It's not the Tua Tagovailoa show just yet in South Florida. Despite the former Alabama superstar having clawed his way back from a devastating hip injury to become the fifth-overall pick of the Miami Dolphins, and subsequently being medically cleared to fully participate in training camp, Tagovailoa won't take the reins as starting quarterback when the team takes on the New England Patriots in New England in Week 1. That honor will go to Ryan Fitzpatrick -- head coach Brian Flores announced Monday -- potentially hitting pause on Tagovailoa's debut in the NFL.
"Fitz is going to be the starter," Flores said, via Michael Giardi of NFL Network, going on to note it "isn't groundbreaking news."
The latter is true, considering it was mostly expected the Dolphins would ease Tagovailoa into the picture, particularly with the lack of a preseason for him to get his NFL wheels beneath him. For Fitzpatrick, it's another opportunity to prove he can be a starting QB in the league, having done so most recently during his "Fitzmagic" stretch with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he wasn't Miami's starter for all of last season. The 37 year old went 5-8 at the helm in 2019 and initially lost the job to backup Josh Rosen, who the club traded for last offseason, before regaining it due to poor play by the former first-round pick.
Fitzpatrick's play was at least admirable though, throwing for 3,529 yards and 20 touchdowns, and also leading the team in rushing with 243 yards and four touchdowns. He helped the Dolphins to a 5-4 finish after an 0-7 start. It was his 13 interceptions that did him no favors, but the Dolphins retained him on the final year of a two-year deal signed in 2019 that's worth upwards of $11 million with $7 million guaranteed. So while it's rather clear Tagovailoa is the future in South Florida, the present is still controlled by Fitzpatrick.
At least for now.
The veteran quarterback will earn a hefty $8 million in base salary this season, which is another reason Flores isn't so apt to have him start the year on the sidelines. If the Dolphins can get wins out of Fitzpatrick to begin the year, it'll buy time for Tagovailoa to prep for his eventual NFL debut, as opposed to throwing the rookie to the wolves with no preseason under his belt. It's a solid plan if it works, and one the Patriots probably wish wasn't in play. That's because the last time they played Fitzpatrick at Gillette Stadium, they lost the game and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
When he's on, he's on.