Tua Tagovailoa's history in the NFL could be a good sign about his future

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Can Tua Tagovailoa get better? Elite Quarterbacks always do.

Drafted in 2020 with the 5th pick in the NFL Draft, Tua Tagovailoa came to Miami with lofty expectations. Tua would become the 23rd starting quarterback since Dan Marino retired.

Under Brian Flores, Tua Tagovailoa flashed signs of talent but was never in the coach's good graces. Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick seemed to be the quarterback of choice for Brian Flores.

After the 2021 season, Brian Flores was replaced with Mike McDaniel and Tua finally had a coach on his side. McDaniel praised the signal caller and loved what he saw on tape.

In 2022 Tua again showed signs of being a franchise quarterback only to have his season derailed by injuries and concussions.

Entering the 2023 season Tua and the Dolphins had many questions regarding his health and abilities. Fast forward to the end of the 2023 season and Tua answered all their questions about health and talent with room to spare.

Tua led the league in passing yards and helped orchestrate the leagues number one offense. Yet the question remains, can Tua continue to get better?

I wrote a piece earlier this year stating Tua was good but not elite, at least not yet. Of the 5 players drafted along with Tua in 2020, only 2 have sustained playoff wins. 

Joe Burrow guided the Bengals to the Super Bowl in just his second season under center. Most recently, Jordan Love helped Green Bay embarrass the Cowboys and their stout defense this past postseason.

Tua will always be measured by his draft class and the quarterbacks taken with him. Quarterbacks will also be measured by those who came before them and how their career trajectories compare.

Drew Brees, Eli Manning, and Peyton Manning are all Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. This trio of quarterbacks will one day also be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Yet each of these quarterbacks didn’t have immediate playoff success. Peyton Manning famously threw 28 interceptions his rookie year at Indianapolis, a record he still holds today.

That 1998 Colts team finished the season 3-13 and not once did that franchise waver on their quarterback. In 1999 Peyton Manning and the Colts turned it around and went 13-3 making the playoffs and winning the AFC East

However, the Colts and Peyton Manning still had to wait until 2003 for Manning to deliver his first playoff victory. For anyone keeping score at home that’s 6 seasons before Peyton Manning won his first playoff game.

In his first 6 seasons, Peyton Manning made the playoffs 4 times and was 2-4 in those contests. Yet, every year Peyton improved, and the franchise continued to build around him; eventually culminating in a Super Bowl win for the 2005-2006 season.

Eli Manning was drafted by the Chargers in 2004 and traded to the Giants for Phillip Rivers. Eli went 1-6 his rookie year with the Giants before taking over full-time in 2005. Eli and the Giants would make the playoffs in 2005 but wouldn’t taste victory until the 2007 season.

The Giants would wait four years for Eli’s first playoff victory. That 2007 season did finish in Eli’s first of 2 Super Bowl victories, both against the New England Patriots. 

The Giants would go on to make the playoffs 4 times in Eli’s first 6 years, finishing 4-3 during that time. Eli never put up the numbers his brother Peyton did, but he did deliver the Giants another Super Bowl victory in the 2011-2012 season.

Drew Brees was drafted by the Chargers in 2001 and was handed the keys to the franchise in 2002. Brees would go 8-8 his first year as a full-time starter. The 2004 season was the first and only time Brees would make the playoffs as a San Diego Charger. 

Drew Brees would achieve his first playoff victory in 2006 as a New Orleans Saint. In his first 6 seasons, Brees would go on to make the playoffs twice finishing with a 1-2 record during that time. Brees would obtain his first playoff victory in 2006 and win his first Super Bowl in 2009.

All three, prolific passers, all three, franchise quarterbacks, and all three future hall of famers. All three of these quarterbacks got better each year and eventually became elite, respected, and feared.

Fast forward to Tua Tagovailoa and his current trajectory. Tua has been an NFL quarterback for 4 seasons. In his 4 seasons Tua has guided his team to the playoffs twice and improved his play every year.

One can argue that Tua has only been in the actual playoffs once because of his absence in the 2022-2023 postseason due to injury. However, Tua’s play throughout the season was vital to the team’s success and clinching of the playoffs.

Tua’s passing yards have increased every year he has been in the league as well as his touchdowns thrown. Tua has a 97.1 QB rating for his career, by comparison Brees had an 86 average QB rating, Eli had a 70.55 average QB rating, and Peyton had an 85.17 average QB rating during their first four years. 

I am not making the case for Tua being anywhere near one of these 3 future hall of famers. I am making the case that great quarterbacking takes time. 

Can Tua continue to get better? I’d say the numbers are trending up.