Tagovailoa keeps being slighted: Exploring what’s going on here. And Shell joins Bills

Tribune Content Agency

Perhaps it’s the injuries. Perhaps it’s the poor performances in nationally televised games against the Chargers and Packers last December. Perhaps it’s a case of demanding to see Tua Tagovailoa repeat his fabulous start to last season.

Whatever the reason, the Dolphins quarterback continues to be disrespected on social media, even by some of his biggest advocates.

The biggest slight came courtesy of the NFL’s official Twitter account, which last month tweeted this: “The AFC is loaded at QB: Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence.”

Tagovailoa isn’t as accomplished as most of those players, excluding Lawrence and arguably Herbert. But at the very least, he should be on that list after leading the league in passer rating.

SI.com’s Albert Breer, last month tweeted, “Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson … If Lamar stays in Baltimore, at least two of those quarterbacks will miss the playoffs in ‘23.”

Once again, no mention of Tagovailoa, as if last season didn’t happen.

Even ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, perhaps Tagovailoa’s biggest advocate on national television, excluded Tagovailoa from his list of “quarterbacks you win because of” in 2023.

Orlovsky put Allen, Rodgers, Burrow, Jackson, Lawrence, Herbert, Mahomes and Jalen Hurts in that category.

He listed Tagovailoa in a second-tier category of “QBs you’ll win a lot with (in 2023),” a group also including Mac Jones, Jimmy Garoppolo, Dak Prescott, Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins and Geno Smith.

And then there was the ultimate slight: NBC’s Chris Simms excluding Tagovailoa from the list of the top 20 quarterbacks in football. Simms rated him 21st, behind New England’s Jones, Ryan Tannehill and 18 others, and explained it this way:

“His arm is below-average for an NFL starter. It doesn’t create much on its own. Nobody would watch Tua film and go, ‘It’s lasers.’ When you break it down, there are so many yards and plays left on the field…

“He’s not durable. It’s been an issue his whole career. He plays small in the pocket, he loses control of power throws down the field, and when teams took away some of those trick plays, he couldn’t deliver.”

So what’s going on here?

It’s clear that Tagovailoa didn’t do enough to convince national pundits that he’s a franchise quarterback.

Is that fair or reasonable?

It doesn’t particularly matter, because he will have another opportunity to prove, once and for all, in 2023 that he can: 1) stay healthy for most or all of a season. 2) avoid the poor performances that marred two of his only three games that were televised to a national non-cable audience (against the Chargers and Packers).

If he achieve that — and reproduce the type of performances we saw against Detroit, Chicago and Baltimore in at least a handful of games — then excluding him from any list of top-tier AFC quarterbacks — already questionable — would be far more egregious.


Brandon Shell, who started 11 games for the Dolphins last season, agreed to terms with Buffalo on Monday; the one-year deal could be worth as much as $2.1 million with incentives, according to a source.

Shell filled in capably for injured Austin Jackson for much of last season. But after initially expressing interest in re-signing Shell in early March, the Dolphins never made an offer, opting instead to sign Isaiah Wynn, Kendall Lamm, Gerron Christian and Cedric Ogbuehi.

Wynn essentially replaces Shell as the primary competition for Jackson at right tackle. Shell allowed fewer sacks than Wynn last season (two to four) despite playing significantly more snaps than Wynn.

Per Pro Football Focus, Shell also graded out better as a run-blocker than Wynn, who played right tackle for New England before an injury ended his season.

Here’s more on the Dolphins’ decision to sign Wynn instead of Shell and how they compare.

▪ ESPN’s Ryan Clark, a 2011 Pro Bowler, ranks the Dolphins’ cornerback combo (Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey) as the best in the league, just ahead of Dallas’ Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore.

“They get Ramsey; you had Howard,” Clark said, adding that the Dolphins have a snatch-the-ball player in Howard “and a lock down physical guy on the other side that you can move inside [Ramsey]. Those guys would be the best cornerback duo in the entire league.”

▪ ESPN’s Louis Riddick reiterated that the Dolphins will win the AFC East.