The Dolphins stunned the NFL community when they announced Tua Tagovailoa was taking over the starting job from Ryan Fitzpatrick this week after Fitzpatrick had played well and led Miami to two straight wins going into its bye.
Now we know why. It's because the Dolphins are hedging their bet on Tagovailoa.
According to Adam Schefter, one of the factors in starting Tagovailoa is the Dolphins want to evaluate whether he's good enough to lead the franchise moving forward or whether they should use one of their many draft picks on a quarterback in 2021. Here's more from Schefter.
The Dolphins need to know what they have in Tagovailoa as they enter the 2021 draft with two picks in each of the first two rounds, courtesy of their trade last year that sent left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Texans.
With their own first-rounder plus the Texans, which is shaping up to be in the top 5-10, the Dolphins could be in a position to draft a quarterback like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance next year. That would be a stunning move after the Dolphins used the fifth pick in this year's draft on Tagovailoa. But if they feel one of those players is better prepared to lead them for the long haul, or if Tagovailoa got hurt this year, it appears the Dolphins are willing to consider the idea of moving on from Tagovailoa after only one season.
Tagovailoa is making his first start for the 3-3 Dolphins today against the Rams. It was always expected that the former Alabama star would take the reigns from Fitzpatrick this season, but after reeling off wins over the 49ers and Jets, it was a surprise he was given the nod to start this week against a tough Rams defense.
This does give the Dolphins ample time to evaluate Tagovailoa. They have 10 games remaining with several winnable opportunities (Chargers, Jets, Bengals, Dolphins) and several tough defensive matchups (Rams, Patriots, Chiefs, Bills) that will help answer the question of whether or not Tagovailoa is prepared for the challenges of starting in the NFL. Yet we all know it takes some quarterbacks more than one season to acclimate to the NFL, so judging him based on 10 weeks isn't foolproof.
It's an interesting situation to monitor and it would be shocking if the Dolphins used a top 5 pick on quarterbacks in back-to-back drafts. But that's how important the position is in the NFL and the Dolphins are evaluating it as such.