Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores confirmed Wednesday that rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be under center when the team comes out of its bye — news that stunned starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick has led the Dolphins to a 3-3 record, good for second place in the AFC East, and he knew all along he was keeping the seat warm for Tagovailoa. But he didn’t expect the changing of the guard to come so quickly.
“I was shocked by it,” Fitzpatrick told reporters Wednesday. “Definitely caught me off guard and it was a hard thing for me to hear yesterday, digesting the news. My heart just hurt all day. It was heartbreaking for me.
“We’ve talked in the past how I’m the placeholder and how this was eventually going to happen. A matter of when not if. It broke my heart yesterday. Tough thing for me to hear.”
“This profession is interesting in that I basically got fired yesterday and my day of work today consists of listening to the guy who fired me and locked in my spaced out room with my replacement today,” Fitzpatrick said.
Flores’ confirmation came one day after multiple media reports leaked the news that Tagovailoa would replace Fitzpatrick.
“He’s gotten more comfortable — accuracy, decision-making have been good in practice,” Flores said of Tagovailoa.
He’ll make his first start on Nov. 1 when the Dolphins return from their bye to host the Los Angeles Rams.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) October 21, 2020
Tagovailoa, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, replaced Fitzpatrick and completed both of his pass attempts for nine yards during the latter stages of the Dolphins’ 24-0 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
“I was very excited,” Tagovailoa told reporters Wednesday. “That’s news that I think anyone would love to hear, being named the starter at any position. But at the same time, I also felt for Fitz as well. Me and Fitz had a conversation about all of this. It kind of hurts me in a way to see Fitz hurt. … Everyone knows Fitz has done a tremendous job. I definitely feel I’m lucky, I’m blessed to be in a situation where I can continue to learn from Fitz.”
Flores informed Fitzpatrick of his decision on Tuesday. The Dolphins repeatedly have said that they were not going to rush the development of Tagovailoa, 22, who had been listed as the team’s No. 2 quarterback for each game this season.
Tagovailoa is coming off surgery for a hip injury he sustained while playing for Alabama last season.
He left the storied Crimson Tide program as No. 1 in school history in completion percentage (69.3 percent), touchdown passes in a season (43 in 2018) and career passing touchdowns (87). He threw for 7,442 yards in his 32 games with Alabama.
Fitzpatrick, 37, has completed 138 of 197 passes for 1,535 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season, which is his 16th in the NFL.
“Fitz has done a great job,” Flores said. “He’s been productive. His leadership’s been great. It’s not an easy decision for me or us as an organization. But we felt like for the team now and moving forward, this is the move we need to make.”
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)