Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins quarterback, got replaced by Tua Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 20-13 defeat to the Denver Broncos, in a move that manager Brian Flores said was unrelated to injuries.
Flores has made it clear that there won’t be any significant quarter changes, which means Tagovailoa will remain the Dolphins star despite being on the bench for his Sunday performance.
The Dolphins were 20-10 behind when Tagovailoa sat on the bench, with Flores saying the team needed a spark.
Tagovailoa had some difficulties as a rookie to manage the pressure on Sunday, going 11 out of 20 going through 83 yards and a touchdown with little effectiveness in moving the ball. He was also not helped by his line of attack. He has been fired six times, more than he has been (four) in the previous four games.
“My thoughts were whatever was going to be best for the team. When I was in, we couldn’t get things going,” Tagovailoa said. “Coach felt like it was best to put Fitz in to give us a spark. When I heard that, it was really what’s best for the team. If we were to win with Fitz in there, the locker room would be different. Everyone would be a lot happier. It just sucks to lose.”
The Dolphins were brought to life when Fitzpatrick stepped into the game, while he immediately conducted a field goal to get the score back to 20-13, showing his chemistry with DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki. He then came 15 yards before completing a tying practice that started on his team’s 1-meter line after a fumble by Melvin Gordon.
Fitzpatrick’s return attempt in the fourth quarter failed when he forced a pass in double coverage. Broncos safety Justin Simmons got by him in the game’s end zone.
After the game, Fitzpatrick returned to his mentoring role with Tagovailoa, making it clear that there will be no controversy for the quarterback in the future.
Tagovailoa stood on the sidelines with headphones on as Fitzpatrick tried to make a comeback. However, he was seen limping after Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb fired him and twisted his ankle, Tagovailoa did not cite the injury as a factor, and neither did the team.
Tagovailoa is up to rest because of a foot injury. Still, he was a full-fledged participant in practice every day and had no injury indication in Sunday’s game. Flores said the injury did not affect the decision to put Tagovailoa on the bench.
You could see the two quarterbacks playing together on the sidelines, even after benching. Tagovailoa said he learned from watching Fitzpatrick handling the pressure from the Broncos during the game.
Fitzpatrick said he spoke with Tagovailoa from the bench on the sideline and in the locker room, but he believes that’s over now. Flores said he is not concerned that this benching would erode Tagovailoa’s confidence if he returns to the starting line-up.
“He’s a confident kid,” Flores said. “He’s dealt with a lot of adversity. I think he’s fine.”
Tagovailoa bagged his first three, starts with good efficiency, aided by a strong defense and special teams. He is facing his first real element of adversity in his NFL career in how he reacts on the bench on Sunday.
“For me, it was a great learning experience,” Tagovailoa said. “I felt like I was holding the ball a little too long. Just got to get completions and get the ball in the hands of our guys to make plays for us.”
The Dolphins put Fitzpatrick on the bench after week seven after the veteran-led Miami to a 3-3 start and looked to be playing well. Flores touted Tagovailoa’s willingness to do the best for the team.
Tagovailoa will return to road action against the 0-10 New York Jets next Sunday, an ideal opponent to get the rookie back on track.