Tua Tagovailoa’s parents said this past week he’ll play next season. He remains in concussion protocol and will skip the Pro Bowl. Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells wrote the Miami Dolphins are at risk relying on him.
It’s only the second week of the Dolphins offseason and if it seems conversation already is funneling to one player that’s because it is. Just as it did during the 2022 season. And last offseason with firing Brian Flores and hiring Mike McDaniel. Just it’s been with the tanking-not-tanking blueprint dating to Adam Gase’s firing when the quarterback hadn’t been named.
Every day is Tua-day, and it will be until he goes through next season playing strong and looking healthy. Or he doesn’t. This was the gamble general manager Chris Grier took in drafting him, the one the Dolphins doubled-down on this offseason in a way questioned by Parcells, Grier’s former boss.
Parcells is full of football wisdom to the point veteran coach Sean Payton, once told me, “Every day was law school with him.” Parcells created seven rules for drafting quarterbacks (three-year college starter, 25 wins …). He had 11 commandments for an NFL quarterback (“No. 2: Clowns can’t run a huddle”).
He also had five central tenets in building a team. One demanded a quarterback durable enough for 14 starts (this was during a 16-game season) to offer a consistency of talent and leadership to build on.
So, in writing for The33rdTeam.com, Parcells said of the Dolphins: “They had a good year. I’m not certain they have stability at the quarterback position. They seem to think they do. Tua Tagovailoa looks good from time to time, but he was hurt in college and he’s been hurt a couple of times in the pros. I’m not sure they can rely on him.”
Parcells is a Hall of Fame coach, not a Hall of Fame general manager as the Dolphins discovered when he ran the franchise. So take your shots, if you want. But his paragraph sums up what five other current front-office officials or former general managers think of the Dolphins casting their future with Tagovailoa: It’s a roll of the dice.
The option? The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets addressed that idea this week. Bills general manager Brandon Beane pointed out three of the remaining four playoff teams have quarterbacks on rookie contracts.
“That gives them a window to do some things with the roster others like us can’t,” he said.
It’s the open window the Dolphins have for one more year with Tagovailoa surrounded by higher-priced talent. Still, the cost wouldn’t be prohibitive if the Dolphins had wanted to go down the road the New York Jets are in casting a line at Aaron Rodgers.
The Jets hired Rodgers’ former offensive coordinator, fired Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett. Rogers has a $59 million contract next season, a whopper but not a deal-breaker. It can be salary-cap maneuvered into a $1.2 contract this year and $58 million signing bonus spread out over the the next four years at $14.7 million.
Does Rodgers really want out of Green Bay? Will Green Bay let him go? At 39, he’s a short-term rental. Maybe he’s Tom Brady leading Tampa Bay win the Super Bowl. Maybe he’s Russell Wilson sinking Denver.
The Dolphins have McDaniel, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to lure any quarterback but say they’re not going down that road. Ditto for Lamar Jackson, the Baltimore quarterback who could be traded, and Derek Carr, the not-for-long Las Vegas quarterback.
Jimmy Garoppolo could be air-dropped into this offense since it’s San Francisco’s offense. But he’s Tua 1.0. He’s played one complete season in six years as a starter. Could two fragile bodies make one great quarterback? Does Garoppolo have more options?
“They said Tua is their guy, so that makes his backup their biggest question of this offseason,” one NFL front-office official said. “If Tua gets hurt again, they better have someone to save the season.”
They had a good plan in veteran Teddy Bridgewater last season. It didn’t work out when Bridgewater suffered odd injuries. They need another good plan this offseason.
This will be the neverending story this offseason as this past week’s entries showed. Tagovailoa’s parents say he’s playing next season (not that anyone doubted). His Pro Bowl absence is a non-story (who cares and nothing matters until July — or even September).
Parcells sounded the warning all NFL types are. There’s a line he had that followed: You’re never better than your quarterback. The Dolphins for 20 years, have shown that much.