Tua Tagovailoa has made his first start in the NFL. The Miami Dolphins manhandled the Los Angeles Rams on their way to a 28-17 victory. The ‘Phins scored touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams, as it was as complete of a victory as you’ll see in this league.
As for the highly-anticipated debut of Tua, well, it was ight. He threw his first TD pass, didn’t throw any picks, fumbled once, and completed 55% of his passes for 93 yards. He had an 80.3 QB rating. For a rookie making his first start against a defense like LA has, you take that. Tua certainly didn’t break any records, but he made enough plays to win, and got plenty of help from his teammates.
That last part is what makes this Dolphins team scary for the first time in a long time.
What a difference a year makes
Brian Flores is the real deal, man. This time last year, NFL analysts were universally accosting the Dolphins for allegedly taking “tanking” to an unsafe extreme. Miami was 0-7 and were generally getting abused in every game.
Then the Dolphins went 5-4 over their last nine, playing inspired football week after week. Brian Flores turned chicken shit into chicken soup, as the team that once looked like they’d finish 0-16 played playoff-caliber football down the stretch. To hell with “tanking”; it became clear that Brian Flores wasn’t into that. He tries to go 1-0 every week, and the second half of 2019 helped create the winning culture that has carried over into this season.
Legion of Boom 2.0?
Brian Flores has done a little bit of everything on NFL sidelines, but he is a defensive guy at his core. The Dolphins have invested heavily on that side of the ball, specifically in the secondary, and it has paid major dividends so far in 2020.
Eric Rowe, Bobby McCain, Byron Jones, and Xavien Howard have all excelled this season. Seattle’s Legion of Boom set the precedent for elite secondaries in the NFL, units that could consistently create coverage sacks while also helping out with the run game and, of course, picking off wayward passes.
That team doesn’t make it to two Super Bowls without that secondary. Is the Dolphins’ unit on that level? It’s far too early to tell. But they might get there if they stay together and keep building off their success. That’s how talented and well-coached they seem to be.
A Great Place To Be
If episode 1 of Tua Time is a forecast of things to come in 2020, Dolphins fans should be more than happy. Brian Flores has put together a stellar defense, and the Dolphins have a serviceable offensive line and stable of offensive weapons to further make life easy on the rookie.
Is Tua Tagovailoa a game manager this season? If that’s all that’s needed of him, then the Dolphins are in a damn good spot. He clearly has the talent to take over games, but Flores will gladly take the weight off the rookie’s shoulders if he can. Tom Brady started his career as a game manager; the Patriots seemed to do just fine in his early years.
These are the luxuries afforded to well-constructed teams, as they don’t need to throw young QBs into the fire. Tua Tagovailoa is the starting quarterback for the 4-3 Miami Dolphins, but he is certainly not the driving force behind their current three-game winning streak. That’s a good thing, ‘Phins fans.
This is how you build a sustainable winner, something Brian Flores appears to be doing in South Florida.