People are looking at the rookie season successes of guys like Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow and already concluding that Tua is a bust for the Dolphins and that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a Super Bowl-caliber NFL quarterback.
Since Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow were NFL-ready and hit the ground running from the moment they stepped onto an NFL field, then that must mean Tua should be, too, right? I mean, in Joe Burrow’s second career NFL game, the Bengals had him throw it 61 times. And he was up to the task, too.
Justin Herbert had the greatest rookie QB season since Dan Marino.
Meanwhile, Tua is over here getting benched in the middle of games so Ryan Fitzpatrick can take over and lead the Dolphins to victory. Clearly Dolphins’ coach Brian Flores had little tolerance for Tua’s inconsistent rookie play. Flores wanted to win games, and if he thought Fitz gave them a better chance to win, he’d replace Tua with him. A lot of people saw that as an indictment of Tua and proof Flores didn’t believe in him, but I didn’t really see it that way. I saw it as Flores wanting to develop his rookie QB, but also stay in the playoff hunt. Flores even explained it that way: he called Fitz the “relief pitcher” and maintained that Tua was still the starter and that he still believed in him.
But nobody believed Flores when he said that. So the prevailing narrative that Tua was way, way behind Herbert and Burrow and the Dolphins didn’t even believe in him stuck.
Now people are saying that since the Dolphins are lucky enough to have the #3 pick in this year’s draft (due to the Laremy Tunsil trade with the Texans), they have been afforded a rare draft mulligan. So they should use the #3 pick on Justin Fields, assuming the Jets don’t draft him at #2, and move on from Tua. Cut your losses early, admit you were wrong, and rectify the mistake before it starts to really cost you. Hey, it worked for the Cardinals when they cut bait on Josh Rosen after just one season and drafted Kyler Murray #1 overall in 2019.
But what the Dolphins really need to do is use the #3 pick in the draft on Devonta Smith, who just won the Heisman last night.
The people who are still in the pro-Tua camp are saying Miami should use the pick on Oregon OT Penei Sewell, who is supposed to be one of the best offensive line prospects in a long time.
Look, I get that drafting a franchise left tackle like Sewell is the smart move. You’ll have a guy to protect Tua’s blind side for years to come. This dude Sewell will likely be a perennial Pro Bowler. I totally get it. Offensive line is extremely important, and it’s a dumb-guy take to get enamored with the flashy skill position players.
But Devonta Smith is not just some flashy skill player. Tua has been throwing to Devonta Smith since 2017.
Remember Tua’s most famous moment in college, when he threw the walk-off, National Championship-winning touchdown in overtime against Georgia? Devonta Smith was the one who caught the ball.
Tua and Smith have a connection. That cannot be undervalued. Miami needs to get Tua some real weapons.
DeVante Parker is good, but he’s not a #1 caliber receiver. I think he would do great as a #2.
Look, I just don’t think Miami needs an offensive tackle. I don’t think their line is that bad. Ryan Fitzpatrick seems just fine back there. They’ve got two rookies on their offensive line. Those guys will develop eventually. Not every rookie offensive lineman is Quentin Nelson, who comes into the league and starts mauling people immediately.
And not every rookie QB is Justin Herbert, who comes into the league and throws for 4300+ yards, 31 TDs vs. 10 picks out the gate.
What Miami needs is a guy that will give Tua confidence. A guy he has a connection with, a guy he trusts and who will make him feel like he’s at Bama again.
Drafting Devonta Smith for Tua to throw to would be a match in heaven. It’s so rare that you see guys who played together in college also get to play together in the NFL. This is a golden opportunity for the Dolphins.
You saw how much Kyler Murray benefitted from the Cardinals going out and getting DeAndre Hopkins. We all saw how much Josh Allen benefitted from the Bills trading for Stefon Diggs.
The Dolphins getting Devonta Smith could mean the same thing for Tua.
Tua had some great moments this year where he flashed brilliance, notably in that game against the Cardinals where led the Dolphins to a 4th quarter comeback win. When you watch him throw, one of the first things that jumps out at you is his lightning-quick release.
He was 6-3 as a starter, and his stats were not that much worse than Joe Burrow’s. Look at this comparison. This is Burrow:
And this is Tua:
Burrow’s completion percentage was 65.3%, Tua’s was 64.1%. Tua threw 11 TDs and 5 picks, Burrow threw 13 TDs and 5 picks (albeit on way more attempts, so Burrow’s INT% is lower). Burrow’s yards-per-attempt was 6.7, Tua’s was 6.3. Burrow’s passer rating was 89.8, Tua’s was 87.1. Now, Burrow was sacked way more so this dragged down his ANY/A stat.
The glaring difference here is yards per game: Burrow averaged 268.8, Tua only averaged 181.4. And these guys both played 10 games apiece. What explains the difference here is that Burrow had 404 passing attempts compared to Tua’s 290. That means Burrow averaged 40 a game while Tua averaged 29.
What Tua really needs is some better weapons. Gesicki is an OK tight end, but he doesn’t compare to a guy like Hunter Henry, who Justin Herbert gets to throw to. As a matter of fact, Herbert has the best weapons of all the rookie QB: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Henry, Austin Ekeler. Honestly, he’s got better weapons than like 75% of the QBs in the league overall. Even Burrow’s were decent: Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, washed-up AJ Green, Joe Mixon (when he was healthy).
Tua’s top receivers were DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant. Preston Williams was hurt most of the season. And his tight ends were Gesicki and Adam Shaheen. His top running backs were Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, guys who probably 98% of NFL fans had never heard of before this season. The Dolphins running backs ranked 29th out of 32 in yards per carry, and they had the 22nd ranked overall rushing attack. That’s not a recipe for a successful rookie QB.
Miami needs to get Tua a major weapon, and that major weapon should be Devonta Smith, the Heisman Winner and Tua’s former teammate for over two years at Alabama.
And if by some act of God, Florida TE Kyle Pitts is still on the board for Miami’s #18 overall pick, look out.