The Miami Dolphins’ hotly debated quarterback change from this season has not been a factor to sink the Dolphins out of playoff contention this season. Alternatively, the Dolphins have now seen Tua Tagovailoa and Ryan Fitzpatrick both take on seven starts as the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins.
And from a pure production standpoint, you can point to Ryan Fitzpatrick and give him the nod — the Dolphins offense moves the ball more frequently with the veteran at the helm of the offense. But the Dolphins are 4-3 in those starts and 5-2 with Tua Tagovailoa behind center — and the argument that Fitzpatrick has faced the most difficult part of the schedule has begun to whittle away.
Fitzpatrick lost to the Patriots (Week 1), Bills (Week 2), Seahawks (Week 4); a trio of teams with a combined 27-15 record through 14 games played this season. Tagovailoa’s most recent start was a victory over those same Patriots that feasted on Fitzpatrick and the two losses have come against the AFC West — Patrick Mahomes and the 13-1 Kansas City Chiefs and the 5-9 Denver Broncos in an ugly road loss.
But wins aren’t necessarily a quarterback stat. The Dolphins defense has played well behind Tagovailoa — as has the run game in the past month. But despite that, it is clear that Tagovailoa does have an edge in the comparison game for 2020 between he and Fitzpatrick (because remember, there is no comparison long-term; this is Tagovailoa’s team).
Turnovers. Ryan Fitzpatrick starts (4-3) have produced 9 turnovers for the Dolphins’ offense. In Tua Tagovailoa’s starts (5-2), Miami has turned the football over 7 times. While the numbers seem close enough consider the interception rate of each passer. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown an interception on 3% of his pass attempts this year — a number that is three times higher than that of Tua Tagovailoa (1.0%). And for Fitzpatrick specifically, some of his worst plays in the ball security department are the ones the opposing team doesn’t make. There were dropped interceptions from Fitzpatrick against Seattle and New York that Miami was fortunate to see not break against Miami’s luck.
And that ball security factor, it turns out that is the most essential dynamic to playing quarterback for Brian Flores.
Asked about Tua Tagovailoa’s lack of explosive plays compared with lack of turnovers, Brian Flores says ball security is at the top of his list of QB/ballhandler qualities.
“Turnovers are the No.1 reason why people lose games.”
Tagovailoa has 12 TDs to 3 turnovers in 7 starts.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) December 23, 2020
If turnovers are the No. 1 reason why teams lose games, it is no wonder the Dolphins keep winning. Their formula is clear — take the football away, keep the ball ourselves, trade touchdowns for field goals courtesy of bend, don’t break defense and win the field position game.
When you can so simply boil down the style of play the Dolphins want to attack playing the game with, it is no wonder why Tua Tagovailoa hasn’t just taken over for Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he’s got the Dolphins positioned for a double-digit win total this season with two games left to play.