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Schad: Tua Tagovailoa is the ultimate point guard and Miami Dolphins leader

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa drops back to pass against the Chargers during Sunday's win at Hard Rock Stadium. In the three games he's started, Tagovailoa has five touchdowns and no interceptions.

MIAMI GARDENS — When the Zoom session with media was over, Tua Tagovailoa let out a "Go Fins!" Somewhere underneath that mask was a trademark smile.

Tagovailoa reminds so much of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who ends every one of his media sessions with "Go Hawks!"

The Dolphins don't lose when Tua is under center. Or, more often, in the shotgun. Tua has started three games and Miami has won all three.

This time, it was Dolphins 29, Chargers 21, at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday. 

Tua was not the taller quarterback or the quarterback with the strongest arm to take snaps in this Rumble of the Rookies (Justin Herbert would be that man.)

But much the same way Wilson often isn't the biggest or the strongest-armed quarterback on the field when he plays, it doesn't really matter. Tua found a way to win. Again.

And there is no greater reason than this: Tua is the ultimate point guard. Yes, when I watch Tua play quarterback, I think of basketball, not football.

I see how Tua spread the ball around to his receivers (eight caught between one and four passes). I see how Tua raced down the field and tackled a Chargers linebacker (No, Tua, don't do that!) after his center, Ted Karras, erred on a poor snap.

Tua picked up his teammate after a turnover.

"It's the privilege of a lifetime to play with guys who play with that effort," Karras said. "That's a gutsy play and one of the plays of the game."

And I see how Tua makes smart choices. He generally picks out the right receivers. He generally avoids critical errors, like the one Herbert made in the fourth quarter on Sunday.

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Tagovailoa has started three games and has five touchdowns and no interceptions. And this is not to suggest that he is perfect or that he might not have been intercepted once or twice in this game, if the Chargers weren't a team that finds-a-way-to-lose.

But the rookie mistake was in fact made by Herbert, the 6-foot-6 monster with the rocket arm who scores on quarterback sneaks by simply extending his arm. It was Herbert passing and Xavien Howard intercepting, in the fourth quarter.

"X's play was a good play in the game," Miami coach Brian Flores said. "A lot of guys played well."

High five:Takeaways from Dolphins' victory over Chargers

The Dolphins chose Tua one spot ahead of Herbert in the last NFL Draft. And the entirety of their careers was not decided on Sunday. But it is good for all involved in aqua and orange that Herbert did not step onto the South Florida stage and put on a Dan Fouts-like performance.

We've already recounted how Tua does not need to do this all by himself. He is fortunate enough to have taken over as starter for a team that had already won two straight, and now has won five straight.

Tua is fortunate to play on a team with Andrew Van Ginkel, who blocked a punt. And Salvon Ahmed, who has gone from unknown rookie to leading rusher. And Emmanuel Ogbah, who literally records a sack every single game.

When Flores says it was a total team effort, it's not just coach-speak. Because yes, Flores deserves so much of the credit for what has happened here. The Dolphins were 5-11 last season and now they're 6-3 and no, that's no misprint.

The Dolphins have already exceeded their win total for all of last season. And yet they are still one of the youngest teams in the NFL. And yet they still have all those high draft choices next spring.

The Dolphins are one of the hottest teams in the NFL (a half game behind Buffalo in the suddenly-tight AFC East race). They are well-coached. They are fast-rising. They are fun. And they are highly, highly relevant.

"Knowing all the hard work we put in, this was bound to happen," linebacker Van Ginkel, who blocked the punt, said. "This doesn't happen by chance."

Run, Tua, run!:Tagovailoa looks healthy on key scrambles

Miami's plan was strategic. It would be a total rebuild. And the Dolphins would position themselves to land the franchise quarterback. They have that quarterback. And even if Miami ends up with a Top-5 pick from the Texans, it seems quite likely they can use it on a receiver or a linebacker or anyone that doesn't play quarterback.

"We're not going to talk about any player and say you've arrived," Flores said of Tua.

Nor will Flores probably ever say anything like that. Which is fine. What he's saying behind the scenes, and what he and his staff are doing, is working.

The Dolphins play outstanding special teams. They find ways to scheme pressure. They absolutely blanket opposing receivers.

Miami's offensive line opened up holes that led to 100 rushing yards. The Dolphins did not allow a sack. Is Miami's offensive line poor? Yeah — no.

There is nothing more important than finding the right coach and the right quarterback. And the Dolphins have both. They are poised for big things in the near future. And for now, they are poised to be highly, highly competitive in the AFC.

The decision to move on from Ryan Fitzpatrick, the well-respected veteran who is so far out of sight and out of mind at this point, was clearly a good one. It was always going to go this way in what Miami hopes will be a November to Remember.

Every rep Tua takes now will benefit him and the franchise, when they are — as they plan to be — competing for a conference championship in 2021 or 2022.

Tagovailoa is learning how to decipher defenses. He's learning all the reasons offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is choosing certain play calls, so he has the best chance to make them work.

New places:Former Dolphins RB Kalen Ballage finding success with Chargers

This is an exciting time to be a Dolphins fan. Or owner. Or executive. Or coach. Or player. Because it is clear for everyone and anyone to see — that Tagovailoa is the right man to be the face of Miami's franchise.

He has the leadership skills. He has the improvisational skills. He has the poise under pressure. He has the innate play-making ability of not only a great quarterback, but a great point guard, too.

Great point guards find a way to will their teams to wins. Tua is going to lead this franchise to many, many wins.

"The point guard is the leader of the team and that's exactly what Tua is," said Jakeem Grant, the receiver, who happened to be wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey in his interview.

"Tua's the leader," Grant said.  "He gave me a couple of assists. And he gave a couple assists to DeVante (Parker), too. Tua's our point guard on the field."