Has Tua Tagovailoa done enough to prove he is the Miami Dolphins’ franchise quarterback?

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The Miami Dolphins are rolling right now, as they’ve won five straight games heading into their bye week in Week 14.

After a brutal 1-7 start, the Dolphins have gotten healthier, specifically at the quarterback position, and it has helped them turn the 2021 season around.

Tua Tagovailoa, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, has completely flipped the script in recent weeks, leading Miami to a win in three consecutive starts.

Tagovailoa also came in during the Dolphins’ win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 10 despite dealing with an injury to his finger.

The second-year quarterback has dealt with multiple injuries this season, including a rib injury that sent him to injured reserve early in the season. Tagovailoa was hit hard early in the team’s blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 2 and missed Weeks 3 through 5 with the injury.

With injury concerns and average to subpar play plaguing Tagovailoa early in the season, the Dolphins reportedly considered trading for embattled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson prior to this year’s trade deadline.

Ultimately, Watson’s pending legal issues stopped any traction in the trade talks, but the fact that the Dolphins were willing to make a move showed that they had little confidence in Tagovailoa.

Were the concerns for Miami justified?

In some ways, they were.

However, the Dolphins had to have expected some semblance of growing pains from the young quarterback after he made just nine starts in his rookie season.

Now, Tagovailoa’s recent play has backed Miami into a corner, as it has to make a decision this coming offseason on whether or not Tagovailoa will be the guy going forward.

After committing such a high draft pick to him in the 2020 NFL Draft, taking him over rising star Justin Herbert, it would be a gut punch for the Dolphins if they moved on from the former University of Alabama star after just two seasons.

However, if the Dolphins think they can contend for a Super Bowl by simply upgrading at quarterback, then maybe they’d be right to move on from Tagovailoa.

Let’s break down the case for and against the second-year quarterback as Miami’s franchise cornerstone.

The case against 

While Tagovailoa has led Miami to wins in his last three starts, the team is just 4-4 with him starting games this season.

He’s not going to be the flashiest quarterback, as he’s thrown for just 1,945 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions in nine games (eight starts) this season.

The argument against Tagovailoa is simple.

Can Miami upgrade the position without having to sacrifice the quality of the rest of the roster?

That’s a tough question to answer.

If we look at the first option, which is the 2022 NFL Draft, it’s hard to say whether the Dolphins can find a quarterback better than Tagovailoa from the jump.

Matt Corral, Kenny Pickett and a few others will headline this year’s quarterback class, but it is not as impressive a group as the 2021 class was.

Given that the Dolphins own the San Francisco 49ers’ first-round pick in the upcoming draft, they might not have the highest selection.

So, would the Dolphins have to move up to grab the quarterback of their choice? It’s likely that would be the case.

That would cost the team several draft assets and/or players, and the Dolphins would still be relying on a young and unproven quarterback to lead the franchise.

They already have that in Tagovailoa.

The second option, which would be the more preferable one for the Dolphins, is to make a trade for a veteran quarterback like Watson or Russell Wilson.

Watson’s legal issues are the biggest hold-up for Miami, and there is no telling when they will be resolved or if he will even be eligible to play.

As for Wilson, the Dolphins would be betting on the veteran having a bounce-back season, as he has thrown for just 2,042 yards, 14 touchdowns and four picks in nine starts for the Seattle Seahawks this season. Seattle is just 3-6 in those nine games.

While Wilson and Watson carry much more pedigree than Tagovailoa, they’d also cost a pretty penny to acquire. Should the Dolphins mortgage draft assets or young players for one of these quarterbacks?

That depends on how you view this roster. Miami wasn’t 1-7 this year only because of the team’s quarterback play, and trading draft assets for a quarterback would hurt the team’s ability to fill other holes on the roster.

Still, there is no doubt that Wilson and Watson have a much more proven track record than Tagovailoa. Miami would just need to be willing to pay the price for them.

The case for 

Do the Dolphins really need to give up on Tagovailoa already?

The second-year quarterback has made just 17 career starts, going 10-7 in those games, and he has looked much improved over his last three games.

Tagovailoa is completing 70.9 percent of his passes this season, which is a huge jump from the 64.1 percent he completed last season, and he has three straight games of 27 or more completions, 230 or more passing yards and one or more touchdown passes.

It’s starting to feel like this is a turning point for him, and Miami would be foolish to give up on him if he continues to show this promise.

After investing such a high draft pick into Tagovailoa, the Dolphins owe it to themselves to let him get at least another season as the team’s starter.

The injury concerns are certainly real, but an improved offensive line next season could help the young quarterback avoid taking so many hits.

Miami is in the playoff race in the 2021 season after looking completely out of it just five weeks ago. If Tagovailoa leads this team to a playoff berth on top of the impressive stats he has put up as of late, the Dolphins will have no choice but to keep him in the 2022 season.

It’s too early to pass judgment on Tagovailoa, and if he succeeds, the Dolphins will be better in the long term because of it.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.