If you’re a Miami Dolphins fan, let’s flash back to Halloween 2019. It was a miserable time in Miami. Your team had just lost its seventh consecutive game to start the season. You were already dreaming about — and let’s face it, planning for — the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. Surely, that player would be Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
What if we told you then that, on the eve of the 2021 regular season, Tagovailoa would be the Dolphins’ starting quarterback? And that Miami also would have invested in a dynamic group of wide receivers? And that the Dolphins would be a popular preseason pick to compete for an AFC playoff spot? You would have been thrilled, right?
All of that was the supposed gold at the end of the “Tank for Tua” rainbow.
The reality is a bit more complicated.
Tagovailoa is finally entrenched as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback, a role he slowly began to grow into during the second half of last season. Much of the hype, though, was missing from his rookie year.
Part of that was due to the brutal hip injury he suffered at Alabama in November 2019. Then there was his arrival as the No. 5 pick in 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic.
He’s made only nine NFL starts, and yet Tagovailoa enters what could be a career-defining year. The 2021 season is a chance to remind the Dolphins of why he was the quarterback so much of their fan base once coveted, and to convince his bosses that they shouldn’t look for his replacement.
Indeed, earlier this month, coach Brian Flores repeatedly had to reinforce, both publicly through the media and privately to his team, that Tagovailoa was the team’s unquestioned starter. Flores wouldn’t directly address reports that the Dolphins had been pursuing (either actively or at some point in the offseason) a trade for Houston’s Deshaun Watson, but he also didn’t deny them.