Stephen A. Smith’s Tua criticism immediately made foolish by own highlight package

Stephen A. Smith took aim at Tua Tagovailoa on First Take and missed the mark by several yards.

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are 5-1, tied for the best record in the NFL. Tua Tagovailoa has completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 1,876 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. The Dolphins have the No. 1 passing offense in the league by almost 3,000 yards over the second-ranked Minnesota Vikings.

With all those facts at one's fingertips, it is only natural to ask the question: is Tua the MVP favorite?

Now, it's far from an open-and-shut case. Patrick Mahomes is always lurking. Josh Allen and Brock Purdy have cases of their own. Even other members of Miami's roster deserve consideration. Raheem Mostert leads the NFL with 11 touchdowns. Tyreek Hill has 814 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

ESPN take artist Stephen A. Smith latched onto the latter as a prime candidate for MVP instead of Tagovailoa. And sure, Hill has a strong case — he's a monster after the catch and arguably the single greatest advantage-creator at his position.

Smith, however, decided to diminish Tagovailoa's case instead of building up Hill's case. It did not go well...

Smith posits that Tagovailoa doesn't pass it to Hill "19, 20, 30, or 40 yards" downfield, but is instead dumping off dinky two-yard screen passes while Hill does all the legwork. Naturally, the ESPN highlight package running during Smith's argument featured several instances of Tagovailoa locating Hill 19, 20, 30, or 40 yards downfield.

Stephen A. Smith gets proven wrong by his own highlight package

Of course, the truth lies somewhere between two extremes. Tagovailoa does not possess the strongest arm in the NFL. He's not Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen floating 50-yard bombs to his No. 1 receivers. His success is rooted in timing and precision, which ties back to Hill's own precision as a route-runner, as well as Mike McDaniel's incredible job in the head coaching seat.

Hill does generate a lot of yards after the catch, it's true. But, to make it out like Tagovailoa is Desmond Ridder with a decent receiving corps is blasphemous and a complete discredit to the Alabama product's incredible season. Tagovailoa, whether you believe him to be the MVP or not, does deserve to be in the conversation. His talent is a major factor behind the Dolphins' historic offense. He benefits from the system, but he's not a system QB as Smith appears to suggest.

The oddsmakers in Vegas have made it clear enough. Tagovailoa is the MVP favorite right now. There's a lot of football left to be played and the MVP standings are liable to change week-to-week, but no QB has gotten off to a stronger start this season — especially not when team success is factored into the equation. Hill, Mostert, and others are in line for historic seasons, but it doesn't happen without Tagovailoa playing set-up man at QB.

Miami's Sunday night showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles could be his opportunity for a statement performance in a game Stephen A. Smith will certainly be watching.

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