Tua Tagovailoa experienced plenty of highs and lows in his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins, which come with the territory of being the starting quarterback for a team that performed well above expectations and fought for a playoff berth. The Dolphins weren’t afraid to take the kid gloves off Tagovailoa when needed, benching him in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick three times over the final seven weeks of the season in order to compete for a playoff spot.
Tagovailoa was batting injuries last season, which wasn’t the root of his struggles. For a player that once expected the transition to the NFL to be “a lot harder,” Tagovailoa experienced a taste of humble pie as the season progressed.
“Well, I think last year for me, last year wasn’t – I wasn’t as comfortable just in general. I wasn’t comfortable calling plays,” Tagovailoa admitted in a conference call during Dolphins minicamp Wednesday. “I think the guys that we had last year were phenomenal. I just didn’t have the comfortability of kind of checking plays, alerting plays and doing that. I just rode with the play even if I knew in a way that it wasn’t going to work. I was going to try to make it work still.”
“But the firepower that we have this year, it’s good but you’ve got to get it out to them, too. If you’re able to protect yourself and then get it out to them and have them make plays, then you’ll be good.”
The Dolphins were 6-3 in Tagovailoa’s starts, but he still performed well despite the playbook issues. Tagovailoa completed 64.1% of his passes for 1,814 yards with 11 touchdowns to five interceptions (87.1 rating). He also rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
Tagovailoa was very successful against the blitz, completing 64.7% of his passes and throwing seven touchdowns to just one interception (101.6 rating). His interception rate of 1.72 was the second-lowest in team history and the sixth-lowest in NFL history for rookie quarterbacks (minimum 300 attempts).
Imagine what will happen with a full offseason — and knowledge of the playbook — under his belt.
“That’s on no one else’s fault but my fault,” Tagovailoa said. “Our play calls were simple when I was in. I didn’t have alerts and checks whereas now, feeling more comfortable, I can kind of maneuver my way through these things now.”