Why Fitzpatrick is the Perfect Placeholder for Tua

Alain Poupart

Ryan Fitzpatrick is about to enter his 16th season in the NFL, and there are reasons beyond talent he's still in the league at age 37.

In addition to being smart (did you know he went to Harvard?), the Miami Dolphins quarterback has a great personality that combines a quick smile, good sense of humor and the lack of a major ego.

It makes him the ideal person to be in his situation right now, as the returning starter and current team MVP for a team that just drafted the quarterback it hopes will lead the franchise for years to come.

Fitzpatrick said in May and repeated Saturday that his goal is to remain the starting quarterback for the Dolphins, though he's well aware that he'll give way to Tagovailoa at some point.

Exactly when that will happen is unknown and the subject of great conjecture among fans and the media.

Fitzpatrick explained again Saturday why he won't hesitate to help Tagovailoa as much as he can, even though that mean hasten his departure from the starting lineup.

“It’s not all that difficult for me," Fitzpatrick said. "I mean I’m going to go out there and compete every single day as I know the younger guys are, but in the meeting rooms, I’m not going to keep anything to myself either. I’m going to make someone tell me to shut up because I’m going to talk as much I can and share as much as I can with the intimate knowledge I have of this offense being in it for five years and really just experience since I’ve been in the league.

"I don’t know how much time it’ll be before Tua is in the lineup. I know that I am the placeholder and we’ve already had that conversation. I told him I’m going to do the best I can to lead this team and to win football games when I’m out there and whenever it is that Tua gets his chance, whether it’s early or late or whenever it is, I’m going to be his biggest cheerleader. But I think I have unique perspective just from the career that I’ve had and I was excited that they drafted him and since meeting him in person finally the other day, I’m really excited. I think we’ve really hit it off and even though I’m an old geezer to him, we’ve meshed personality-wise and I’m excited to work with him.”

Fitzpatrick indeed has seen a lot in a career that's taken him from St. Louis to Cincinnati to Buffalo to Tennessee to Houston to the Jets and Tampa Bay before he landed in Miami in 2019.

In his first season with Miami, Fitzpatrick proved he still could produce.

While his final numbers — 5-8 record, 85.5 passer rating — they didn't do justice to his work. The Dolphins were talent-deficient on offense for pretty much the whole season, but they got better as the year progressed and that led to their 5-4 record in their final nine games.

Fitzpatrick had highlights throughout the second half of the season, such as his three touchdown passes in the December victory against the Philadelphia Eagles or his four touchdowns in the overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals and, of course, his game-winning drive against the New England Patriots in the season finale.

Based on the offseason additions the Dolphins made and their progress throughout the 2019 season, the offense has a reasonable chance of success with Fitzpatrick at quarterback.

For however long that lasts.

Until the inevitable change occurs, Fitzpatrick will do what he does. And he'll be who he's always been.

And, by the sound of it, he and Tua already have hit it off.

"I mean, he’s a really interesting guy," said Fitzpatrick, who certainly would fit that description as well given his career, his seven children and his world-famous beard. "He’s got a lot of energy to him and you can just tell that guys are going to gravitate to him. There’s something about him that is just very likable and I can already tell that he’s going to be one of those guys that gets along with everybody, that guys are going to want to follow.

"He just has that kind of aura about him and part of it is probably the way that he played in college and just kind of the name and the reputation that he’s built for himself; but there’s not a whole lot of ego involved and he’s very likable. So I don’t know, just the general conversations whether about football or life, it’s been really fun so far.”