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General manager Chris Grier said last week it was “clear that Tua is our starter” going into 2021, but multiple anonymous Dolphins players don’t think the position should be guaranteed.
“I understand what they said,” one player said. “But I don’t understand why.”
“I don’t know, man, that’s like a puzzle right there,” another player added.
Tagovailoa totaled 1,814 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in 10 appearances this season after being selected No. 5 overall in the 2020 NFL draft.
Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick—who began the season as the team’s starter—had 23 fewer pass attempts in 2020 but had more yards (2,091) and touchdowns (13) with a much better QBR (77.3 versus 52.9).
Players were reportedly “caught totally off guard” when the Dolphins benched Fitzpatrick for Tagovailoa in Week 8.
Miami finished 10-6 this season, mostly thanks to a defense that tied for fifth in points allowed while adding three non-offensive touchdowns. The squad has the talent to be a top contender in the AFC, but it will need more from the quarterback position.
Players are “not convinced Tagovailoa is going to be great in the future,” per Salguero, and question whether he can match up with AFC stars like Kansas City‘s Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo‘s Josh Allen.
“Those are the boys we got to beat, right?” a defensive player said. “It looks right now like that’s going to be a big challenge.”
The front office and coaching staff appear to still have faith in Tagovailoa. The quarterback was recovering from a hip injury suffered at Alabama that cost him much of the offseason last year, while the lack of preseason games also likely hurt his development.
A full year as the starter could help him reach the potential he showcased when healthy in college. However, he might have an uphill battle to convince his teammates he is the right man for the job.