Undrafted – The Network

Tua Tagovailoa – A New Beginning

Tua Tagovailoa was just fated to be a Dolphin.

I joined the Miami fan club around three quarters of the way through a 20 year post Dan Marino drought. Since Marino retired, the greatest Dolphin to ever don the aqua uniform, it’s never been the same. It’s important to note that the Marino era, like many my age and younger, is a little too long ago to remember. I’m sure if i’d grown up in the Miami area, or into a Dolphins family, i’d have remembered the glory days as a young kid, but my love for the Dolphins isn’t something I inherited, i built it myself.

If you cast your mind over the last 5/6 years, which is as far back as my NFL experience goes, it’s not a great window to be a Dolphins fan. I remember being excited to get stuck into the season in week 1, and Kenny Stills dropped a wide open touchdown against the Seahawks, and we lost. That one moment defined the years that followed. We were bad. Our asses belonged to the Patriots, and that’s all I’ve ever known.

A common theme… Image Credit NBC Sports

Every good to great player that’s been a part of our team during this phase ripped away from us. Jarvis Landry, Suh, Cam Wake, Jay Ajayi, Laremy Tunsil, Kenyan Drake, Jawaun James, Kenny Stills, just to name a few. The quarterback carousel has been a complete tragedy. Up and down days of Tannehill, Jay Cutler (who said in an interview directly after signing that he didn’t need to be in shape)(sigh), Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore, Josh Rosen. Nobody even close to elite. Although you have to love Fitz. The Adam Gase era, where he completely cleaned out most of the talent I just mentioned, and failed to provide any success, and got sacked. I despised his reign.

College football became my passion after falling in love with the Gators, and dedicating myself to learning all about the process and the transition from college to the draft and on to the league. Draft night is now my favourite night of the year in the football calendar. The first draft i prepared for fully was the year the Dolphins drafted Minkah Fitzpatrick, and he was categorically top of my list. I couldn’t believe he was still there waiting for us with the 11th pick, and remember chanting Minkah, Minkah, Minkah! at the tv in a hotel room in Portugal, waiting for his name to be announced. I was thrilled! Fast forward to now, and he’s already on a different team.

Funny looking Dolphins uniforms… Image Credit CBS Sports

Minkah felt like the first superstar calibre talent that we had on that team, and he was a guy you would look forward to tuning in to watch. The Dolphins haven’t had any of those in a couple of years. Not since the Adam Gase culling. He finally gave me a name to finish the sentence ‘I can’t wait to watch …. play’. But, apparently we aren’t allowed to have nice things in Miami, and just as quickly as he arrived, he was gone again. Sounding like quite the thrill ride this whole Dolphins fan thing right?

And that leads us to last season. I learned about this guy Tua from the Elite 11 series, which my dear friend Mikey discovered. ‘There’s this guy called Tua Tagovailoa’ (mot definitely pronounced wrong i’m sure), but he told me I had to see it, and he was right. Tua won the whole thing, and we were mesmerised by the talent and arm strength of these teenagers. So when Tua came into the National Championship game, we felt like we already knew all about him. Already cheering him on. Mikey was his biggest fan, and I was very impressed. As a Giant’s fan he had this plan that the timing of Eli’s retirement would check out perfectly, and Tua Tagovailoa was destined to play in New York. And of course Daniel Jones quickly smushed that dream. It’s funny because I never teased him about it at the time, nor had any kind of hope or dream that he would be the quarterback of my Dolphins, he seemed, too good? But nevertheless, Tank for Tua was born.

Quite honestly, I was all for us tanking. I know the opinion on this will always be split, and I understand both sides. But last year, I was of the opinion that Tua is that good, that I can accept a year of losing, to gain 15-20 years of winning. That’s a trade off i’d snap your hand off for. When we beat the Bengals and solidified our spot lower down the draft, I remember feeling incredibly deflated, like I already knew we were going to fall short. We’d been bad, but the Bengals were worse, and thus we stood no chance at my dream. 5-11 was just too many wins.

Early in the season Tua Tagovailoa was the front runner. He was undoubtedly the number 1 pick for quite some time. Some cases were made for Justin Herbert, and others for Jake Fromm (lmfao), but Tua was the guy. He was going to be just out of reach, and i was starting to feel it slip away.

But sometimes the fates have other plans. The LSU Tigers shot to the top under Joe Brady’s new offensive scheme, and the quarterback talent of Joe Burrow, who hadn’t even been in the conversation as a first round talent before the season. But it just so happened that he pulled off the greatest college quarterback season ever. Of course while this was going on, Tua was getting a little dinged up, and eventually, the disaster hip injury struck. So the scales had tipped. Not only were Burrow and the Tigers massively overachieving, but Tua had gone down hard. The hip injury sparked a whole new wave of controversy saying teams may now pass on him completely, because of all the risks surrounding the injury, and of course, the QB position being the most important on the field. And strangely, it became all people were talking about, and his talent and highlight tapes, seemed to go missing.

