The NFL world is salivating for Tua Tagovailoa’s debut. Well, except Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The veteran described his experience on Tuesday when he found out he was being benched as the Dolphins starting quarterback for the prized Alabama rookie.
“I basically got fired yesterday and my day today consisted of Zoom meetings with the guy who fired me and sitting in a room with the guy who replaced me for four hours,” Fitzpatrick told reporters.
It was always Tagovailoa’s job as he represents the future of the franchise, but the change struck many as curious given Fitzpatrick’s strong start to the season. The 37-year-old is coming off back-to-back three-touchdown games against the 49ers and Jets in victories that brought the Dolphins record to 3-3.
“I felt like it was my team and that’s why my heart was so heavy Tuesday,” Fitzatrick said. “My heart just hurt all day. It was heartbreaking for me.”
Through six games, Fitzpatrick has completed 70.1 percent of his passes (a career-high) for 1,535 yards, 12 total touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“We feel like through practices, walkthroughs and meetings, we feel like he’s ready,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said in a glowing endorsement of the 2020 first-rounder on Wednesday, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We feel like it’s the best thing for the team.
“I’m confident in all our players, including Tua. He works hard and has a good rapport with his teammates. … If he prepares the way he’s been preparing, we’re confident we’ll go out there and have good results. But it’s not a one-man game.”
“Fitz has been great. He’s been great really for the last two years, or year and a half. I don’t know if there’s anybody that’s been more instrumental of trying to instill a culture. I have a great respect for him. That made this decision very tough. But at the end of the day as a team, we felt the best thing to do for our team was to go to Tua.”
The Dolphins are vying for a playoff spot and currently sit in second-place in a wide open AFC East division (one game behind the Bills). This will put a lot of pressure on 22-year-old Tagovailoa, who is coming off of hip surgery and took his first NFL snaps this past Sunday during garbage time against the Jets.
The Crimson Tide product was the presumed No. 1 overall pick heading into the 2019 season before suffering a season-ending dislocated hip on Nov. 16 against Mississippi State. His injury history — coupled with emergence of LSU’s Joe Burrow — plunged his stock, as many in the NFL community expressed concerns over his size and long-term durability.
Tagovailoa was eventually selected fifth-overall in the 2020 NFL Draft after multiple smokescreens and misdirections from the Dolphins, who were originally accused of “Tanking for Tua.” He will have the benefit of an additional week to prepare for the Rams in Week 8 at home, as the Dolphins have their bye this week (originally scheduled for Week 11).
“I don’t think it hurts,” Flores said of the extra time. “But we feel like this was the best move for our team right now.”
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