Rob Ninkovich Says Dolphins Won't Push Tua to Be Week 1 Starter

Devon Clements

The New England Patriots will begin the 2020 regular season playing host to the Miami Dolphins, who have a quarterback competition on their hands. 

After using the fifth overall pick in this year's draft to select Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the former Heisman Trophy frontrunner will now compete with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting quarterback job in Miami next season. Or will he?

Former Patriot Rob Ninkovich on ESPN's morning show "Get Up" said that he disagrees with the report that it's a "foregone conclusion" Tagovailoa will beat out Fitzpatrick during camp and will be the Week 1 starter. Ninkovich - who has a history with Miami head coach Brian Flores - doesn't believe that's how the Dolphins will let it play out. 

"I would not start him right now, immediately," Ninkovich said. "I was with B-Flo for eight years. He’s a very smart coach, he’s a very smart man. He’s not going to try and push him into a position too quickly. If you are forced into a spot where potentially his hip isn’t 100 percent, you want him to be 100 percent healthy because the game of football is very mental and confidence goes a long way. If you’re pushed out there too soon and you lose a little bit of that vital confidence, it can affect you.

"I would think Brian Flores has a great plan in place. He’s going to use a veteran quarterback, and hopefully Tua can learn from the veteran quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick and kind of go underneath his wing a little bit, get a feel for the NFL in his first year. It’s going to be different with no offseason and no rookie camp. We don’t know what training camp is going to look like. It’ll be interesting moving forward. But, look, I don’t want to push him into a situation too quickly where he could potentially hurt confidence or get hurt physically.”

Making certain a young QB is prepared to succeed when he becomes the starter is so important. In some cases it can determine how that player's entire career pans out. That's why it's hard to imagine Flores will thrust Tagovailoa into a starting role if A) he's not 100% healthy and B) if he doesn't handily win the quarterback competition over the summer. 

If the rookie shows that he has a strong grasp of the playbook, is fully healthy, and can undoubtedly beat out Fitzpatrick as the starter for Miami, then it would seem silly to keep him on the bench. But all of those things will be hard to accomplish in the matter of just a few weeks throughout the course of July and August. That's why it's more likely than not that Fitzpatrick - who has a history of torching the Patriots - will be at the very least their starter to begin the regular season. That means New England wouldn't get their chance of possibly facing Tua until Week 15 in Miami. 

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