Tua Tagovailoa’s football fortunes always came with a second shadow opponent, beyond the forward-and-center thinking and pitching necessary for him to become the Miami Dolphins’ franchise quarterback.
Or maybe health has always been Tagovailoa’s number one opponent.
Perhaps his emergence from major hip surgery was a message. Maybe the video of him getting knocked to the ground and slamming the back of his head on the turf Sunday against the Green Bay Packers either shows any given danger for all NFL quarterbacks on Sunday, or Eliminates the added danger of a smaller, slower quarterback like Tagovailoa.
It was the third time Tagovailoa had bounced his head off the ground this season, His second time in concussion protocol As he leaves the season, his main thoughts are all the best and good health.
Let’s start there. The danger of a concussion is well known and obvious in this era, and Tagovailoa, the Doctors and the Dolphins all know that danger extends far beyond Sunday’s scoreboard. They’ll decide what that means for his future, both this season and beyond. There is no need to argue about this now.
But it’s not just Tagovailoa that has some thinking to do. Dolphins must too. That starts short-term, with coach Mike McDaniel’s apparent decision to start veteran Teddy Bridgewater in New England on Sunday. McDaniel said Monday that Bridgewater will play most of the practice sessions this week, but did not officially say he will start against the Patriots.
With the playoffs approaching, Bridgewater was an obvious choice as the game progressed, and it wouldn’t be worth any debate if McDaniel hadn’t selected rookie Skylar Thompson earlier this season. That’s when Bridgewater couldn’t practice, though, because he was on concussion protocol at the same time as Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins here also have a perennial question that you might be passing aspirins around asking, but with no real answer: Can you believe Tagovailoa’s health will be the player this team needs? Even before believing he was that player?
This is a very common Sunday NFL game that probably happened in Tagovailoa, and no one noticed it during the game. Video showed him slumping to the ground on a pass late in the first half, his head bouncing off the turf, and no one noticed him as he moved on to the next play.
Until Monday afternoon, that’s it.
“As far as I know, he was shown [concussion] Symptoms, they put protocols in place, which is everything that needs to happen before you have to go through the process in terms of the health of the players, the way they should be,” McDaniel said. “So it’s a little bit early. Like I said, I just found out a few hours ago. “
If it’s not clear what’s going on, a clear look at Tagovailoa’s before and after Sunday’s game would explain his clouded mind.
First Half: Completion on 9 of 12 attempts for 229 yards, touchdowns and a 144.4 passer rating.
Second half: 7-of-13 completions for 81 yards, 3 interceptions and a 33.3 grade.
Sunday’s problem might have been as simple as that for Tagovailoa — but it wasn’t. Not at all. Not when you’re thinking about how to recover from a concussion, if it’s diagnosed, which is trickier than recovering from a knee injury or shoulder problem. Second concussion? or more?
That leaves the Dolphins (8-7) position as anyone’s guess. They don’t have a first-round pick to select another quarterback in next year’s NFL draft. They don’t have the money to go out and buy a starter for next season. Bridgewater is the most reliable backup plan you can have, but that doesn’t answer the big question.
You know, the one about finding a franchise quarterback?
In November, Tagovailoa advanced to five straight wins and was considered “the man.” In December, he regressed to the point where he lost all sense during a four-game losing streak. And now he’s hurt.
How to do?
Now the Dolphins head to New England (7-8) to try and win with Bridgewater. It’s not a bad proposition. The tougher challenge will be moving on with Tagovailoa, knowing he’s just another average NFL hitter with a head injury.
See, it happened. Dan Marino suffered a concussion during a playoff game against the Dolphins in Seattle in 1999, so concussed that he doesn’t remember leading his team to victory. Troy Aikman played a near-perfect game for Dallas in the 1994 NFC Championship Game, though he suffered a concussion so bad he doesn’t remember the game.
That’s the NFL. or can. It’s time to worry about Tagovailoa’s health. Time to think about the Dolphins quarterback, too. How the two get together, or get together, or simply work together, is the trouble for everyone moving forward.