Tagovailoa enters NFL as game manager

It didn’t make sense initially why the Miami Dolphins chose to start Tua Tagovailoa, a rookie, over 37-year-old veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Questions will always linger about the rookie quarterback: Is he ready, how is Tagovailoa’s health, and in this particular scenario, why would you pull Fitzpatrick when it appears your team is still very much in contention to capture an NFL division title?

The situation Tagovailoa stepped into waasn’t an easy one. He’s took over a Miami Dolphins team that was 3-3, in second place in the division, and is now 4-3 after their 28-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams Sunday.

Typically, a rookie takes over for a team out of contention, but Tagovailoa is entering right into the thick of things.

Tagovailoa’s debut was far from spectacular, and I am not ready to label him a rookie sensation based on his NFL debut numbers, but it may have made the Dolphins’ management decision to start their first-round draft pick early more transparent.

The decision to start Tagovailoa this early is only questionable for two reasons: his devastating, career-threatening hip injury in college, and the potential altering of team chemistry of a group in the middle of being in contention.

If his hip wasn’t hurt, it is an easy choice: start him.

Tagovailoa’s passing numbers weren’t that impressive — 12 for 22 for 93 yards and a touchdown. The best stat line for him in his NFL rookie starting debut was this: no interceptions.

Here is what may be going on with the Dolphins’ decision to start him, and it’s simple: they have faith their defense can carry him.

The Dolphins defense was the reason they defeated the Rams Sunday.

The Rams committed four turnovers in the first half. This is a credit to the Dolphins defense and special teams. The Fins’ coaching staff must have faith in their defense and special teams to carry them through these games until Tagovailoa can get acclimated to the speed in which the NFL plays.

So it’s apparent they feel that Tagovailoa can be a game manager until he gets adjusted.

A game manager has a bad connotation in NFL language, but there are many quarterbacks who have played this role and have won Super Bowls. All you have to do is reference former Philadelphia Eagles star quarterback Nick Foles and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer.

No doubt Tagovailoa has more raw talent than both of those quarterbacks, but he will have to wear the label of game manager until the speed of the new level slows down for the rookie.

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Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.

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