Week 16 takeaways: Dolphins making a mistake starting Tua over Fitzpatrick

Jeff Simmons
·5 min read

The Miami Dolphins are starting the wrong quarterback this week.

Head coach Brian Flores’ rationale to stick with rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa and focus on the long-term development of the organization is understandable, but it also puts the team in a short-term conundrum because it is absolutely clear Ryan Fitzpatrick gives the team the best chance to win.

Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft, has been an efficient but limited player in his nine starts. He has limited turnovers, which has been an issue for Fitzpatrick historically, but the left-hander is having difficulty making NFL throws on a consistent basis. He is not doing enough as well to open up the passing game and has only thrown for more than one touchdown pass in three of his nine starts. Yes, Miami has been missing receivers, but it is obvious watching the rookie QB that he still needs a lot of work as a passer.

Giving Tagovailoa these kinds of opportunities is the best thing for his development, but Fitzpatrick is simply a better quarterback at this point. The veteran QB displayed that on Saturday night when he was able to come off the bench to help the Dolphins rally back in the final minutes of the game against the Las Vegas Raiders after Tagovailoa was benched, clinching the victory with his improbable sideline heave in the final minutes of the game.

Now, because of Fitzpatrick’s heroics, Miami can lock up a playoff spot and the No. 5 seed in the conference with a victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 17. He deserves the chance to finish the job. If Buffalo intends to play its starters, Miami will need a productive offence to keep up with the Bills, and Fitzpatrick is simply better suited to do that.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 26: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates his touchdown pass with Tua Tagovailoa #1, to take a 23-22 lead over the Las Vegas Raiders, during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium on December 26, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Ryan Fitzpatrick gives the Dolphins the best shot to make the playoffs. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

MVP race is over

No offence to Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes, who have had great years, but Aaron Rodgers is the most valuable player in football this season. The Green Bay Packers quarterback essentially locked up the award with his best performance of the season Sunday night, completing an insane 84 per cent of his passes with four touchdowns in a one-sided victory over Tennessee.

Rodgers is in position to lead the Packers to the No. 1 seed in the NFC and his individual statistics are the best they’ve been since his 2011 season, regarded as one of the best quarterback seasons in NFL history. He has racked up 44 touchdown passes compared to just four interceptions, which is a ridiculous ratio, and the subtle changes he has made in his second year in Matt Lafleur’s offence has reinvigorated the 37-year-old quarterback after a couple of down seasons. Considering all the offseason noise regarding the lack of investments the team made at wide receiver, Rodgers has elevated the Packers offence all year long and has certainly silenced a number of critics with an MVP season.

Chiefs look a bit vulnerable

The Kansas City Chiefs secured the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC with their 10th straight victory, but things have seemed a bit awry over the last month. It’s hard to tell if the Chiefs are just coasting through the regular season, but their last seven victories have been one-score games, some against clearly inferior opponents. This would certainly include Sunday’s 17-14 victory over the 4-11 Atlanta Falcons, in which they should have gone to overtime if not for a dropped interception right in the hands of A.J. Terrell late in the fourth quarter followed by a missed chip shot by Pro Bowl kicker Younghoe Koo at end of the regulation.

Oddly, the numbers have matched the eye test.

Mahomes’ efficiency has dipped considerably (see chart below) over the last month as well. He has just eight touchdowns with four interceptions and has just one game with a completion percentage above 65 in December. Maybe it’s nitpicking, as the Chiefs continue to find a way to win all of these games, but there seems to be some cracks in the foundation. Especially if the offensive line doesn’t get healthy before the playoffs.

Trubisky, Nagy buy themselves one more year

One of the most surprising stories over the last month has been the large uptick in performance from Mitchell Trubisky, the man best known for being drafted over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

The Chicago Bears QB, after being benched earlier in the season has performed at a significantly higher rate once coach Matt Nagy and OC Bill Lazor made significant adjustments to their offensive scheme. The Bears are now running an offence similar to what Sean McVay does in L.A. to enhance his quarterback, and Trubisky has been far more comfortable and efficient since he returned from the bench.

Chicago’s third-year QB has put together four steady performances in a row — which is a big deal considering his inconsistency over the last three seasons — as the Bears have scored more than 30 points a game in each of Trubisky’s last four starts. Trubisky was solid again in the 41-17 victory over the tanking Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16, completing 68 percent of his passes with two touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown.

The recent run has the Bears one victory (or Arizona loss) away from a playoff spot, and as a result, it’s harder to see Chicago moving on from the Nagy-Trubisky combination which seemed absolutely inevitable one month ago.

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