FORT LAUDERDALE — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, known as the NFL’s “quarterback whisperer,” said there should be no controversy at the position for the Miami Dolphins.
Arians said he would start rookie Tua Tagovailoa — if he’s healthy — over longtime veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“I think it all depends on his health; if he’s healthy, I’m playing him,” Arians told 100.9-FM in Alabama, via JoeBucsFan.com.
“I don’t think you learn anything holding a clipboard,” the 67-year-old coach added. “You know, I had Peyton Manning his first year, Andrew Luck his first year, Ben (Roethlisberger) was one of those guys that went in by accident because Tommy Maddox got hurt. You miss all the practice reps, you miss the game reps. I don’t know what you learn holding a clipboard watching.”
The Dolphins, however, are expected to start Fitzpatrick while the team brings Tagovailoa along slowly.
Fitzpatrick, 37, is coming off one of the best, and most fulfilling, seasons of his 15-year career. His leadership and experience was the primary catalyst for rallying the undermanned Dolphins to a surprising five wins in 2019. Fitzpatrick, who played for the Bucs (2017-18) before Arians arrived last season, also is quite familiar with new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s system, which he ran for five seasons with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.
Fitzpatrick, who put up big numbers with the Bucs in 2018, has played for eight different teams in his NFL career.
Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick in April’s draft, continues to progress from a November hip injury and expects to play during his rookie season. Doctors have expressed confidence that the 22-year-old will be fully healthy when training camp opens.
Tagovailoa led Alabama to a 22-2 record in his two seasons as a starter and completed 69.3%percent of his passes, throwing for 7,442 yards and 87 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
Fitzpatrick recently praised Tagovailoa but said he’s not ready to hand over the reins to him just yet.
“I’m excited that they drafted him,” Fitzpatrick said of Tagovailoa. “I’m his biggest cheerleader right now, but I also want to be out there playing.
“I want to be on the field, and that’s why I’m still doing it is because I still enjoy playing the game. Hopefully some of the lessons I’m able to teach him are him watching me play if, but if it’s the other way around I’m going to do my best to help him succeed the best way he can.”
Fitzpatrick wants Tagovailoa to know: “I am here. Again, zero ego. I have so much knowledge. I’ve made so many mistakes in this league in terms of dumb decisions and throws. I’ve learned how to prepare. I’ve learned so much about offenses and defenses, and the way guys operate.”
“Ask questions. I’m an open book. Ask me whatever you want,” Fitzpatrick added.
Fitzpatrick also said he would fully support Tagovailoa if he won the starting job.
“I know that in order for our team to be successful, whoever is playing has to be successful,” Fitzpatrick said. “Whether that’s me out there, doing everything I can to put the team in position to win, or whether that’s somebody else — be it Tua that is out there doing it — I’m going to do the best I can to help him to make sure our position is doing the things that are going to make our team win.”