Could this Sunday get any better? Not only are we getting an extra hour of sleep (Daylight Saving ends at 2 AM), but after that, we’ll see the much-anticipated starting debut of Dolphins phenom Tua Tagovailoa, a National Champion and former Heisman Trophy finalist at Alabama.
The left-handed Tagovailoa is a rarity among quarterbacks. In fact, when Tagovailoa steps under center Sunday against the Rams, he’ll be the first left-handed quarterback to start at the NFL level since Kellen Moore (as noted by USA Today's Jim Reineking), who got the nod in place of injured starter Tony Romo in the Cowboys’ 2015 season finale (actually played January 3, 2016). Prior to that, the most recent lefty starter was Michael Vick, who drew three starts for the Steelers in 2015.
Tua is one of only a handful of left-handed quarterbacks to reach the NFL, joining the likes of fellow southpaws Steve Young, Ken Stabler, Boomer Esiason, Mark Brunell, Tim Tebow, Matt Leinart, Todd Marinovich, Chris Simms and Jared Lorenzen. Tagovailoa’s younger brother and former Alabama teammate Taulia, who made his starting debut for the University of Maryland last weekend, is a right-handed passer.
Tagovailoa’s ascension to QB1 status was a minor source of controversy within the organization, apparently catching incumbent starter Ryan Fitzpatrick off guard. “It was heartbreaking for me,” said the well-traveled veteran, who led Miami to a respectable 3-3 start before his surprise demotion. “I felt like this was my team.”
It’s been a long road back for Tagovailoa, whose collegiate career came to an abrupt end last fall when he dislocated his hip in a win over Mississippi State. The 22-year-old couldn’t hide his emotion when coach Brian Flores called on him to make his NFL debut in the closing minutes of Week 6, remaining on the field long after his teammates had already retreated to the locker room.
Tagovailoa will have his work cut out for him going against a stout Rams defense led by two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and lockdown corner Jalen Ramsey, though at least he had the benefit of an extra week to prepare.