Tua Tagovailoa is 3-0 as Miami Dolphins’ starting quarterback, with just as many wins as fellow rookies Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert combined.
Tagovailoa has thrown five touchdowns with no interceptions, and he’s leading the Dolphins (6-3) through a five-game win streak they hope to extend with Sunday’s road game against the Denver Broncos (3-6).
With success, comes the occasional quote that gets blown out of proportion.
After Miami’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday, Tagovailoa discussed his comfort level in the NFL, and how the Dolphins coaching staff has helped him prepare for his first games as a rookie.
Of his NFL experience thus far, Tagovailoa told Pro Football Talk: “I expected it to be a lot harder — not that it’s not hard.”
So, Tagovailoa attempted to clear the air Wednesday:
“Well, yeah, I think that was probably taken out of context, because after I said that, there was like another paragraph that I said after that,” he said.
“I still have a long way to go. There’s a lot of things that I need to learn. By no means did I mean that the NFL was easy. Because it’s hard. It’s difficult to score, it’s difficult to move the ball against these guys. But from what I originally expected it was going to be, as far as the difficulty, it wasn’t as I expected, is what I’m trying to say.”
Hard. Harder. Difficult.
Whichever variation of challenging you prefer, they all apply to winning football games in the NFL.
Just ask Burrow, the top pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, or Herbert, who the Chargers drafted one pick after Tagovailoa.
Burrow and Herbert have a combined 3-13-1 record through 10 weeks of their rookie seasons.
And that statistic has a lot more to do with the teams Burrow and Herbert have been surrounded with more than their play.
The same can be said for Tagovailoa, who has received timely contributions from the Dolphins defense and special teams during his three starts.
Two defensive touchdowns. A punt return touchdown. A blocked punt recovered at the 1-yard line three minutes into a game. (The Dolphins would’ve had another defensive touchdown, too, had linebacker Kyle Van Noy not fallen at the 1-yard line during Tagovailoa’s first start against the Rams).
“I think we’ve all been very fortunate to have won five in a row and we hope to continue to do the same thing throughout this week. And that comes with our preparation and how we prepare with one another, the scout team giving us good looks, both offensively, defensively and in the special teams,” Tagovailoa said.
“So, it’s not just me, it’s a collective effort from everyone.”
Tagovailoa, the Dolphins’ No. 5 pick in April’s draft, has already been tasked with being the franchise’s next great quarterback since Dan Marino.
But Tagovailoa has not had to fill such a role as franchise savior in his first few starts — like first-round quarterbacks typically are tasked with doing when they first join a team.
Much of the credit belongs to Dolphins coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier for assembling the team that sits second in the AFC East and sixth in the AFC playoff picture after nine games.
Flores also sets reasonable expectations for his players, which has helped Tagovailoa in his transition to Dolphins’ starter.
“I think coach Flo alleviates all of that,” Tagovailoa said of the first-round quarterback savior talk. “He tells all of us rookies, all of us players in general, just come out and perform to the best of our abilities. That’s all they ask of us.
“I think for me, I put pressure on myself to get the guys going and hopefully try to do good with what I need to, to help our team become successful. But other than that, there’s really no pressure,” Tagovailoa added.
“I just think everyone on this team — offense, defense and in the special teams — we just all want to do good. And we fight for one another out there on the field, and we play as a family, and we play for one another as well. So, I think that alleviates all the pressure and all the outside talk.”
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