Dolphins hardly seem divided after Tua Tagovailoa takeover


Tua Time in Miami begins on Sunday, and it’s the right time.

When Miami coach Brian Flores announced that rookie first-round draft pick Tua Tagovailoa would supplant veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Dolphins starting quarterback, beginning with Sunday’s home game against the Rams, there was an element of shock value.

The Dolphins, after all, are 3-3, riding a two-game winning streak and averaging more than 26 points per game, and Fitzpatrick has played well. When Flores dropped the news bomb, Fitzpatrick spoke of being “heartbroken’’ by the switch, telling reporters he truly felt like these Dolphins were his team.

If you felt badly for Fitzpatrick, that’s perfectly understandable. But the reality is the 37-year-old journeyman, when he was brought to Miami, never was going to be anything other than a stopgap for the Dolphins, a placeholder for Tagovailoa.

Fitzpatrick has started for eight different teams in his 16-year career — an NFL record — and there’s a reason he never stayed in one place for a long period of time. He never led any of those teams to the playoffs.

Tagovailoa is the Dolphins’ future, and the sooner he becomes their present, the better that future will be.

By the accounts of those who should know in Miami, Tagovailoa, who’ll be the first left-handed quarterback to throw an NFL pass since Kellen Moore in 2016 for the Cowboys, appears to be ready for his closeup.

Tua Tagovailoa
Tua TagovailoaAP

The move by Flores is reminiscent of the one then-Giants coach Tom Coughlin made in 2004 when he replaced stopgap veteran Kurt Warner with Eli Manning despite the fact that they had a 5-4 record at the time.

The Dolphins have made two playoff appearances in the past 18 seasons and have one winning record in the past 11. The hope in South Florida is that Tua Time is the beginning of the end of that futility.

If you have any questions about whether Flores lost the locker room making the switch, comments from his teammates about Tagovailoa tell the story.

“He’s everything you want in a quarterback,” receiver Preston Williams told reporters this week.

“You wouldn’t think he was a rookie if you watched him in practice. The kid is incredible, and I’m looking forward to going out there and playing with him Sunday,’’ defensive end Shaq Lawson said.

“Tua has done a phenomenal job earning everybody’s respect in the locker room,’’ said Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, who credits Fitzpatrick for igniting his career as a pass catcher. “I look forward to seeing him making a big play — because you know it’s eventually coming — and how he reacts to that. It’s exciting to be part of that chapter.”

Those words hardly sound like they came from a locker room divided.

Tagovailoa’s task will be made more challenging by a Rams defense that’s allowing 17.7 points per game, the second-lowest average in the NFL. At the center of that defense is two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.

“I think he’ll play great,” Miami offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said of Tagovailoa.

For the crowd who may argue it’s too soon for Tagovailoa, look at what the other rookie starters are doing this season.

Joe Burrow passed for a career-high 406 yards with three touchdowns and ran for another TD for the Bengals against the Browns last Sunday. Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert passed for a career-high 347 yards with three TDs, no interceptions and added a rushing TD in a win over Jacksonville.

The Dolphins drafted Tagovailoa No. 5 overall. Burrow went No. 1 overall and Herbert at No. 6.

Why not Tua Time now?

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