For those questioning the Dolphins’ future under center, Chris Grier and Brian Flores have a message for you: Don’t waste your time.
The Dolphins’ general manager and head coach held a joint press conference Tuesday, taking questions from reporters on the state of the franchise following its season-ending, blowout loss to Buffalo that cost Miami a playoff berth. Despite that disappointment, the two were upbeat and optimistic about the organization’s future following an unexpected 10-6 finish to 2020 — starting with Tua Tagovailoa.
“I want to be clear. Tua is our starter,” Grier said, via The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino. “We’re very happy with his development so far.”
Tagovailoa was essentially promoted to starter in the middle of the season even while veteran starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was putting together a solid season, expediting the succession process and giving the rookie plenty of live reps. The results were mixed, with a late-season stretch of struggles ultimately costing the Dolphins a postseason berth.
The fault wasn’t Tagovailoa’s alone, of course, but the Dolphins needed Fitzpatrick to rescue them from the clutches of defeat in Week 16 to give them a win-and-in scenario in Week 17. With Fitzpatrick out for that game against the Bills, Tagovailoa was their only option. He wasn’t able to lift Miami out of a 28-6 deficit, throwing three interceptions, with one returned for a score to make a two-score game a 35-13 deficit. The Dolphins ultimately fell 56-26, ending their season on a very low note after showing plenty of promise for the majority of the campaign.
Still, throughout the season Tagovailoa showed signs of his potential throughout the season that led the Dolphins to select him with the fifth-overall pick of the 2020 draft. The rookie seemed to learn from his mistakes in real time, making in-game adjustments to overcome early errors and help Miami secure multiple victories. With Tagovailoa as the starting quarterback, Miami won six of nine games, and Tagovailoa posted a passer rating of 87.1.
He’ll need to improve in year two, of course, a process that can be aided by further understanding Chan Gailey’s offense. Flores said he expects everyone on his coaching staff to return in 2021, including Gailey, who some thought might be on his way out after Miami finished 22nd in yards per game and 15th in scoring.
“The communication improves just over time,” Flores said of Tagovailoa’s and Gailey’s on-field relationship. “I think that’s the case with any position. Offense, defense, special teams. People are more comfortable as they gain experience. It’s like any relationship. It improves with time. That’s the vision right now.”
The vision also includes winning the key games, such as the Week 17 affair with Buffalo, in future seasons. With more time to learn and grow, Tagovailoa might end up becoming a quarterback capable of leading the Dolphins to such triumphs. That will come with time, which the Dolphins are happy to afford him.
As for the quarterback situation in 2021, with Tagovailoa declared the starter on Jan. 5, the question about who will back him up remains unanswered. Fitzpatrick demonstrated he’s clearly capable of manning such a role, but Flores didn’t commit to bringing the veteran back for another season, despite his relative success.
“Obviously Fitz, along with all the free agents will be part of the conversation because we know them,” Flores said, via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Omar Kelly. “But those decisions, we’re not going to sit here and say we might want to do this.”
The Dolphins will have an offseason to improve their roster and address such lingering questions. Regardless, though, their future remains bright with Grier and Flores in charge.
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