percentage in a season and he's probably the biggest reason the Dolphins are 3-3?
And, please, let's stop with the "Ryan Fitzpatrick inevitably will falter, so let's make the switch before that happens." That's stupidly unfair because countless athletes have succeeded after being given extra chances.
Besides, did Fitzpatrick "revert back to old form" last year or did he get better as the season went along? Hmm, seem to recall him just getting better all the way to helping pull off an upset at New England in the season finale. Or did I just dream that?
And for those who want to throw the stat that Fitzpatrick has never guided a team to the playoffs, it's true but doesn't obscures the fact the led the Jets to a 10-6 record — usually good enough to earn a playoff spot — in 2015.
-- Does anybody really believe this move was made to give the team a better chance to make the playoffs in 2020?
This has been suggested in certain circles, but makes no sense from here. None.
Let's start with the idea that if Tagovailoa had been outperforming Fitzpatrick in practice, he absolutely would have been put in the lineup already because of the short-term and long-term benefits.
Flores and the offensive coaches have praised Tagovailoa for his progress in practice whenever they've been asked, but would you really expect to hear anything else?
Remember that we heard throughout the final 10 weeks last year that Josh Rosen was making steady progress in practice, yet the Dolphins didn't even bother keeping him on the 53-man roster this year.
The one unfiltered report we got about Tua's practice work came from unidentified teammates in a column from South Florida Sun-Sentinel writer Omar Kelly and the comments were less than glowing.
So, sorry, but not buying the notion that the Dolphins are a better team today than they were Monday because Tua is now the starting quarterback.
The truth is — and there are many NFL writers who don't want to believe this — we just don't know how good an NFL quarterback Tagovailoa will become.
He most definitely has the potential to become a quality starter because of his skill set and what he showed at Alabama, but to overlook the ridiculous talent that surrounded him in college along with average arm strength and a less-than-ideal build would be foolish.
-- Did the Dolphins predetermine that the switch was going to happen during the bye week no matter what and are simply sticking to that plan?
This makes as much sense as any other potential scenario, though it seems myopic in light of what the Dolphins and Fitzpatrick did in the first six games.
If that was the plan set at the beginning of the season, it should have been altered given the way Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins have performed.
-- Did the Dolphins make the move now with an eye toward the 2021 draft?
Again, this is something that will infuriate the Tua train passengers, but is it possible the Dolphins want a longer evaluation this year to decide whether they need to pick another quarterback early in the first next spring with the pick they got from Houston in the Laremy Tunsil trade in the event Tagovailoa falters?
Of course, this certainly isn't something the team publicly would acknowledge, but again why the rush to make this move at this time if Tua is going to be the starter for the next decade?
Fitzpatrick's stats certainly didn't justify a demotion, and even the sub-par second-half performances in the three wins came after a brilliant first half and with the Dolphins playing to the score.
As we mentioned in a story Wednesday, Fitzpatrick is now the seventh Dolphins opening-day starting quarterback removed from the lineup for non-injury reasons but the first one to suffer that fate after a productive outing.
-- Should there be concern about an issue within the locker room?
It's not a big secret that Fitzpatrick is immensely popular among his teammates and it's fair to wonder how the move will go over with everybody else on the team.
It's also a production business, so watching a teammate get benched despite performing at a pretty high level has the chance of causing some resentment.
If you're a believer in the notion of establishing a culture, this is the perfect example of where it's going to come into play. The hope for Flores is that everybody has bought into the culture he's been trying to build and will move forward with the same determination as before.
The bottom line, though, is that ultimately the success or failure of the QB switch will be determined by how well Tagovailoa can run the offense.
If he succeeds, nobody will remember any of the issues talked about this week. If he fails, it might bring about a whole new set of questions.