Last week, Miami Dolphins’ Head Coach Brian Flores announced that “Tua Time” would officially kick off this Sunday when the Dolphins play the Los Angeles Rams. The news hit Ryan Fitzpatrick hard. He admitted that he was heartbroken after learning of his fate, and he had evidence to back up his feelings. After all, Fitzpatrick was playing winning football. The team easily won their last two games to even up their record to 3-3, giving Dolphins fans playoff visions dancing in their heads. On the surface, things were on the upswing, so why make the change now? What is going on?
Let the record reflect that the Miami Dolphins organization is now on the road to building a winning team. Brian Flores displayed all the characteristics of a successful NFL coach, a person who has vision calibrated to greatness (e.g. eyes on Super Bowl instead of just making the playoffs), the intestinal fortitude to make risky decisions, and more importantly, the backing from ownership.
Most NFL coaches would let things ride and replace Ryan Fitzpatrick only when the “Fitzmagic” evaporated. But visionaries don’t do the expected. They cut against the grain. Turning the Super Bowl vision into a reality requires a quarterback with more skill than Ryan Fitzpatrick. Why wait for the inevitable drop in Fitzpatrick’s play? The sooner Tua Tagovailoa plays, the faster he can develop his skills against NFL defenses.
Risk-averse people always throw stones at visionaries, and sure enough, after Tua Tagovailoa was named the starter, some media and fans opposed the decision. Ryan Fitzpatrick suddenly was elevated to the franchise quarterback he had never been his entire 16-year career. One can bet that after every interception Tua throws, the coaching staff will hear, “Fitz doesn’t throw that interception. That’s a rookie mistake right there.” Should the Dolphins fall short of the playoffs, this decision alone will shoulder all of the blame. But it’s a safe bet that the Dolphins’ brain trust has seen Fitzpatrick’s playoff record and deduced that the risk is manageable. Quick tip: he’s played in as many playoff games as a person who never played a single down of football at any level.
Today’s NFL isn’t kind to teams without a franchise quarterback. The rules have changed to favor the offense so much that it’s almost impossible to tackle someone without drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty. The days of winning a Super Bowl with a quarterback saddling a defense with his ceiling topped off at a .500 winning percentage are over. The Dolphins organization knows this, too.
It’s “Tua Time”.