After Tua Tagovailoa saw some action in mop up duty versus the New York Jets, the questions began on Twitter and elsewhere as to when Brian Flores might make a change at the quarterback position. Brian Flores has since named Tua Tagovailoa the starter, going forward. We do have one other instance in Dolphins history where a coach and quarterback navigate the early part of a NFL schedule till replacing the original starter, Don Shula and Dan Marino in 1983. So how did Shula arrive at the decision to start Marino and how does it compare to what Brian Flores has executed with Tua Tagovailoa? Let’s examine.
Very Different Teams/ starting QB’s.
The 1983 Miami Dolphins were coming off a Super Bowl appearance, losing 27-17 to the Washington Redskins, mainly because of a very ineffective passing game led by David Woodley. Woodley had a 65.7 career passer rating, and had thrown 5 TD’s against 8 Interceptions in 9 regular season games in the strike shortened Super Bowl season. David Woodley was plainly put, one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL on one of the best rosters. The Dolphins were on the hunt for a franchise guy, and found him in the 1983 draft at #26 overall in Dan Marino. The 2020 Dolphins have a much better quarterback at the helm in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and are not a Super Bowl contender like that 1983 Dolphin team was. The only similarity in these circumstances are that both teams took their franchise QB in the first round.
When did Shula go to Marino?
The 1983 season kicks off and Shula starts David Woodley. Dolphins got off to a 2-0 start with a 12-0 win versus the Buffalo Bills and a 34-24 win over the New England Patriots. In those two games, David Woodley was 8-22 for 40 yards, and 11-22 for 218 yards with 2 TD’s,no INT’s. Not terrible, but not spectacular either, and a showdown game was coming against the Los Angeles Raiders,on Monday Night Football.
September 19, 1983.
Raiders, Dolphins. A battle for AFC supremacy. In the 4th quarter, Woodley was 10-18 for 144 yards, with 1 interception, while bein sacked 3 times. The score was Raiders 27 Dolphins 0. Shula goes to Marino against what at the time is considered, the best Defense in the NFL, and let’s it rip. Dan Marino is charged with running a hurry up offense, and goes 11-17 for 90 yards, with touchdowns to Joe Rose, and Mark Duper. Final Score Raiders 27 Dolphins 14. The writing was on the wall. Teh 2020 Dolphins have not been in such a hopeless situation as that 1983 Dolphin team was on that Monday night in September.
Short Leash for Woodley.
The writing was on the wall, but Shula still started David Woodley in week 4 when the 2-1 Dolphins took on the 1-2 Chiefs in the Orange Bowl, and methodically outlasted Kansas City 14-6, with Woodley going 10-17, for 92 yards, (1 TD,2 INT). After the game, talk radio began the drum beat for Dan Marino, and Shula appeased the fans by pulling David Woodley after an ineffective 4-12 start the following week in a 17-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Marino connected with Mark Duper for Miami’s only points that day. The 2020 Miami Dolphins have Ryan Fitzpatrick on an upswing, but on a downswing in play in the second half of his last game. The parallels are not there.
Tua Tagovailoa named the starter for week 8.
Marino is named the starter for week 6, and the rest is history. Brian Flores is now naming Tua Tagovailoa the starter for week 8 against the Los Angeles Rams after a bye week. This had to have been part of his plan. The Dolphins have had some “spotty” QB play, but it hasn’t been fatal in any games. We have long speculated that Brian Flores is not a patient man, but he has been more than deliberate. This is not a “rash” or “hurried” decision. Coach Brian Flores feels as if he has a contender on his hands and he is merely plugging in what he feels is an upgrade at the quarterback position. History was made today, and it was not made as it was in 1983. This wasn’t a case where an obviously inferior QB was holding the team back. This was Brian Flores following his own plan, and upgrading the QB position for a run at the AFC East Divisional crown. That is the belief. There is no doubt. It is Tua Time.
Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.