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Can Tua Tagovailoa Survive Dolphins’ Lost Season?

  • The Draft Network
  • October 28, 2021
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South Florida is well known for the heat. But the heat permeating from the Miami Dolphins these days has nothing to do with the sun and shoreline—just about every prominent figure in the Dolphins’ organization is in the proverbial pressure cooker. And amid the false start to this 2021 season, the involved parties appear to all be angling for a scapegoat, leading to a messy, ugly, and chaotic saga that has Miami firmly in the spotlight with a rumored courtship of an embattled star quarterback. 

This is hardly the first time in recent memory that the Miami Dolphins have seen their organization evolve into some kind of a modern, sports-centric version of the ‘Game of Thrones’. The popular book series and HBO series adaption are well known for cruel, unpredictable twists and turns.

“Duplicity. Treachery. Nobility and honor. Conquest and triumph.” 

Plenty applicable to both the hit show and to the last decade of the Dolphins. There have been several well-documented feuds within the confines of the Dolphins organization—whether it was the late, former head coach Tony Sparano versus general manager Jeff Ireland (Ireland won) or the subsequent conflict between Ireland and Sparano’s replacement Joe Philbin and executive Dawn Aponte (Philbin & Aponte emerged victoriously). Who could forget the Bullygate incident of 2013, which saw guard Richie Incognito and several other teammates harass young offensive tackle Jonathan Martin so intensely that he walked out on the team mid-season? Or the time Ryan Tannehill was placed firmly in the crosshairs of Miko Grimes, Brent Grimes’ wife, on social media on a number of occasions as she unleashed harsh criticisms at the quarterback? 

The latest saga of conflict for the Dolphins, however, falls more so in line with one of the first public snafus suffered by Dolphins team owner Stephen Ross back in 2011—when he tried to privately court then-Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh to come serve as the head coach of the Dolphins. Innocent enough until you realize that this courtship took place with Miami still having Sparano under contract as the team’s head coach in early January of that year. 

The courtship was a big part of the eventual divide between Sparano and Ireland, who accompanied Ross on the flight to California to interview Harbaugh. 

“I should have probably let Tony know,” said Ross at the time. “I never thought it would be national news. I realized after having read the papers the anguish I had put Tony through. It’s probably a mistake on my part not thinking that when you do something like this, it’s public.”

And now, a decade later, Ross’ Dolphins find themselves in a new chapter of the same book because the team, shortly after choosing to crown former Alabama Crimson Tide star Tua Tagovailoa as the team’s future franchise quarterback in April of 2020, has found themselves at the center of persistent rumors that they’re destined to land Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson—who has been accused by more than 20 women of sexual misconduct. Ever since Watson declared himself so scorned by Houston ownership that he would never play for the franchise again, the Dolphins’ name has been one of the first to be tied to potential landing spots. 

From a pure football standpoint, it was easy to see why Miami would be interested back in the winter, ahead of the allegations levied against Watson. Miami was fresh off a 10-win season under second-year head coach Brian Flores and appeared primed to make a major leap forward into contender status. And Watson, a consensus top-five quarterback in the NFL, would remove all the guesswork around what exactly Miami had at the quarterback position after Tagovailoa played through a shaky rookie season. 

Tagovailoa’s 2020 campaign was highlighted by an injury to his throwing hand, several instances of getting pulled by Flores in favor of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and some frustrating play that, we’ve since found out, was spurred on by a general lack of familiarity of the playbook by Tagovailoa. It was understandable, then, that Tagovailoa seemingly got the most basic, vanilla version of the Dolphins’ offense. 

“I didn’t actually know the playbook necessarily really, really good, and that’s no one else's fault but my fault. Our play calls were simple when I was in. I didn’t have alerts and checks,” said Tagovailoa this offseason

Not exactly an inspiring part of the Dolphins’ early evaluation of Tagovailoa. Perhaps that’s at the root of whichever member of the Dolphins’ hierarchy has continued to spur on and push the Dolphins to betray their initial oath to allow Tagovailoa to develop into the team’s long-term answer at quarterback. Even amid the uncertainty surrounding Watson—whose legal issues and horrid accusations remain unsolved as the NFL creeps to the 2021 NFL trade deadline. Some expect a deal to be struck, and as of this point in time, the Dolphins are the only reported destination for Watson that the Texans’ passer is willing to waive his no-trade clause for. 

