Say what you will about the Miami Dolphins, they’re an elite team as long as Tua Tagovailoa is under center.
The Dolphins pulled off their latest win, this time a 42-21 victory over the winless Carolina Panthers. The win gives the Dolphins a 5-1 start, their best through six games since the 2002 season. While the win wasn’t the Dolphins’ most impressive — they fell in a 14-0 hole early on — the comeback not only showed the team’s resilience, their offensive firepower was on full display again.
After punting on their first two possessions, the Dolphins scored touchdowns on five their next six possessions, paced by Tagovailoa’s efficient day which saw him throw three touchdowns against zero turnovers for 262 passing yards — 8.5 yards per attempt — for a 126.0 passer rating. Outside of the Dolphins’ 70-point record explosion over the Denver Broncos, it’s his best performance of the season and only the second game where he didn’t commit a single turnover.
Through his first four seasons in the NFL, Tagovailoa’s record now stands at 26-14 (.650 winning percentage). The 25-year-old quarterback has posted a winning record in each of his first four seasons. Among active quarterbacks with at least 40 starts, that percentage only ranks behind former MVP’s Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers along with Josh Allen.
Over the past two seasons alone, the Dolphins are now 13-6 (.684 winning percentage) in his last 19 starts. Among quarterbacks with at least 19 starts, only Mahomes, Allen and Jalen Hurts is ahead of him.
Meanwhile, Miami is 5-10 (including postseason) without Tagovailoa since he entered the league, including going 1-4 during their five starts without him during the 2022 season.
That’s not even mentioning his league-leading marks during the 2022 season which saw him pace all qualified players in passer rating (105.5), yards per attempt (8.9), and yards per completion (13.7).
Long story short, the Dolphins are an elite team with Tagovailoa under center. Critics will point towards Miami’s weak schedule — all of Miami’s wins have come teams with sub .500 records — to start the 2023 season as a key reason why they’re off to a hot start along with their lopsided loss to the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo — Tagovailoa is now 1-5 in his career against the Bills and has never won in Buffalo — but the record and the statistics show how good this Dolphins team is in when Tagovailoa is in the lineup.
In fact, they’re among the elite teams at the top of the NFL in the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.
And among the elite quarterbacks in the league is none other than Tagovailoa.
Many have hesitated to place him among the league’s top tier due to injuries and his lack of playoff success, but it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the facts.
The Dolphins have yet to sign Tagovailoa to a contract extension. While the other elite quarterbacks of his 2020 NFL Draft class (Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow) have all signed new contract extensions that have set records for annual average value — they’ve all signed deals for at least $51 million per year — Tagovailoa is still playing under his rookie deal that pays him slightly more than $7.5 million per year.
While the team has publicly stated it will wait until the end of the season to discuss a new deal for Tagovailoa, there should be no further hesitation for the former first-round draft pick.
The initial hesitation was understandable considering Tagovailoa’s injury history — he’s never played more than 13 games in a single season — and due to his concussion issues. But there’s simply no doubting it, Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback.
Spotrac projects Tagovailoa to sign a new deal worth $47.5 million per year, which would make him the fifth-highest paid quarterback in the league. That would be behind the likes of his fellow 2020 NFL Draft brethren, Burrow, Herbert and Hurts.
But considering the market has been reset each time one of those quarterbacks signed a new deal, it’s fair to predict that Tagovailoa’s next deal will exceed Burrow’s record annual average value at $55 million.
It’s no secret this Dolphins offense is breaking records through the first several games of a season, posting 2,568 yards of total offense through the first five games, an NFL record. Tyreek Hill’s 814 receiving yards through the first six games is a new record and that’s not even mentioning Raheem Mostert’s 11 touchdowns is on pace to match the single-season touchdown record set by LaDainian Tomlinson (31) back in 2006.
A lot of that is due to Tagovailoa’s command of the offense.
“I just feel like the way he’s been playing over the past few weeks — well, ever since I’ve been here, he’s been lights out,” said Hill following the win. “All of that plays into me playing well. I know a lot of people will say, ‘Reek, it’s all because of you.’ It’s not, man. It’s really because I’m on a really good team.”
The Dolphins may wait until the end of the season, but there really should be no hesitation — Tagovailoa is one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks and will soon be paid like one.