As he lay stretched out on the field, his hands frozen over his face, it seemed like Tua Tagovailoa’s so-so football career was over.
It was the second time in three weeks that the quarterback had been leveled. He staggered off the field the first time, dropping to his knees for a moment after first getting up. He never made it to his feet this time. Think concussion. Think really bad concussion.
Tagovailoa missed 2 ½ games in the NFL’s concussion protocol and then was cleared to return to action for the Miami Dolphins. Once dismissed as a popgun passer, he suddenly turned into one of the best signal callers in the game.
He went into the home stretch of the season leading the league in passing yards gained per attempt with 9.0, touchdown rate at 6.7 percent and efficiency rating at 115.7 He was second in completion rate at 69.7 percent and had the league’s third lowest interception rate at 1.1 percent.
With Tagovailoa standing behind the center, the Dolphins are 8-2 including wins over AFC powerhouses Buffalo and Baltimore and a distinct postseason threat.
This from a quarterback who was pretty much dismissed as a mistake after being the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The left-hander out of Alabama seemed to lack the arm strength needed to succeed as a bigtime pro quarterback. Things got so serious that the team signed veteran Teddy Bridgewater as his backup, just in case Tagovailoa floundered this season.
Then Tagovailoa had what the pros quaintly call getting his bell rung and when he returned to the lineup, he was a new man. Of course, having two high quality receivers like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle running pass patterns certainly helped. Hill arrived from Kansas City in a trade and Waddle was Tagovailoa’s old teammate from Alabama. The trio fit together immediately.
The success of the quarterback and his two targets has helped silence critics who questioned Tagovailoa from the start. They are clicking on all cylinders and have helped thrust the Dolphins into second place in the AFC East Division.
It just goes to show you what a couple of shots to the head can do sometimes.