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Let’s go back to Nov. 1 because that’s when the Miami Dolphins seemed to have all the answers they needed about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
That was the date the Dolphins seemed certain — certain! — they found their quarterback of the future in Tagovailoa. So when Chris Grier spoke to Denver Broncos general manager George Paton, the Dolphins general manager had a comfort level about trading away next year’s first round draft pick.
That pick might have been insurance for Grier and the Dolphins. Until that point, the team had kept that valuable pick in case there was a need to use it in some form to replace Tagovailoa in 2023.
But that insurance no longer seemed necessary by early November.
Tua Tagovailoa’s Great Start Inspired Dolphins
Tagovailoa had stunned everyone with a six-touchdown breakout game at Baltimore. And had shown no ill effects from a concussion suffered against Cincinnati by returning against Pittsburgh and leading Miami to its fifth win in five games he had started and finished this season.
So Grier dealt his 2023 first- and a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Broncos for linebacker Bradley Chubb.
Miami’s thinking was obvious. The Dolphins saw themselves as a Super Bowl contender with a budding star at quarterback. So adding a defensive pass rusher to close battles against Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and maybe Patrick Mahomes was needed.
That acquisition hasn’t paid dividends yet. Although Chubb has 8 sacks this season, he’s collected only 2.5 sacks in seven games with the Dolphins — none the last three weeks when Miami needed them most in games against Justin Herbert, Allen, and Aaron Rodgers.
Back to my point…
For a few weeks after Grier made that trade, Tagovailoa made the GM’s move seem worthwhile. He threw 3 TDs without an interception against Detroit, threw 3 TDs without an interception against Chicago, and threw 3 TDs without an interception against Cleveland.
The problem is the 2022 Dolphins season didn’t end in November.
Dolphins Season Takes A Turn In December
December came, and unlike November, it’s been ugly.
The Dolphins lost all four of their games in December. And the quarterback that seemed to be blossoming a month ago is wilting now.
Tagovailoa completed 54.5% of his passes in a loss to the 49ers.
He completed 35.7% of his passes in a loss to the Chargers.
He completed 56.7% of his passes in a loss to the Bills.
And while he finally raised his completion rate to 64 % against Green Bay on Sunday, Tagovailoa threw 3 interceptions in the fourth quarter. The last interception came when the Dolphins needed a touchdown drive to win the game.
It gets worse.
Tagovailoa Concussion Issues A Concern
The Dolphins learned Monday that Tagovailoa is suffering from concussion symptoms. Coach Mike McDaniel said he wasn’t certain Tagovailoa had an actual concussion, but he had symptoms. So Tagovailoa is in the concussion protocol for the second time this season.
That puts the Dolphins suddenly in the same situation they were in when the season began. They have a talented roster with dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball. But there are significant questions about their starting quarterback.
The first question is what is Tagovailoa? He’s probably neither the 6-TD nor 3-interception guy but where exactly does he fall in between?
And whatever he is, can he be counted on?
That’s hard to know. Because it’s impossible to predict what lasting damage the hits that landed Tagovailoa in the concussion protocol twice and another hit that probably should have landed him in the protocol (versus Buffalo in September) have done or will do.
Anyone saying Tagovailoa will definitely be fine or will definitely be diminished after these multiple concussion issues is lying.
No one knows, or can know, for certain.
That’s why losing that insurance first-round pick next year may hurt Miami now.
If Tagovailoa cannot emerge whole in time and play well through the end of the season, the Dolphins would have a problem. They’d have a quarterback who wasn’t durable enough to finish the season or play his best during a playoff push when the team needed him most.
That’s the worst case scenario that could send the Dolphins quarterback shopping this offseason
Quarterback shopping, by the way, with no first-round pick.
Tagovailoa Contract Extension Decision Looms
The best-case scenario is Tagovailoa rallies and plays to his previous heights. We’re talking heights we saw before the losing skid. We’re talking heights we saw when he recovered well from his first concussion.
But, you see, even that scenario will present the Dolphins and Grier with a major decision.
Suppose Tagovailoa recovers well. Does that convince the Dolphins to reward their quarterback this offseason with the huge contract extension he’ll be eligible to get prior to the start of the 2023 season?
Would the Dolphins decide a December filled with losing and punctuated by another head issue can be ignored as they invest a quarter of a billion dollars on Tagovailoa?
The Cincinnati Bengals are going to make that sizeable investment on Joe Burrow before next season. Same with the Chargers and Justin Herbert. Is Miami’s trust in Tagovailoa on that level?
The next few weeks will show us if it can be.