MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins are naming rookie Tua Tagovailoa their starting quarterback, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. Miami is currently on bye, giving Tagovailoa extra preparation time before the Dolphins meet the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 1.
When asked why now -- just days after veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick led Miami to its third win of 2020 -- one source simply told Pelissero "it's just time."
"They felt as if now, with Tua Tagovailoa being that much further removed from that devastating hip injury that he suffered last year at Alabama, having shown what he can do in practice, having gotten the reps made up for what he lost when he did not have an offseason, did not have a preseason to get ready," Pelissero explained on NFL Network. "Then seeing his first game action, even on a limited basis this past weekend, they believe now is the right time for Tua time. They're also heading into a bye here, which gives them a little bit more time for Tua to get ready, mentally even more so than physically."
The fifth-overall pick of April's draft, Tagovailoa has navigated an adversity-laden path from Tuscaloosa to Miami. The former Alabama star quarterback battled his way from a significant hip injury through intense and grueling rehab, a pre-draft process that saw Tagovailoa robbed of on-field workouts by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and forced to instead send an audition tape to all 32 teams, and finally joining the team most suspected would end up taking him anyway.
Instead of first overall, Tagovailoa watched Joe Burrow go to Cincinnati with the No. 1 pick before he landed with Miami at No. 5. And instead of taking the field in Week 1, as Burrow did in Cincinnati, Tagovailoa was relegated to watching Fitzpatrick from the bench.
Fitzpatrick excelled as the starter, completing 138 of 197 attempts (70.1 percent) for 1,535 yards and a 10-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He led Miami to three wins, including two in their last two games, with both coming by wide margins.
Some might see the timing as peculiar, considering Miami's positive momentum built by its last two victories and Fitzpatrick's leadership in both performance and energy, but the Dolphins didn't spend the No. 5 pick on Tagovailoa for him to get a prime viewing angle from the sideline. Regardless of Fitzpatrick's play, the future is most important for a franchise still emerging from the rubble of the Adam Gase years.
Miami fans clamored for Tua Time late in games that were already out of hand, but coach Brian Flores resisted until Week 6, when he inserted Tagovailoa at the end of a dominant win over the New York Jets. Tagovailoa entered to cheers of the limited crowd in attendance, with Fitzpatrick egging them on from the sideline, and completed two passes for nine yards before the game ended.
Following the game, Tagovailoa returned to the field while still in his uniform to FaceTime his parents and soak in the moment. After traversing a road that would break many, Tagovailoa has reached a stop once seen as unlikely. Future destinations await him.