What's the Hurry with Tua?
It was 15 years ago to the day — Aug. 7, 2005, to be precise — when Dan Marino officially was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's been five years more than that since the Miami Dolphins had a franchise quarterback on their roster.
The organization and its fans believe, hope and pray they have that guy now with Tua Tagovailoa, but it remains a mystery when he'll take over as the Dolphins starter so he can begin fulfilling his destiny.
It has, in fact, been the hottest topic of conversation involving the Dolphins since they made Tagovailoa the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Of course, the belief is the Dolphins only were able to get him at number 5 because of durability concerns brought on by his injuries at the University of Alabama, most notably the hip injury that cut short his 2019 season.
Tagovailoa's development no doubt suffered a bit because of that injury, but there's been the additional problems this year brought on the coronavirus pandemic, namely the lack of offseason practices and the lack of a preseason.
But those are short-term concerns for a player the Dolphins are hoping will be a long-term solution.
Which brings up the biggest question of all: What's the hurry?
The Dolphins have the luxury of having Ryan Fitzpatrick, who, yes, has been a journeyman but also is coming off a very good 2019 season under very difficult circumstances.
There's really no need to put Tagovailoa in the starting lineup until he's completely ready in all aspects, both physical and mental.
But that's not going to stop many from wanting to see Tagovailoa in the lineup like yesterday.
"I know there’s a lot of people that want to talk about Tua and I understand it, but at the same time, he’s a young player, this is his first NFL training camp," Coach Brian Flores said last week. "I think he’s got to take it one day at a time and not think about what’s realistic for the season. I think we just need to take a one day-at-a-time approach."
Flores is absolutely right.
But, again, it's understandable for Dolphins fans to not want to have to wait any longer for a post-Marino quarterback they truly can get excited about.
Since Marino retired in March 2000, the quarterbacks who have started games for Miami are Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, A.J. Feeley, Gus Frerotte, Sage Rosenfels, Cleo Lemon, Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Tyler Thigpen, Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler, Brock Osweiler, Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen.
The only one of those who arrived as a high rookie draft pick was Tannehill, but this was somebody who had only started at quarterback in college for a year and a half.
Rosen also was a high draft pick, but he joined the Dolphins after his initial team gave up on him after only one year.
The rest of the group includes a whole bunch of veterans whose best days were behind him and eventually had injury issues — such as Culpepper, Green, Pennington and Cutler. The rest were mostly gap fillers.
The Dolphins have gone the longest of any team in the NFL without having a Pro Bowl quarterback, a drought that extends to Marino's last of nine invitations in 1995.
So what if Tua doesn't get a shot at the Pro Bowl in 2020 because he doesn't start right away? The plan is for multiple Pro Bowls anyway, not just 2020.
Dolphins fans have a right to hope that Tua gets into the lineup right away, but they would be wrong to complain if he doesn't.
In fact, logic says the latter is much more likely.
In a column he posted Friday, MMQB writer Conor Orr suggested the betting line of Tua having over/under of 3,300 passing yards and 20 touchdown passes was way off base and a more likely scenario would be for Tua to get into the lineup later in the season.
"I think it’s simply unrealistic for people to expect Tagovailoa to win the job out of camp, even if he did get a medical clearance," Orr wrote. "In the long run this is to the Dolphins’ benefit. Their bye week (11) is a great transition point and could get Tagovailoa off the ground with a road game against the Jets and a home game against the equally uncertain Bengals. If you were already this committed to a systematic roster teardown and were lucky enough to have Tagovailoa gifted in your lap five picks deep in the draft, why chance fate by starting him sooner than needed? Most teams do not have the luxury of this elongated QB handoff, but if the structure is in place and ownership is prepared to be patient, it’s foolish not to seize the opportunity."
Yes, it would be foolish.
Yes, it would be frustrating for many fans.
But, hey, they've waited 20 years already. What's a few more months?