Pair all of this cloak and dagger politicking in Miami about Watson with a set of broken ribs from Tagovailoa earlier this season, a six-game losing streak in which Flores has crept troublesomely close to losing the locker room as more critiques emerge about his ability to construct and maintain a legitimate assistant staff, and the woeful plateaus that several of Miami’s high draft selections of this regime (most notably tackle Austin Jackson and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene) have hit this season and it is little wonder that Miami’s season has crumbled inward on itself. There’s no shortage of disappointments and distractions, leading to a chaotic build-up to the trade deadline, which looms as a major hurdle for the future of the involved parties in this latest power struggle within the Dolphins. 

But as one of the most successful players and schemers in Game of Thrones once said, “chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” 

Miami’s season from hell is certain to spur changes for the organization this offseason. The most common subliminal call for change seems to be centered around the quarterback position, with Tagovailoa appearing as an “easy target” as Miami struggles to show competence in the task of building around and developing a young quarterback. That, in part, is a part of the Dolphins’ flawed blueprint, as I outlined several weeks ago as the Dolphins’ season reached the brink. 

“There lies the biggest error in Miami’s methodology. There’s youth and inexperience everywhere. At quarterback, on the offensive line, in critical roles on defense, and in the coaching staff. There’s zero stability. 
Miami jettisoned several team leaders from the 2020 roster into the abyss this offseason, including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, offensive guard Ereck Flowers, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and safety Bobby McCain. Yes, there were X’s and O’s and salary cap justifications for their departures, but the new end result in Miami is a roster loaded with inexperience; which in turn invites high-variance play from too many major contributors on a play-by-play, possession-by-possession, and week-by-week basis. 
And that’s what makes the task of fixing what is wrong in Miami so daunting. Because where do you even start? How can you possibly isolate the root of the problem when everyone and everything is working through growing pains? Miami can’t possibly claim to know what they have in players up and down the depth chart.” — October 6, 2021

But make no mistake about it: Tagovailoa is not the primary issue of what we’re seeing manifest in South Florida. Rather, his presence is partly driving the deeper rooted divide within Miami’s leadership group about the direction of the team—as clearly not everyone in-house is bought into what Tagovailoa is and can be as a quarterback and the future of the team. If they were, the team could have killed off the rumors of Watson being the true apple of their eye at any time over the course of the past 10 months. Instead, Miami gets modest public votes of confidence from Flores without the gusto needed to sufficiently counteract the game of whispers we’re hearing from well-sourced insiders who have ‘little birds’ across the NFL. And so the whispers continue, with many vocalizing that a trade for the embattled Texans quarterback would not be a surprise ahead of Tuesday’s deadline. 

The deck is stacked against Tagovailoa at this point. But is there a possible outcome in which he wins the ongoing Game of Thrones? 

Yes, there is. But how do we get there? 

Tagovailoa’s pathway to winning the power struggle in Miami involves a number of critical steps and would eventually culminate with the man at the top of the ladder choosing to side with the young quarterback ahead of the head coach who has seemingly kept him at arm’s length ever since Tagovailoa arrived in South Florida. Long-time NFL insider and former member of the Miami Dolphins beat, Jeff Darlington, recently appeared on the Ryen Russillo podcast and likened the relationship between Tagovailoa and Flores to the one we saw quickly crumble in Denver shortly after Miami’s first missteps of the Stephen Ross era: Tim Tebow and John Elway. 

“So, I mean. Look, Brian Flores has endorsed him. There’s no question about that. He’s made that clear. I don’t sense that the marriage between Brian Flores and Tua is as healthy as Dolphins fans might want it or feel that it is. I don’t know—it reminds me a little bit of back in 2011 with Tim Tebow. Where, everyone in the world was like, ‘how can you not love this guy? Like he’s just a winner!’ and all the fans were rallying around him. ‘That’s our guy, that’s our guy!’ And John Elway, meanwhile in the background, was like: ‘can we get Peyton Manning immediately?’. It’s kind of a very similar situation,” suggested Darlington. 

“He couldn’t have gotten, after (Tebow) beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs, (Elway) could not have gotten rid of Tebow more unceremoniously and without any type of human emotion whatsoever. And I actually would make the comparison to what Flores is going through with Tua right now...I’m not saying Flores doesn’t like Tua, but I don’t necessarily know that Tua is Flores’ guy to the point where this is a ‘ride or die’ situation.” 

