Allow Miami Dolphins Coach Mike McDaniel To Explain Why Anticipation Is a QB Skill

Tua Tagovailoa operates the Miami Dolphins offense with timing and anticipation. That's a skill -- even if it's not as sexy as arm strength and size.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Unless you’re terminally online, there’s a decent chance you missed the latest quarterback discourse controversy on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

The Ringer’s quarterback expert Steven Ruiz doesn’t like the Miami Dolphins‘ Tua Tagovailoa very much, and he really doesn’t like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy — even though both are in the top five of almost every statistical category.

Ruiz in his latest QB rankings has Tagovailoa 12th (behind Tom Brady, who, in case you missed it, is retired) and Purdy 20th (behind two players who are still in college).

But what really set people off Tuesday was when Ruiz all but suggested that what most view as Tagovailoa’s biggest strength — the ability to anticipate where a receiver is going to be long before he gets there — is actually a reflection, at least to some degree, of luck.

Is Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa Guessing?

Here’s the post in question:

Ruiz’s rankings show that he values quarterbacks with elite measurables — size, strength, speed, arm strength — over those that do not, regardless of production.

And that’s fair. Many NFL scouts feel the same way.

But what that worldview does is it devalues other traits that, when placed in the right system, can turn players like Tagovailoa and Purdy into legitimate MVP candidates.

Purdy and Tua don’t have Justin Herbert’s arm. But both are having seasons that statistically are better.

MORE: The Miami Dolphins Are the AFC’s No. 1 Seed and Most Complete Team

And a big reason why? They play with anticipation — which absolutely is a skill, according to the Dolphins’ coaching staff. (Tua, for the record, does it better than Brock.)

Coincidentally, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel touched on this very subject Tuesday, when asked in a news conference about Tagovailoa’s ability to throw no-look passes.

Here’s his response:

“I try to point them out to the team every time because yes, one part it’s extraordinary by Tua,” McDaniel said. “But really, that’s something that he can’t even do unless the hours upon hours of deliberate practice are accumulated with the players that he’s throwing to.

“When you watch him do it, each and every player that he’s throwing to — he probably had like three or four this past game, he does it a lot — but it’s always to players where he knows exactly where they’re going to be. He can trust.

“And you bank those types of reps where he has a crazy memory of timing and just the physiological memory of executing a ball to a certain distance, he can spend his time making sure that window is open.

“I think the guy he probably does it the most to is Tyreek Hill. I kind of see those two players as the same guy now, where is it either one of their incredible plays? I don’t care. I think it’s more they’re able to do what they’re best put on the planet to do at their very best because of the diligent work they’ve put in to prepare themselves for those moments.”

Put another way: Not only is anticipation a skill, it’s one that can be developed with repetition.

And in McDaniel’s system — which is a variation of what Purdy runs under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco — it’s at least as important as how hard and how far a quarterback can throw it.

“It’s a collection of the way you teach things, the way you execute, the way you run the route, the way that you do things,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith said earlier this season.

“I think ultimately it’s a collection, and that’s the way they’ve trained all offseason. They’re working together to make sure that they can play with anticipation and intent together.”

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