Tua and Tebow
Dec 26, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) throws a pass against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa is this decade’s Tim Tebow

The Miami Dolphins’ rookie QB, Tua Tagovailoa, was supposed to be the steal of the 2020 draft. After 9 starts, the former college standout has done nothing more than mirror the beginnings of the once-admired ‘Tebow magic.’

In 2010, Tim Tebow was selected 25th overall in the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. One of the best college quarterbacks of all time, Tebow was expected to eventually take up the reins of a struggling Denver franchise. At the time, Denver Post columnist, Woody Paige, suggested “Tim Tremendous may be high risk, but he will be a Mile High reward.”

Tue received similar praise following his 5th overall selection in the 2020 draft, albeit amidst skepticism regarding his health. The Dolphins were quick to state that they were not opposed to Tua playing in his rookie season. The team backed up their statement by starting Tua after the Dolphins began their season with a 3-3 record.

The Good and Bad of Tebow and Tua

When Tebow hit the field, his style of play surprised opposing teams. The quarterback’s mobility and ability to improvise led to unexpected success for the Broncos. After seeing what he could do in a couple of starts in 2010, Tebow was named the starter in 2011 following a 1-3 start.

Tebow proceeded to lead the Broncos to a division championship and a playoff victory over the favored Pittsburgh Steelers. The Broncos would be eliminated by the New England Patriots the following week and that marked Tebow’s final game as part of the team.

Tim Tebow never achieved any semblance of success after the 2011 season. Despite all the flash associated with ‘Tebow magic,’ John Elway opted for handing his team to a veteran QB coming off neck surgery. Why? Because he knew Tebow was not a NFL quarterback.

Tua Tagovailoa has demonstrated a similar flash through his first few games in the NFL. Here are the two quarterbacks’ stats through their first 9 starts:

QBCompletion %Passing YardsPassing TDInterceptionsRushing YardsRushing TDRecord
Tebow65.0142411454856-3
Tagovailoa65.114531028136-2 (pulled from 9th game)
Tim Tebow and Tua Tagovailoa statistics through first 9 professional starts

The similarities are uncanny. Unfortunately for Tua, the same warning signs that were present for Tebow are also there for this year’s rookie. Despite winning a playoff game in 2011, Tebow ended that season by missing throws, making poor decisions, and looking less elusive every week. Opposing teams had acquired enough film to plan for Tebow to the point that he was run out of the league.

Tua is benefiting from a strong offense and run game. However, his mechanics do not look as smooth as they did when he was in college. Perhaps it could be a result of lingering injury concerns. If this is not the case, however, the Dolphins might start wondering whether their rookie is capable of being the quarterback of a professional football team.

Can Tua avoid Tebow’s fate?

In the Dolphins’ Week 16 match-up against the Las Vegas Raiders, the team pulled Tua in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran immediately sparked the team by throwing downfield against a very susceptible defense.

This was not a result of Tua having a bad game. This is an issue of a defense recognizing that Tua is struggling to do more than move around a bit and dink-and-dunk his way out of trouble. If a poor defense can gameplan for the rookie, what can Miami expect when they face playoff competition?

The careers of Tim Tebow and Tua Tagovailoa are running parallel for now. For the sake of both Tua and the Dolphins, the rookie needs to break that trend.