The perspective doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Tagovailoa, but Flores himself is not immune to the chaos that has swallowed up Miami’s season thus far. The third-year head coach has indeed incurred some self-inflicted wounds that would allow Tagovailoa to build a firm case to be the survivor of offseason changes in 2022 depending on his play the rest of the season. 

Flores is on his fourth offensive line coach in three seasons. He’s on his third (and fourth) offensive coordinator in three seasons. The Dolphins have regressed alarmingly in a lot of the hallmark ideals that Flores has preached since taking over the team, such as discipline. He’s seen several assistants, such as defensive line coach Marion Hobby (2021) and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham (2020) leave their posts in Miami for equal positions on other teams in recent years, signaling some questions about the working environment assistant coaches experience in South Florida. Game management has hit an all-time low under Flores and the team has made close-game gaffes to cough up multiple games late in play thus far this season, squandering a number of strong efforts from Tagovailoa over the last two weeks. 

And so the path to winning the melee in South Florida is clear for Tagovailoa. Unfortunately, he’s somewhat at the mercy of what the team decides to do between now and next Tuesday’s trade deadline on Nov. 2. If a trade for Watson does indeed come through, it will be settled—the Dolphins will be charging Tagovailoa to, in part, take the fall for the shortcomings of 2021, regardless of the merit that argument holds in the grand scale of Miami’s situation. 

No, Tagovailoa doesn’t have the strongest arm. Yes, he’s dealt with more than one injury as an NFL player after several bigger injuries suffered at the college level. And sure, your offensive attack with Tagovailoa is going to have to be predicated on more schemed throws than perhaps you’d ideally like to implement—Miami runs RPOs at one of the highest clips in the NFL and complements that with a heavy dosage of play-action passes to help influence defenders and allow for time for Tagovailoa to set up and deliver—and none of those factors of Tagovailoa’s game appear to be going away anytime soon, if ever. Perhaps Miami’s higher-ups who remain in the shadows and pushing for a trade don’t trust their ability to create a successful environment amid so many dynamics and instead figure the quarterback exchange, nevermind when Watson will actually be eligible to play football, is an “easier path” to high-level quarterback play. 

But if the long-rumored trade for Watson doesn’t come ahead of the trade deadline, the Dolphins will have left the window open for Tagovailoa to ascend the ladder of chaos that this year’s misfires at every turn will have provided. With no trade by the deadline, Tagovailoa will have an unimpeded four-month window to do everything in his power on the field (and off it, considering the weight of the allegations leveled against Watson) to convince the powers that be—most specifically Ross—that he can be the answer the Dolphins are looking for sooner rather than later. 

That means: 

  • No more injuries
  • Continued production equal to what Tagovailoa has posted over the last two weeks since returning from Injured Reserve: 6 touchdown passes (7 total), 671 total yards, 74.7% completion, go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdowns (including a 13-point rally against Atlanta in Week 7), Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest-graded quarterback
  • Less of the frustrating turnovers that Tagovailoa has endured over that same two-week stretch
  • Continued ability to create and avoid sacks amid a poor offensive line
  • The ability to lead Miami to wins, even amid the team losing six in a row (and presumably counting with the Buffalo Bills coming off their bye in Week 8

If Tagovailoa wants to climb the ladder and win Miami’s latest edition of the Game of Thrones, he’ll need to play like a top-five overall pick week in and week out and suddenly carry himself with the confidence and bravado needed to change the temperature of this Dolphins organization. 

No questions asked. 

Knowing the path and having a plan is one thing, but how likely is it that Tagovailoa can see each of these major keys come into focus? 

No More Injuries

This one is the big crapshoot out of all of the points of emphasis for Tagovailoa’s resume. The plays Tagovailoa has gotten injured on as an NFL quarterback through one and a half seasons are a play in practice in which he clipped a helmet with the thumb on his throwing hand (dumb luck) and a brutal rib shot from Bills defensive end A.J. Epenesa getting a free run on 4th-and-2 near midfield around right tackle Jesse Davis. There’s plenty of attention to be had for Davis when talking about the pass protection and sacks taken,  but his continued presence at right tackle is bad news for Tagovailoa. 

It is impossible to predict what kind of fortunes await Tagovailoa for the rest of this season from an injury perspective but hopefully Miami will get the full remainder of the season out of him to evaluate him. If not, the evaluation itself could be complete. 

