Earlier this week, Tua Tagovailoa, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, passed his physical. That's normally not much of a news development, but Tagovailoa is the exception to the rule. The Alabama product missed much of the last college football season due to a scary hip injury, and concerns regarding that injury surrounded him in the lead-up to the draft, knocking his stock down from "potential No. 1 pick" to merely "top five." Given that the Dolphins used such a premium selection on Tagovailoa, it's obviously just a matter of time before he takes over under center for good.
"I don't know how much time it will be before Tua is in the lineup, but I know I'm the placeholder. We've had that conversation," Fitzpatrick said, per Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "Whenever Tua gets his chance I will be his biggest cheerleader. I think I have a unique perspective because of the career I've had."
Fitzpatrick has indeed had a unique path through his NFL career.
A seventh-round pick back in 2005, Fitz lasted two seasons with his original NFL team, the then-St. Louis Rams. He threw 135 wildly unsuccessful passes as a rookie, didn't play at all during his second and third seasons, then started 12 Bengals games in place of the injured Carson Palmer in his fourth year. Fitz then moved on to Buffalo, where he began as a backup before replacing Trent Edwards as the starter. He lasted three additional seasons with the Bills, going only 20-33 as their starter while posting one of the highest interception rates in the league.
He then went to Tennessee and Houston and did the same thing there as he'd done in Buffalo: began as a backup and eventually took over for a struggling starter. The Jets made him their actual starter in 2015 and he had arguably the best year of his career, but he backslid badly the following year and lost the job. And after that, he spent two seasons alternately backing up and taking over for Jameis Winston in Tampa. Finally, he started ahead of, then ceded the job to Josh Rosen in Miami, only to take the job back from Rosen again.
Now he's getting ready to do the same starter-to-backup dance with Tua. Needless to say, it's something he's gotten used to.
Now 37 years old, Fitzpatrick has lasted 15 years in the NFL -- a minor miracle for a late seventh-round selection. He's started 139 games and appeared in 17 more, and while his teams were usually not all that successful (55-83-1 as a starter), he established himself as a player with the potential to single-handedly win or lose a game all by himself, as well as a fun personality who was ready and willing to do whatever is asked in any given week. And he made a nice chunk of money along the way. That's a really solid career.