It's open season on Tua Tagovailoa and everyone is taking shots. Why? And to what end? I have no idea. But in the short few months since the Dolphins' season ended, we've had two of his former college teammates pick his successor over him and multiple Dolphins teammates question his ability to be great in the NFL.
The latest voice to enter the discussion was Alabama draft prospect Jalen Waddle. The star wide receiver was asked by Andrew Siciliano on NFL Network who he would choose between Tagovailoa and Mac Jones. Waddle, who played with both quarterbacks at Alabama, quickly responded Jones, saying both are great quarterbacks but he would go with Jones for all the reasons you can listen to in this video.
This is the same reaction DeVonta Smith, Alabama's Heisman-winning WR, reportedly had. He was asked by NFL GMs the same question and, like Waddle, didn't hesitate in picking Jones over Tagovailoa.
Beyond the obvious question of why these players are answering this question knowing whomever they choose will be a knock on the other guy, it's pretty shocking to see all the shots fired at Tagovailoa over the last two months. Wasn't he the No. 5 pick in the 2020 draft for a reason? Didn't he just lead the Dolphins to a 7-3 record as a starter in 2020? Was his 2-1 TD-to-interception ratio not good enough to prove he, at minimum, might be a good quarterback in the NFL? Apparently not.
In January, Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero posted a story that included multiple quotes from anonymous players questioning whether Tagovailoa will be elite in the future and their belief thatRyan Fitzpatrick shouldn't have lost his job in the first place. This quote stood out.
"One defensive player said he isn't impressed with Tagovailoa's ball velocity or arm strength or ability to make off-schedule plays with his legs. So he ultimately questions whether Tagovailoa will ever be able to match the feats of other quarterbacks in the AFC such as Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson."
While this tornado of negativity has swirled around him, Tagovailoa has remained the model teammate and human. He praised Jones, saying he's a more mobile Tom Brady, admitted he didn't live up to his expectations in 2020 and vowed to work hard this offseason to be a better quarterback in 2021. Can't ask for much more than that.
Sports coverage these days is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately endeavor and I'm as guilty as anyone in having that mindset. However, it hits different when current and former teammates question your ability. Those are the guys in the trenches with you, who you're relying on to have your back when you go to battle. I don't imagine Tagovailoa is happy knowing some of them have already stabbed him in the back and named his successor the better leader.
Based on his personality, don't expect rebuttals from Tagovailoa through the media. Expect rebuttals on the field. Tagovailoa will try and prove all the naysayers wrong in 2021 and he deserves that chance based on his performance in 2020.
He may never be Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson, but he might just lead the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2021 and maybe win a Super Bowl at some point in his career. You wouldn't guess that given the skepticism directed at him the last few months, but anyone who can rise above that, as Tagovailoa has, deserves the benefit of the doubt.