Dave Hyde: Who is Tua? Finally, the Dolphins opener and the only answer that matters.
My first working Miami Dolphins opener ended when Buffalo’s Jim Kelly scored on the final play in 1989 to win the day and accurately proclaim of the AFC East, “A new day is here.”
Never in the decades since have I looked forward to a season kicking off more than this Sunday. That’s not just because of the involved fun this season offers with some conclusions about this rebuild and, possibly, a new day for the Dolphins.
It’s also how all the noise and nonsense from this offseason gets left behind in the rearview mirror.
This last week summed up the past several months of all that with a final rendition of what you can call Tua-splaining. It’s this rush to explain, expound, exponentially overdo or simply excuse out of hand anything surrounding Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to fit some central premise.
He wasn’t elected team captain Wednesday, for whatever reason — and, seriously, who cares? This isn’t high school or hockey. This wasn’t even a relevant subject moving forward.
But immediately the Tua Army mobilized explanations about why it makes sense he isn’t a captain — why it was a good thing, actually. Very positive. Speaks well of him and the team. That was the message. Just as everything this offseason reflected why he’ll be an elite quarterback.
That goes for the other side, too. The ones connecting dots from Tua’s non-captaincy to five June interceptions in practice to being pulled from two games as a rookie to … well, this team whiffed again.
As if they know.
As if anyone knows.
I don’t. That’s awful for a columnist to say, to not have a take, to decide this needs to play out this season before you can get a proper read on who Tua is and what he could become.
I was underwhelmed his rookie year, especially when the quarterback drafted after him, Justin Herbert, re-wrote the record books for first-year quarterbacks.
Still, there was the hip injury Tua was coming off, and you can name a dozen Hall of Famers who struggled as rookies. You can also name several dozen more who never transitioned from college to the NFL.
Who is Tua? That’s the central issue for this franchise. It invested everything the past couple of seasons to find out. His quarterback coach, his Alabama receiver, more draft picks to the offensive line — this offseason was especially all about Tua.
“I think there is more so excitement this year than last year,’’ he said. “Last year when I had my opportunity, there were more so butterflies just because I didn’t know how things were going to hold up coming off of the hip injury and whatnot.”
You can’t listen to him and not root for him. He brings a measured maturity in his ways. But the question will be if intangibles like that — his maturity, his poise, his ability to read a defense — can overcome his tangibles — his size, his average arm, his lack of foot speed.
This first game will be a maze of strategy on both sides. The Dolphins’ Brian Flores and Patriots’ Bill Belichick are defensive specialists known for confusing young quarterbacks. Tua and Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, starting his first NFL game, are the definition of young.
Of course, Flores and Belichick know what the other will try. Which means they’ll know how to counteract that. Which means they might try something else — and will have to prepare for that. Unless they stick with the original plan. See how it’s a maze?
This opener isn’t the season. Dallas lost the opening NFL game to Tampa Bay and left knowing quarterback Dak Prescott is healthy and back to being a top-10 quarterback.
The Dolphins could lose and come out feeling great about Tua. Either way, there’s no need for Tua-splaining anymore. Winston Churchill once said history would be kind to him, and when asked why he had a simple answer:
“I’m going to write it,’’ he said.
He meant actually writing history books. Tua won’t do that. But he’ll write his story starting this game. The first season doesn’t matter. The five June interceptions don’t matter. The lack of captaincy doesn’t matter.
The kickoff puts a lot of nonsense in the rearview mirror. It can’t come quickly enough.