I will always be in debt to this man.

We forget how good Tua actually was in college, throwing 87 touchdowns and just 11 picks. Over 7000 yards, getting better year on year. He played through injury. He’s a natural leader, and a great presence with his team mates. He was ice cold on the biggest stage after being thrown in at half time. Not to mention accomplishing everything that he did while playing SEC football week in week out. Notoriously the toughest division in college football (yes it is go away Big 10 fans).

I read about 30 million mock drafts between January and April, discussing all the possible scenarios that it would take for us to get to where we needed to be to land him. I was prepared to give up picks, to move up in the draft. I’d have sold the farm. I argued with many a Dolphins fan who would say they’re completely out on Tua, he’s injury prone, they don’t want him, and i’d reply with the facts about the injury, the medical clearances, and his indisputable talent, meaning injury or not, I was still completely all in.

Of course before we could get to the draft we had to hit free agency, and the Dolphins went out and started making moves, signing superstars, something we had never done the whole time i’d been a fan. Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, young talents like Ogbah and Shaq Lawson. It was incredible. I spent days refreshing my phone waiting to see who would be next to join our franchise.

And then it was draft night. The slowest day of all time waiting for it to start. COVID meant Zoom calls for company, and my GamePass was behind everyone else’s. The speculation around us getting jumped for Tua had been going on for months, and by draft night I just wanted us to trade with the Redskins and pick 2nd, so there was no shot at that happening. I wasn’t so lucky. The Bengals picked Joe Burrow, that much was obvious, and as the clock ticked on each team that followed, I sat in a dazed panic waiting for the word ‘trade’ to appear on the screen. Redskins… the pick is in… phew. Lions, waiting, waiting, I know they wanted to trade back, do we trade with them? Give them our picks I don’t even care at this point…waiting, the pick is in… PHEW. Giants, one more pick, we’re almost there, they don’t need a QB, but do they trade and screw me at the final hurdle? The pick is in. YESSS. Thank fuck. Now don’t screw it up Miami please!!! Everybody else in the Zoom call was ahead of me, so i had to turn away from my laptop and stare directly at the TV, for what felt like the longest few seconds of all time.

How did we find ourselves in this position? It’s crazy to think about. All the things that had to fall into place to put us, the Miami Dolphins, in position to pick the incredibly gifted Tua Tagovailoa at NUMBER 5?! The punter kicker touchdown to help us beat the Eagles, the win against the Bengals, Tua’s injury, Burrow’s rise to fame, the LSU Tigers destroying college football, COVID restricting teams abilities to assess Tua, and therefore causing reluctance to trade anything away to pick him. It all worked out perfectly. I’d have given all three first rounders just to make sure we got him, if I had to do so.

But there we were, Chris Grier & the hero Brian Flores on screen, and with the fifth pick, the Miami Dolphins select…

YESSSSSS. What a feeling.

Click here for my reaction to the Tua Tagovailoa pick!

It’s a new beginning in Miami. Dolphins fans have suffered it for almost 20 years. But now? It’s all changing. A young core of exciting fresh talent, throw in some superstars from free agency, with a head coach who squeezed 5 wins out of the worst roster in the league down the stretch, after a horrible start to the season. We are in incredibly competent hands with Coach Flores. Even the draft day trade for Matt Breida, superb business. And now, to tie it all together, we have our franchise QB. Not to mention the plethora of picks we still have for next years draft, to bring in even more talent to support Tua.

And on top of all this, Tua gets to Miami with perfect timing, just as our division swings into total uncertainty for the first time in 20+ years. Tom Brady has sat on the throne of the AFC East since what seems like the dawn of time. And now? Who knows. it’s wide open. A four horse race. Well, three and a horse with a bit of a disability, we’ll call him Adam Gase. Everything has worked out perfectly.

When you look at what teams have given up to be able to get their franchise QB. The Bears for Trubisky (lol), the Rams for Goff, the Eagles for Wentz, and many other teams in the past who’ve had to climb the ladder to get their guy. We sat patiently at 5, and through some darn luck or twisted fate, we still got our man. Forget the injury, the medical clearance makes it a non factor for me, and his injuries are all contact related. I have zero concerns about the health of Tua.

Click here to see my opinion on Tua’s injury history

I’ve watched the Chiefs get to enjoy Mahomes, the Ravens completely rebrand with Lamar, the Texans exciting offence with Deshaun, and now, it’s our turn. Tua Tagovailoa is one of the greatest QB prospects to enter the draft, and i have to remind myself continuously that he’s a Dolphin. However, I think my two jerseys will help…

A new Miami Dolphins era has been born, and I simply can’t wait to watch it unfold.

Image credit twitter @gladsadmad1

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