The Sky Is No Longer Falling
Isn't it great when your quarterback can just have a bad game?
Something funny happened Sunday afternoon, after Tua Tagovailoa threw his second interception of the day: No one panicked.
Yes, it was a terrible throw. One of the worst of Tua’s young career. Midway through the fourth quarter, he stared down his receiver running a short out and his lame-duck toss was returned by the New York Jets for a touchdown to tie the game. It’s fortunate the Miami Dolphins managed to eek out the 31-24 win anyway.
That they did is a credit to Tua, who responded to throwing that pick by leading a nine-play, 75 yard drive and hitting DeVante Parker for the go-ahead touchdown.
But go back and think about that pocket in time after the pick-six and before Tua threw the game-winning pass. That familiar sense of worry about whether the Dolphins have found their franchise quarterback was mysteriously absent. Dread over possibly losing to the Jets? Yeah, that was still there. But that is only a temporary kind of hurt, and a feeling Fins fans would gladly endure instead of the exhistential anxiety about the quarterback position that they’ve been feeling for, oh, about the last 20 years.
And that, too, is a credit to Tua.
Tua’s had bad throws before. Think his interception against the Patriots in Week 1, or the one against the Jaguars in London, or his face-first pick against the Falcons. After that last one, social media erupted with judgement.
“I’ve been caping for Tua,” tweeted NFL Network’s Rich Eisen. “That was awful. Positively.”
“Tua Tagovailoa‘s performance Sunday may add a sense of urgency to the Dolphins’ negotiations with the Texans for Deshaun Watson,” read the lede to one Pro Football Talk post.
There was a lot of that back then. Every slant, sack and interception seemingly followed by a sweeping conclusion about Tua’s future. How could any 23-year-old perform under that sort of pressure?
But now that Miami has won six straight games and Tua has been completing an elite percentage of his passes, a good chunk of that outside pressure has dissipated. No longer does every throw come packaged with the weight of the franchise. And isn’t that a nice, normal place to be?
You feel it, and Tua feels it.
“Terrible decision on my part, obviously, with the pick-six but we gotta move on,” Tagovailoa said matter-of-factly after the game. “The game’s not over. We gotta put some points on the board and that’s what we did. So you never want that to happen, but it does happen and so you gotta move on from it and I’m glad we were able to overcome it.”
See? Just a plain, boring quote. No questions about Tua’s future or if he feels wanted by the organization.
Make no mistake, this was not a good game for Tagovailoa. He threw for 196 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and completed just 59% of his passes. Partly because of his poor play (and the absences of Jaylen Waddle, Jevon Holland and others), the Dolphins allowed the stinky Jets to hang around.
Spinning things more positively, they won a game they would have lost earlier in the season. They practically did against the Falcons, Jaguars and Texans.
Sunday was a sign of growth — in more ways than one.
At most, wins and losses provide a temporary feeling. And if we’re being honest, while six straight wins to get to 7-7 is great and gives Miami something to cheer about, we all know it will come to an end at some point. Maybe even this week in New Orleans.
So go ahead, frolick in the wins while we have them. Beating the Jets? Ohhh, that’s sweet. But you know what’s even better than face-painted passion bordering on the sense of tribalism? It’s that other thing you feel when you’re done chanting J-E-T-S SUCK SUCK SUCK out the window of your Honda Civic.
I’ll tell you what it is.
…Take a deep breath and think about it…
The fact that Tua can have a bad game and Dolphins fans aren’t running to the metaphorical bomb shelters in advance of blowing everything up is the more momentous step forward.
We saw it briefly on Sunday: A world in which your quarterback can simply have a bad game. That’s it. No further questions. No sweeping conclusions. The sky does not have to fall.
It feels good, doesn’t it?
The Wes Side is a reader-supported newsletter. Please consider subscribing and taking an active role in my writing. Feel free to forward this post to family and friends. All subscriptions, for now, are free and every article is delivered directly to your inbox.