After a long wait, "Tua Time" has finally arrived in Miami.
With 2:27 remaining in Sunday's 24-0 win over the Jets, the Dolphins inserted rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft. After handing off to running back Matt Breida on his first play under center, Tagovailoa completed his first NFL pass, a two-yarder to running back Patrick Laird. On the next play, Tagovailoa hit teammate Jakeem Grant for a seven-yard completion while giving the Dolphins their last first down of the game. Tagovailoa handed off to Breida on the game's final two plays, as the Dolphins improved to .500 through six games.
After the game, Tagovailoa went back into the field, where he made a memorable FaceTime call to his two biggest fans.
"I usually talk to my parents after my game," he said after the game, via Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "My parents usually never miss my game. I went out there and talked to them. That's what that moment was about."
One of college football's most celebrated players last fall, Tagovailoa's final college season ended prematurely after the former Alabama standout suffered a serious hip injury during his team's late-season loss to LSU. Despite the injury, the Dolphins still made the decision to select him with the fifth overall pick. Tagovailoa, who declared his was 100% healthy in April, took part in the Dolphins' training camp before being named the team's backup quarterback before the start of the regular season.
After a 1-3 start, many Dolphins fans were clamoring for coach Brian Flores to start Tagovailoa. Flores said at the time that, while he believes that Tagovailoa is healthy enough to play, he does not want to rush his rookie quarterback into the starting lineup. Flores also said the success of Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow and Chargers rookie Justin Herbert will not influence his decision as it relates to his rookie quarterback and when he should see the field.
"Look, the honest thing for me is what if it was my kid, and he had a serious injury like that, I wouldn't want his coach to be in a rush to throw him in there because of anything like that," Flores said, via the team's official website. "That's kind of how I approach this situation and really all situations with the players. They essentially are my kids. No one is going to pressure me into anything. When we feel like he is ready to go, we'll put him in."
While veteran quarterback Ryan Fizpatrick has rebounded with two strong outings, it appears that Flores now believes that Tagovailoa is ready to play, albeit in a relief role.
"It was awesome," Fitzpatrick said of Tua's NFL debut. "There's obviously a lot of excitement around him. He's worked really hard. It was fun to see him get in there and complete a few passes."