Here’s the latest installment of our Miami Dolphins Q&A, where South Florida Sun Sentinel writers David Furones and Omar Kelly answer questions from readers.
Q: Does the fact that the Dolphins will have to face Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert for the foreseeable future change the Dolphins’ perspective on a trade for Deshaun Watson? Dave Hyde’s recent article regarding facing these guys and that it doesn’t bode well for Miami got me wondering what other choices they have. — Matt S. via email
A: Watching that divisional-round playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, it felt hard to imagine a scenario where you dropped Tua Tagovailoa in there and he would hang with either Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes.
Granted, that game was a drastic outlier where both quarterbacks had to be nearly perfect. And even then, one perfect quarterback had to lose.
I don’t think the Dolphins leaked out that they were committed to building around Tagovailoa this offseason just to have that decision swayed by watching a playoff game of two quarterbacks we already knew were better playing at their stellar best.
We can’t expect Tagovailoa to be at the level of Mahomes or Allen yet, but he’s not there with Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert either. He does have every excuse through two NFL seasons, though, as to why he’s behind his 2020 draft first-round contemporaries.
He’s had terrible pass protection. He hasn’t had a healthy receiving corps with any substantial depth. He didn’t have the support of his former coach, Brian Flores, and he’s had to deal with his own injuries.
Despite all this, he has shown signs of limitations. He usually makes at least one head-scratching decision per game. His lack of arm strength may not allow him to make all the deep or tight-window throws, but then again, could his hip, ribs or finger injuries still have been affecting him through Year 2? Could this be the offseason where he gets his body fully ready and we finally see his full potential next fall?
The prospect of that makes it reasonable to at least give him another season, especially if uncertainty remains in Watson’s legal situation and neither Aaron Rodgers nor Russell Wilson decide they want out of Green Bay and Seattle, respectively.
If the options aren’t there, don’t give up on the No. 5 pick of the 2020 draft too soon. Maybe a new head coach and offensive staff could get the most out of Tagovailoa, and if it’s not apparent after next season, take the quarterback search into the offseason that follows where the next coach can build with someone else behind center.
Now, even if Tagovailoa can’t get to a place where he is at the caliber of Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Herbert or Lamar Jackson, there are paths to success even if you don’t have that star franchise quarterback that will lift your organization through a decade and a half.
Even with Rodgers and Drew Brees in the NFC for so long, the list of quarterbacks to reach the Super Bowl in the decade-plus since either one of them won the conference includes Colin Kaepernick, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff and Nick Foles — with Foles winning his opportunity and Garoppolo one game away from making it back this postseason. Even when Wilson had his back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, it was when he was younger on a team spearheaded by a great defense and running game before Wilson shouldered more of the responsibility on the team.
For about two decades, the AFC went through either Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger before Mahomes helped Kansas City win the conference the past two years. He has a home game left to reach another Super Bowl, but Joe Flacco was able to win it all once. Eli Manning proved twice with the Giants that a hot postseason, along with a stout defense, can get you a ring.
For it to work without a top quarterback, everything else has to be nearly perfect. The Rams have a star-studded roster across virtually every position, so they had to go out and add the best veteran quarterback they could find in Matthew Stafford to replace Goff.
The Dolphins have a top defense in place now, so it diminishes the likelihood that Tagovailoa or any other quarterback in the future would have to win a shootout of the magnitude of Bills-Chiefs. But then again, ask Buffalo’s No. 1-ranked defense about that after Sunday.
And with Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Herbert and Jackson in the conference, you better have a guy that can play in a high-scoring affair should a game turn out that way.
Have a question?
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