The Dolphins have a unique opportunity on their hands.
They have the opportunity to give themselves a very good chance of finding their franchise quarterback for the next decade. They can't guarantee it. But they can significantly improve their odds.
And they're going to take a pass.
The Dolphins announced on Tuesday that they are committed to Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback for 2021. For a couple of reasons, Patriots fans should be tickled.
The first is that the Dolphins are passing on taking a quarterback with the No. 3 selection in the upcoming draft -- a gift from the Texans as part of the deal that sent left tackle Laremy Tunsil to Houston -- and thereby hurting their percentage chances of finding The Guy for the foreseeable future.
Either Ohio State's Justin Fields or BYU's Zach Wilson will be available at the third slot in the draft, and both look like candidates to be long-term, high-end starters in the NFL soon after making the leap. Both players have put up video-game numbers for their respective college programs. Both players have the size, arm talent and athleticism to succeed at the next level. Neither are guarantees to make it, but both are extremely promising prospects.
And the Dolphins are going to take a pass.
It's not hard to figure out why. They took Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick less than a year ago. They feel good about their evaluation of him as a prospect. They believe he will be a franchise-caliber quarterback.
But they don't know. They can't.
And not just because Tagovailoa hasn't been all that impressive in the snaps he's been given as a rookie. (He ranked 35th in the league in yards per attempt, 29th in quarterback rating, 33rd in Pro Football Focus passing grade, 28th in EPA per play, 27th in success rate and 28th in completion percentage over expected.)
They can't be certain that Tagovailoa is The Guy because the sample size of his pro work has been small, and he still carries with him some of the same questions that dogged him leaving Alabama as a quick-processing, accurate-throwing, oft-injured, undersized passer with average arm strength surrounded by otherworldly talent.
Though the hit rate in the first round at the quarterback position has been better in the last three or four years than it has been in some time, there's no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to young quarterbacks in the NFL.
There's something to be said for having conviction in one's decisions, as the Dolphins clearly do in their choice to hand the reins to Tagovailoa. But there's an easy case to be made that it'd behoove Miami to acknowledge there is real risk in rolling with him, draft another passer at No. 3, and see which player ends up winning the gig.
It wouldn't mean giving up on Tagovailoa. It would just mean giving him some competition. And if he's bothered by that, then maybe that answers whether or not he's a franchise-caliber guy.
Sure. Eventually Miami would have to make a trade and settle on one player to lead their offense. And the return on that trade will be less than whatever they initially invested. But if that's the cost of drastically improving the chances that they land a franchise passer, it's a price the Dolphins should be more than willing to pay.
And sure. By drafting another quarterback, the Dolphins might be passing on a great offensive lineman or a great receiver -- someone who could help prop up Tagovailoa and allow him to find the success his team is hoping he'll achieve. But those players aren't sure things, either. Might it not be more prudent to improve your odds of landing a very good quarterback by taking two rather than placing all your chips on one and hoping others can make that all-in investment look great in the event that he's not.
Chances are the Dolphins aren't going to be picking No. 3 overall again any time soon. And if they are, it'll probably be because they missed on Tagovailoa. They shouldn't run that risk. Not with a rare opportunity to better their odds of finding a great player at the game's most important position.
But they are. And, for now at least, Patriots fans should be happy about that. (Check back in five years if the Dolphins draft offensive tackle Penei Sewell at No. 3 and both he and Tagovailoa are headed to their fourth Pro Bowl.)
The second reason Patriots supporters should be looking at this news positively? It's one more team out of the starting-quarterback mix for 2021.
Whether it's through the draft, free agency or trades, there could have been 10 teams ahead of the Patriots in this year's draft order (11 depending on the fate of free-agent-to-be Dak Prescott), who could have been looking at adding a quarterback.
With Miami off the list, that's one less team that could be in on a high-end rookie.
Doesn't mean the Patriots will get the quarterback at the top of their wish list this offseason. But it improves their odds. And teams that don't have (or aren't sure they have) franchise passers should welcome any and all means of improving their odds in that search.