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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Tua Tagovailoa intended to fall on the sword.

Problem is he opened a few unnecessary wounds trying to take responsibility for not being an instant star in his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins.

It is well documented that Tagovailoa, the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL draft, has been hard on himself for his pedestrian statistics while leading the Dolphins to a 6-3 record as the team’s starter during last year’s 10-6 season.

After veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced the struggling rookie twice in the fourth quarter, the sports world openly wondered if the Dolphins have their quarterback of the future and if the riddle that has befuddled the franchise for two decades has been solved.

Tagovailoa was expected to be an instant savior — and he wasn’t.

So he blamed himself, which is what good leaders do, even if there was plenty of blame to go around on a team that had more questions than answers at several positions.

“I didn’t actually know the playbook, necessarily, really, really good, and that’s no one else’s fault but my fault,” said Tagovailoa, who had a 92.5 passer rating, which ranked 23rd in the NFL last season. “Our playcalls were simple when I was in. I didn’t have alerts and checks. Where now, I feel comfortable and I can maneuver my way through these things now.”

I’m a firm believer that we should never make excuses for quarterbacks, and have preached this during the Chad Henne and Ryan Tannehill eras of Dolphins mediocrity.

But Tagovailoa’s criticism of himself this week was harsher than anything I’d heard from an NFL player in years — and overstated.

He confessed that he wasn’t really healthy, and hopes an offseason of full body training will strengthen the hip and put less strain on his arm.

That’s understandable considering the seriousness of the hip injury he suffered at Alabama, which many thought could have been career-ending.

Then Tagovailoa admitted what everyone around the team already knew, which was that he didn’t have the same level of mastery of Chan Gailey’s offense that Fitzpatrick possessed.

Tagovailoa and Gailey, who resigned as offensive coordinator at the end of the season, didn’t have a bond.

Nobody is going to say that out loud. But it’s the reason why Gailey’s not around after delivering Miami its most productive offense in 34 years. George Godsey and Eric Studesville were named co-coordinators, and Charlie Frye, a former NFL quarterback who worked with Tagovailoa during his prep days, was hired as the team’s new quarterback coach.

That’s the cost of trying to groom a savior.

But anyone expecting Tagovailoa to match the command of the offense that Fitzpatrick, a 16-year NFL veteran and Harvard graduate who had a perfect Wonderlic score, is delusional.

Say what you want about Fitzpatrick and his journeyman career, but there’s an extremely short list of quarterbacks still playing — Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger — who can read a defense faster and put their team in the right play better than Washington’s new starting quarterback.

Fitzpatrick had Gailey’s trust to call his own plays and change plays at the line of scrimmage.

That seems to be the standard Tagovailoa’s now holding himself to, and as encouraging as that might sound, I’m not sure it’s a healthy standard for a 23-year-old entering his second season, and first full year as an NFL starter.

I also am not certain that he’s quite ready for that.

Tagovailoa’s struggles weren’t a case of intelligence, because he’s smart.

Worth ethic isn’t a concern because Tagovailoa is respected as a grinder.

This is about experience and comfort.

He wasn’t comfortable in a year where there was no offseason program for him to learn due to COVID-19, in a season where he was rehabilitating a serious hip injury.

This was about his relationship with the people coaching him and the talent around him.

Both of those areas have improved this offseason.

While Tagovailoa said all the right things to support the journeymen and injured players he was playing with late last season, the Dolphins decision makers spoke louder by signing Will Fuller and Cethan Carter, and drafting Jaylen Waddle and Hunter Long, improving the team’s talent base.

The hope is that a year removed from the hip injury, an improved arsenal of playmakers, and the playing time invested in Tagovailoa last season will allow him to blossom and help him become the quarterback he has the potential to be.

Tagovailoa needs to focus on four things this season to silence the doubters.

First and foremost is getting healthy, ensuring that his durability and arm strength won’t be a concern moving forward.

Secondly, he must develop better chemistry with his receivers.

He also must get a firmer grasp of the offense, which is being custom-built for him, and start reading defenses faster and better, which could lead to the type of command and effectiveness Fitzpatrick possesses.

And finally, Tagovailoa needs to become a leader that inspires his teammates — yes, like Fitzpatrick did during his two seasons with the Dolphins. For quarterbacks, that starts with on-field performance.

Hopefully when we get to this point next year, Tagovailoa will have checked those boxes and won’t feel the need to be overly critical of himself heading into the next season.