Ryan Fitzpatrick was “dismayed” by the Dolphins’ choice to discovered Tua Tagovailoa: “At first I assumed it was a joke”
No team had a better quarterback position in 2020 than the Dolphins, who played both Ryan Fitzpatrick in the role of seasoned veteran and Tua Tagovailoa, No. 5 overall selection in the NFL draft and Miami’s future quarterback.
Fitzpatrick understood that Tagovailoa would ultimately take over as the team’s starting quarterback, but said he was “devastated” when the Dolphins made the move in the week 8 game against the Rams. The revelation is part of a longer piece with The Athletic.
Fitzpatrick learned of the decision from manager Brian Flores during Bye Week in Miami after finishing games against the 49ers and Jets in which he combined 40 of 55 passes (72.7 percent) for 541 yards and six touchdowns to two interceptions completed. Tagovailoa had only appeared on mop-up duty in those two games at the time, completing 14 of 24 passes for 102 yards and a score.
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“I have a lot of respect for (coach Brian Flores) and we have a very good relationship,” Fitzpatrick told The Athletic. “But at first I thought it was a joke. We use Tua? I was down.
“That was my team,” he added. “I fought my way through the s – with these guys. I understand how the NFL works. I get it. But to make it happen the way it happened. … “
Fitzpatrick wasn’t the only one shocked by Flores’ decision. Former offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who the Dolphins hired before the start of the season – and who was fired after the end of the season – said he was also confused by the decision. Per The Athletic, he only found out about the decision a few hours before Fitzpatrick.
“I was totally shocked,” said Gailey. “We didn’t even have a preseason. It was an entirely new offense (for Tua). We were just beginning to make our move. We had won two in a row, scored a lot of points and moved the ball well. It was a shock to me. “
It certainly didn’t help that Tagovailoa, who didn’t have a rookie in the off-season and sustained a severe hip injury that ended his college career in Alabama, didn’t do as well as his veteran opponent. That was only compounded when it turned out that the Dolphins, sustained by excellent defensive play, were well ahead of schedule in their rebuilding and were indeed able to make the playoffs.
Tagovailoa started every game from week 8 – the only exception was a week 12 game in the Jets – and ended the season with 186 of 290 passes for 1,814 yards and 11 touchdowns to five interceptions. He went 6-3 as a starter but sometimes had problems with the team’s playbook. That resulted in Flores pulling him into games against Denver, and especially the Raiders, a decision rooted in Fitzpatrick’s mastery of the two-minute exercises.
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The Dolphins finished 10-6, just one game from the playoffs, after drubbing 56-26 through the Bills in Week 17.
Despite his displeasure at being benched, Fitzpatrick said he gave Tagovailoa his full and public support and even told others on the team with similar opinions to support the rookie quarterback.
“It’s hard for her to take on the role, too,” said Fitzpatrick. “So that I support you and that I am the guy who is 100 percent in your corner and doesn’t whisper behind your back: ‘Yes, I should be out there’. Something like that destroys a changing room. “
He will no longer have to worry about broken changing rooms in 2021. Tagovailoa, once the quarterback for the Dolphins of the future, is now their quarterback for the present. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick moved on from Miami and is now with the Washington Football Team.