MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Tua Tagovailoa slander has gotten out of control.
There’s an entire subset of NFL media invested in the (laughable) narrative that the Miami Dolphins‘ offense is so good, the quarterback position is basically irrelevant to success.
Stephen A. Smith crystalized that bias on national TV this week, saying the following on First Take:
“I don’t know if y’all watch Miami enough. All of these passes ain’t for 19, 20, 30, 40 yards. You just got Tua dipping it for two yards to him, and he the one taking it to the house.”
That, to put it kindly, is equestrian feces.
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Are We Still Doing This With Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa?
According to Next Gen Stats, Tagovailoa’s average completed air yards (6.4) is tied for sixth highest in the league. Tua’s average is higher than those of Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, and Joe Burrow. He’s throwing the ball deep.
Then there’s the argument that Tagovailoa’s stats are not reflective of his true play since the Dolphins have the fastest team ever assembled.
There is a difference between this situation and everyone else. pic.twitter.com/ELq8kUycVE
— Scott Kacsmar (@ScottKacsmar) October 18, 2023
Certainly, he’s helped by the talent around him — but so was Mahomes, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, and any other MVP quarterback to lead historic offenses. Football isn’t a one-man sport.
Mahomes for years has been seen as the best quarterback in the NFL. Is anyone discounting his body of work this year, even though his aggressiveness rate (which measures how often a quarterback throws into tight coverage) is 1.4% lower than Tua’s (11.2%).
Yes, the Dolphins, as a receiving group, have the highest yards-after-catch average in football (7.1). But Tagovailoa also ranks first in bad-throw rate (8.4%), third in completion percentage over expectation (7.2), and fifth in on-target rate (81.1%).
Put another way, he’s the perfect player for the offense he’s in. That’s the point of football, right? To put players in the best position to succeed. And few quarterbacks have had as much success over the course of a season as Tagovailoa is on track to have.
So no one should be surprised that head coach Mike McDaniel gave a viral answer Wednesday to a question regarding those who insinuate that quarterback is largely irrelevant to this offense.
“I’m about to push this podium over,” he said in jest. “My answer to that would be, ‘Who the F cares’ because it is a team. We’re working together, and I know one thing. I’ve coached stuff a long time. I haven’t seen people do what our guys do.”
McDaniel added: “We’re all tied together; it’s a journey that we’re experiencing together. Somebody will get the statistics from it, but none of those statistics are worth anything if you don’t have full support from your players across the board, all 11, and then it goes down to the organization and all those things combined.
“But I know this; our players run a lot of plays that I have a lot of history with, and it looks different, and that’s because of hard work and unbelievable ability. So don’t try me on other players. I’m not trying to prove that.”
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But here’s the thing: The Dolphins have had to try to prove it with other players because of Tagovailoa’s injury-impacted 2022 season — and it hasn’t looked nearly as pretty.
I asked Tua Tagovailoa if there are throws he’s making now that he didn’t/couldn’t earlier in his career. Here was his answer. pic.twitter.com/Vh40yaNIXz
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) October 18, 2023
Since the start of the 2022 season, Tagovailoa has thrown 597 of the team’s 784 passes. He has completed 66.8% of his attempts, averaged 9.1 yards per pass, amassed a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and compiled a passer rating of 108.3.
The same stats for his backups over the last two seasons? 59.4%, 6.9, .75-1, and 73.0.
The offense is elite when he’s on the field. And among the league’s worst when he’s not.
Yes, it’s true — as some have pointed out — that Tyreek Hill is playing better than he ever has. He acknowledged as much Sunday.
But if you’re going to listen to the start of his answer, you better listen to all of it.
“Obviously, the credit doesn’t only go to myself,” he said. “Like we have such a tremendous team, and it’s so well-rounded that it gets me open with the offensive creativity that Mike draws up each and every week, him and Frank [Smith], they do a great job, and also having the playmakers around also plays into that.
“Obviously, the offensive line is playing great ball up front, so that’s also a key, and then Tua. Like Tua, I just feel like the way he’s been playing over the past few weeks — well, ever since I’ve been here, he’s been lights out.
“All of that plays into me playing well. I know a lot of people will say, ‘Reek, it’s all because of you.’ It’s not, man. It’s really because I’m on a really good team.”
With a really good quarterback.
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