Depending on who you ask and when you ask them, Tua Tagovailoa is the Miami Dolphins' quarterback of the future. In early January, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier doubled down on his selected on the Alabama signal caller and called him the starter moving forward.
But subsequent reports and developments during the NFL season muddied the waters. At times, it seemed like Tagovailoa’s leash with the team wasn’t as long as a number five overall pick’s would typically be.
Fellow rookies Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow (when he was healthy) were dissecting defenses impressively. But Tagovailoa was sometimes being benched for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick during games Miami needed to win.
How the Dolphins decide to approach their quarterback room in the coming months will be fascinating to see. Will they bring in non-threatening insurance in case Tagovailoa continues to struggle in 2021? Or will they acquire someone with the type of ceiling that could allow them to eventually replace the young quarterback?
Juggling both ends of the spectrum, let’s take a look at who the Dolphins might consider bringing in under center.
Former Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
If Miami is not going to swing big and try to acquire someone like Deshaun Watson, Fizpatrick could be a good contingency plan. Reuniting the popular veteran sage and the young gun for another season could help Tagovailoa's growth.
By all accounts, Fitzpatrick and Tagovailoa had an excellent relationship, where the lines of communication were wide open and the only priority was winning football games. Fitzpatrick had some tremendous moments for Miami last season, punctuated by his no look pass to Mack Hollins down the sideline against the Las Vegas Raiders.
The organization probably wouldn’t hesitate to bring him back, given the professional approach he has displayed for the last two seasons. But Fitzpatrick may want to go somewhere where he can legitimately compete for a starting job.
Former Indianapolis Colts starter Jacoby Brissett
It’s probably not fair to say that Jacoby Brissett likes being a backup. Like NFL players, he's an intense competitor who wants to get on the field. But to his credit, Brissett took the Colts’ acquisition of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers in stride last year. He excelled when the team looked his way in special situations. But now he might be ready to enter the open market.
Miami might not need a Hail Mary and/or quarterback sneaking specialist. (That''s the role Brissett essentially filled last season.) But the Dolphins could use someone who will support the team dynamic even if he is not the starter.
Based on his demeanor last season, Brissett seems like the type of teammate who would support Tagovailoa in the locker room. He could also step up on the field as needed. Plus, Brissett and coach Brian Flores are familiar with each other from their days in New England.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter Jameis Winston
Acquiring Jameis Winston would be one of the boldest moves the Dolphins could make. The team would probably only pull the trigger on this move if it has serious concerns about Tagovailoa’s future. Winston’s skill set would be the polar opposite of the abilities Tagovailoa showed in 2020.
Tagovailoa was often content to check down, and he regularly chose easy passes over risky plays. On the other hand, during his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Winston’s entire game was predicated on making things happen, for better or for worse.
Winston probably wouldn’t accept an offer with the Dolphins if he was told that he would have to sit behind Tagovailoa. Sitting behind future Hall of Famer Drew Brees is one thing. But Winston would likely only come to South Florida if he was told that he’d have a chance to win the starting job.
No matter what happens, the Miami Dolphins are entering a crucial offseason. Their decisions surrounding the quarterback position could determine the team's success next season and beyond.