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It was never clear whether the Dolphins fully handed over the reins to the rookie quarterback. The cloud of doubt remains over South Beach.

Tua May Not Be Dolphins’ Answer at QB

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It was supposed to be Tua Time in Miami. Ryan Fitzpatrick entering free agency should have made it a foregone conclusion for 2021.

Tua Tagovailoa, the heralded 2020 No. 5 pick from Alabama, won six of his first nine career starts to put the Dolphins into postseason contention. His flashes of superstardom were electric: extending red-zone plays and scrambling up the middle for first downs.

But the frequency with which coach Brian Flores leaned on Fitzpatrick for a late-game spark — including for the jaw-dropping drive to beat Vegas — always painted a more dubious picture. Adding to the uncertainty: The quarterback carousel is in full swing after one blockbuster trade, and Miami has been discussed as a possible destination for Deshaun Watson.

During an interview Monday on Sirius Mad Dog Radio, the 22-year-old Tagovailoa was asked if he believes the Dolphins consider him their franchise quarterback. “In my mind and in my heart, I would hope so,Tagovailoa said. “With the way things went last year, you always have to prove yourself.”

The question is whether he will get the opportunity next season — or become this offseason’s next top QB draft pick to don a new uniform.

Hockey’s Growing COVID Problem

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s COVID protocol lists continue to lengthen and are taking a serious toll on the schedule. 

The league anticipated problems transitioning away from last summer’s controlled bubble; they left wiggle room in the calendar for makeup games — but those are beginning to pile up like snow in the crease.

A season-high 30 players across 11 teams were unable to play Monday night. Hardest hit were the New Jersey Devils, with 10 players on the COVID list and their games postponed until at least Saturday. 

After Buffalo altered its travel schedule due to weather, affecting testing and contact tracing, the NHL announced the Sabres-Islanders Tuesday game was postponed. In all, 15 games—all involving United States-based teams—have been postponed since the season began Jan. 13.

The Capitals were the latest to be hit hard by, and overcome, COVID-related protocols. But the league needs to prevent a domino effect.

Olympic Organizers’ Show of Faith

Greg Martin-IOC

Despite Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga extending Tokyo’s state of emergency on Tuesday, a pair of significant messages came out of the anxious political dialogue.

The organizers plan to hold the games and, further underscoring the commitment, they will provide significant — and formal — health and safety guidelines on Wednesday.

Speaking to Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party members on Tuesday, the head of Tokyo’s Olympic committee Yoshiro Mori told lawmakers, “We should pass on the discussion of whether we will hold the games or not, but instead discuss how we should hold it.”

Tomorrow’s step-by-step “Playbooks,” meanwhile, will provide details to athletes and officials on “what to do before leaving home” as well as “testing in Japan, frequency of tests, rules for social distancing, and strict rules of conduct until departing Japan.”

Around 80% of the Japanese public believes the Olympics should be canceled or postponed, according to polls. Whether the rule books will begin to assuage logistical and medical panic remains to be seen.

Making Headlines

PSG-France

Soccer: Neymar has agreed to a four-year contract extension that will keep him with Paris Saint-Germain until 2026, according to ESPN.

MLB: The league’s proposal to delay the start of the season was rejected by the players’ association, according to multiple reports.

NBA: The NBA and the players’ union are close to an agreement to hold the All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta, ESPN reports. Also: the Hawks are investigating an incident between four fans and the Lakers’ LeBron James on Monday night, according to The Athletic.

NHL: Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon will be sidelined “week-to-week” with a lower-body injury, coach Jared Bednar said.

Tonight’s Action

Los Angeles Clippers at Brooklyn Nets 

Watch: 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Odds: Clippers -1.5 || O/U 241.5

Pick: The Western-leading Clippers will look to extend their road winning streak to four. With the kind of star power featured in this one, look for the Nets’ Big 3 to bounce back from their Wizards humiliation and outduel Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Take the Nets and the (ridiculous) over.

Who ya got? Reply to this newsletter with your prediction of the final score and leading scorer. Nail it and you get a mention in the next edition of Sports Section.

Shoutout: Yesterday, we asked subscribers to pick the winner of the Oklahoma-Texas Tech game and the final score. Texas Tech won 57-52. Jason P. Dumont came the closest with his prediction of 67-64.

Keep the picks coming!