Sports

Dolphins disappoint again. With so many problems to triage, where does Tua rank?


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It was cold and it was windy and there was frozen rain.

And it ended. It all but ended in Nashville, with Ryan TannehillRyan Tannehill of all people — delivering the final, painful dagger in this Dolphins season.

It’s never quite as bad as it seems when you lose seven in a row.

Oh, the Dolphins did that.

It’s never quite as good as it seems when you win seven in a row.

Yup, Dolphins did that, too.

But it ended Sunday in a fashion as gross as the Tennessee weather — Titans 34, Dolphins 3 — so, so ugly.

“Disappointing,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said.

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It was a roller-coaster and in early January, there was hope it might end on an upswing. But just like it did last season, it ended in jarring fashion. It seemed a longshot to win at Buffalo last season and it seemed like less of a longshot at Tennessee on Sunday.

But it really wasn’t.

This Dolphins team went from boring and bad, to interesting and decent.

Dolphins were improved but never great

But they were never great.

Oh, the Dolphins moved on from Tannehill after seven seasons because he was too average. And yet here are the Dolphins, at 8-8, which is just about as average as one can get in an unwieldy, uneven 17-game schedule.

The Dolphins are not quite right back where they started when Flores took over. But after three seasons, some of the same questions remain.

How much must the Dolphins invest to fix their subpar offensive line?

Does Miami have the right combination of offensive play-caller and offensive line coach?

And most importantly, most importantly above all else in the NFL, of course, is this: Do the Dolphins, in Tua, have a franchise quarterback?

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“People have their own opinions,” Tagovailoa said, when asked about his future in a post-game news conference. “I’ve heard this the entire time I’ve been here. I can control what I can control which is to be the best version of myself for this team.”

Will Miami feel a need to pursue Deshaun Watson again? Or, perhaps, Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson? Why not? Tua has shown some progress, yes, but he has not yet shown that he can or ever will rise to that caliber of quarterback.

And so here were are, again.

Tua struggled on a nasty day in Nashville

No, Tua did not answer the bell, as Miami would have hoped.

There were three fumbles.

There was at least two near-interceptions.

Then, finally, an interception. No touchdowns. A 53.1 quarterback rating. The lowest completion percentage of his career, 47.4.

There was a very, very bad decision to take a sack in the third quarter that resulted in a long field-goal try that clanked the crossbar.

“Can’t take that sack,” Tagovailoa said. “I tried to step up and fire it in to Jaylen (Waddle).”

Said Flores: “You don’t want a sack in that situation. We have to execute better. We have to protect better. We have to get open quicker.”

And so here is Miami, still right alongside the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions, as the only NFL teams not to win a playoff game since 2001.

And the Bengals are good. And they have their quarterback, in Joe Burrow. So, yes, perhaps Miami should have fully tanked at the end Flores’ first season.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa struggled Sunday against the Titans, here losing a fumble in the first quarter at rainy Nissan Stadium.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa struggled Sunday against the Titans, here losing a fumble in the first quarter at rainy Nissan Stadium.

But they didn’t. They wanted and he wanted to set the right tone for the future. Miami is in a better place now than it was before Flores’ arrival, but still, so many questions.

Not everything about Miami’s 7-game win streak should be dismissed. But yes, there some quarterback luck in there, as in, the quarterbacks Miami faced.

On Sunday, they faced Tannehill, a highly-competent, 33-year-old signal-caller who must have quietly enjoyed at least a small measure of revenge. He had a front-row seat to Dolphins’ anguish, all-but-certain elimination from the playoffs.

Miami, remember, paid millions to send Tannehill away, picking up a few picks in a swap with Tennessee that didn’t result in much.

That was about perception. Get something for Tannehill because it looked better than just cutting him, when everyone knew the organization was moving on.

Oh, the Dolphins have some really good building blocks.

Flores is a keeper. And these folks, too: Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki (if re-signed), Robert Hunt, Christian Wilkins, Jerome Baker, Xavien Howard (if not traded), Emmanuel Ogbah (if re-signed), Jaelan Phillips, Jevon Holland and a few others, too.

Tua Tagovailoa is sacked by Titans linebacker Harold Landry III (58) during the third quarter of Sunday's loss.

Tua Tagovailoa is sacked by Titans linebacker Harold Landry III (58) during the third quarter of Sunday’s loss.

Overall, Miami’s defense played well enough this season. On Sunday, there were problems, especially in the area of run defense, where the Titans (without Derrick Henry) somehow rambled for 198 yards.

“They just kind of figured us out,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said.

What Flores and the Dolphins and general manager Chris Grier (assuming he returns) must focus on most now are significant fixes required of Miami’s offense.

It was a cold, windy day with frozen rain in Nashville.

The Dolphins wish they would have played better, but they didn’t.

The Dolphins wish Tagovailoa would have played better, but he didn’t.

Trailing 17-3 at the start of the fourth quarter, in a late-season game at Tennessee last year, Miami may have turned to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

This season, Fitzpatrick was not around. And, to be honest, it was far more important to find out exactly what Tua was made of in the biggest spot of his young career.

Tua completed a few deep balls, which was a small step in the right direction.

“We wanted to push the ball downfield,” Tagovailoa said.

But all in all, it wasn’t good enough. He was not good enough.

This Dolphins season essentially ended on Sunday. So many offseason questions to answer. And none more important than this: Is Tua Miami’s answer at quarterback?

Or will the Dolphins now, as we surely suspect, consider all their options?

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Tua Tagovailoa’s Dolphins future in doubt after Titans loss: Joe Schad



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