Many people were surprised Tuesday when the Miami Dolphins named rookie Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback, replacing veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Though the switch was bound to happen at some point, not many expected it to take place with the team coming off back-to-back blowout wins and riding an unexpected 3-3 record into the bye week. Perhaps no one was more caught off guard by the news than Fitzpatrick himself.
"I was shocked by it. It definitely caught me off guard,” Fitzpatrick said Wednesday. “It was a hard thing for me to hear yesterday, just kind of digesting the news. My heart just hurt all day. It was heartbreaking for me.
"Obviously we've talked in the past, me and you guys, about how I'm the placeholder and this eventually was going to happen. It was just a matter of kind of when, not if. It still just ... it broke my heart yesterday. It's a tough thing for me to hear and to now have to deal with, but I'm going to do my best with it."
Fitzpatrick’s explanation of the raw emotions he felt in the aftermath of the move give a glimpse into how other professional athletes may feel after being relegated to the bench, particularly quarterbacks. A position often viewed as the most important in football and expected to be filled by someone who can be a leader for his team, it’s as prestigious a job as there is in sports.
Earlier this month, when Dwayne Haskins was not only benched by the 1-3 Washington Football Team, but demoted to third-string, video surfaced of him at practice watching on as new starter Kyle Allen took over what used to be his starting reps. Internet body-language experts thought it appropriate to point out Haskins' mannerisms in the video as a sign of sulking, which they obviously couldn’t be sure was the case, but they also could only assume it was because it would’ve been an understandable response to the situation.
That a 15-year veteran like Fitzpatrick, who is on his eighth team after being drafted in the seventh-round and is basically the poster child for being benched as a starter and knew that day was on the horizon again, still describes the moment as “heartbreaking,” shows that a 23-year-old first-round pick just 11 starts into his career might've felt like the sky was falling. Then, Haskins was expected to go in front of everyone and put on a happy face as if it didn’t happen, another situation Fitzpatrick described.
"This profession is interesting in that the guy that fired me -- I basically got fired yesterday and then my day of work today consisted of me in Zoom meetings listening to the guy that fired me, and then [was] locked in a spaced-out room with my replacement for four hours today. So there aren't a whole lot of jobs that are like that," Fitzpatrick said.
Those type of odd circumstances are why some speculated whether the illness that forced Haskins to miss Washington's game against the Rams and several practices the next week was real or not -- a conspiracy NBC Sports analyst Mike Florio said he would understand if true. "I probably would have a quote-unquote illness too," Florio said.
If there’s one thing Haskins can learn from Fitzpatrick, it’s that the sky is, in fact, not falling. This isn’t Fitzpatrick’s first time riding the pine, but the 38-year-old has found a way to start at least three games in each of the last 13 seasons. Haskins still has plenty of time to work for whatever he wants in this league.