Opinion: Tua Tagovailoa is a good quarterback but he isn't elite

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Year 4 of Tua Tagovailoa has come to a close. Many around the league are debating whether Tua is a franchise quarterback or just another NFL quarterback. After all, there are 32 NFL starting quarterbacks, but not all of them are elite or franchise-caliber.

Is Tua Tagovailoa the franchise quarterback Miami has been looking for since Dan Marino? Does Tua have the proverbial “IT” that everyone talks about?

My good friend and colleague, Scott Salomon, at PhinPhanatic, will tell you Tua is the guy. He will tell you that this franchise should hitch their wagons to Tua and pay him franchise quarterback money. 

I, on the other hand, have a different opinion of Tua Tagovailoa. Although I do think Tua is a formidable NFL quarterback, I don’t believe he is a franchise quarterback. I believe paying Tua franchise money will set this franchise back another 6 "Ryan Tannehill" years.

It is well-documented that 2023 was a banner year for Tua Tagovailoa.  Tua started all 17 games and finished the season with 4,624 yards passing with 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Tua had his most accurate season since entering the league, completing 69% of his passes. 

With more than 4,000 yards through the air, Tua became the first Miami quarterback since Marino to accomplish such a feat. Tua’s numbers show improvement each year he’s been in the league. A more in-depth look at Tua’s stats paints a different and more accurate picture.

Tua has a career record of 32-19 with 12,639 passing yards, 81 touchdowns, and 37 interceptions. After Saturday’s loss to the Chiefs, Tua is 0-1 in the playoffs.

Of his 32 career victories, only 6 have come against playoff-caliber teams. Tua has 9 total wins against teams with a winning record. When faced with teams with a winning record Tua Tagovailoa has 14 losses.  In those 14 games, Tua has only surpassed 300 yards passing twice. 

During these losses, Tua averages 228 yards passing with 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Dolphins averaged 16.3 points per game since 2020 versus opponents with winning records.

I do understand that blame can’t always go squarely on the quarterback. Yet, I also understand that elite signal callers elevate the level of those around them. 

Not only has Tua struggled against good competition, but he has also played poorly in the months of December and January. December and January are what separates the pretenders from the contenders. Tua is a combined 10-10 for his career in the months of December and January. Against playoff teams that record drops to 2-7.

When the lights shine brightest franchise quarterbacks rise to the occasion. In four short years, Tua has shrunk at every turn

Of the five quarterbacks taken in the 2020 draft only Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are winless in the playoffs. Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts have already made Super Bowl appearances. Jordan Love is coming off his first complete season. Love rewarded the Packer faithful with a 48-32 road thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

If after four years people are still debating whether the quarterback of your franchise is the quarterback of the future the answer is probably no. 

Is there any doubt in Houston about CJ Stroud and his level of play? Did Green Bay pick a third straight franchise quarterback? After two big wild card weekend victories, all signs seem to point toward yes. Let’s not forget, this is only the first full year for both Love and Stroud.

The debate isn’t whether Tua is a good quarterback. The debate is about him being a franchise quarterback. Can Tua Lead a franchise to a Super Bowl? Does he strike fear in an opponent’s eye every Sunday? My answer is no, and the last four years have proven why.

Disagree? See why Scott Saloman believes the opposite by going here!