Continued Production 

Let’s play a game. Let’s assume that over the course of the last 10 games remaining on Miami’s schedule, Tagovailoa maintains the exact same level of throwing production that we’ve seen over the course of the last two weeks. Ambitious? Sure. But Tagovailoa isn’t going to stave off the whispers to replace him by having small-minded aspirations. His final stat line would forecast as: 

3,945 passing yards, 37 passing touchdowns, 19 interceptions, a completion percentage over 70%, and hopefully at least a few wins in his back pocket.

When you consider Tagovailoa has missed three games with broken ribs, that kind of pace and production would certainly move the needle. Now, of course, it does bear considering that the Dolphins have faced two of the defenses in football that carry the least “punch” this season. ESPN’s Football Power Index ranks the Jacksonville Jaguars as the third-worst in football. Atlanta checks in as the sixth-worst. Pro Football Focus grades Jacksonville as the third-worst coverage defense in the league, whereas they credit Atlanta with the second-worst pass rush through Week 7. That doesn’t mean Tagovailoa can’t replicate these performances, but it makes the need for him to do so exponentially more important. 

Fewer Turnovers 

Generally speaking, Tagovailoa has looked comfortable and in control at the helm. But there have been a handful of plays that require either better judgment or better awareness both this season and last from the young quarterback. And they’ve come, especially in 2021, at the most inopportune times. Tagovailoa has thrown four interceptions this season: 

  • Week 1 versus New England. Miami holds the Patriots to a fourth-quarter field goal to preserve the lead, 17-16. On the ensuing possession, Miami is in position to ice the game. They’re met with 3rd-and-2 at the 48-yard line with 8:47 remaining in the game. Tagovailoa rolls left, finds Mike Gesicki, and dumps it to him for a two-yard gain and a conversion. The play doesn’t count, however—ineligible man downfield. So now on 3rd-and-7, Miami calls a mesh concept but the Dolphins don’t get all the right routes—two receivers are in the same spot over the ball and rookie WR Jaylen Waddle was knocked off of his shallow cross, giving Tagovailoa few places to actually throw the ball. And so instead, he pirouettes, twists, turns, and throws what he claims to be an attempt at a throw-away. But the ball stays in play and is intercepted by Jonathan Jones, setting the Patriots up at the 50-yard line with eight minutes remaining and down one point. Miami, somehow, escaped with a win regardless. 
  • Week 6 versus Jacksonville. Miami has seen a 13-3 lead melt away in the middle-eight minutes of the game and now trail 17-13, but they’ve taken over possession after a strip-sack of Trevor Lawrence by Christian Wilkins. With 1:18 remaining in the third quarter, Tagovailoa drops back to pass with a deep in out of play-action to attack as Miami looks for a drive starter. Tagovailoa conducts his ball fake and as he hits the top of his drop, the initial middle of the field read appears to be open as the linebackers have sucked up and vacated space in the middle of the field. But Tagovailoa hitches and double clutches the throw and now the window is closed. His second read is a hole shot to the field to Jaylen Waddle, but Tagovailoa never truly resets his base and his throw to attack the void in coverage comes out too flat and too soft, leaving the throw woefully underthrown and making an easy interception for Nevin Lawson. 
  • Week 7 versus Atlanta. Miami is down 10-7 after much of the first half mirrored the script from the week prior against Jacksonville. Miami was able to freely move the football in the first quarter but imploded in the second quarter to the tune of bad defense and a blocked field goal. But the team’s fourth possession of the game had reached the ninth play—the third such possession in number of plays for Miami in the first half. 0:43 remaining in the half and facing 2nd-and-7 from the Falcons’ 14, Tagovailoa drops back to pass against a clear Cover-2 alignment from the Falcons defense. Tight end Mike Gesicki is running a divide route up the seam but it isn’t an option as Atlanta was well prepared to sink with that route. To his right, tight end Durham Smythe is running an out/corner to the front pylon and running back Myles Gaskin has released into the flat, putting the flat defender in conflict. Waddle is tearing across the middle from the front side of the formation on a shallow cross with a lot of room to run. Tagovailoa chooses the corner route to arguably his worst receiving option on the play despite the fact that the safety is sitting on the goal line and has not given ground for Tagovailoa to work the throw up and over the hook defender with touch and get it home in time without a spectacular play from Smythe. Smythe didn’t give a spectacular play. He hardly played the ball at all. And the throw is intercepted, ending Miami’s 9-play, 61-yard drive. 
  • Week 7 versus Atlanta. Miami is looking to climb back from a 13-point second-half deficit and has just gotten the ball back in plus territory thanks to an interception from cornerback Xavien Howard. Miami sits at the Falcons’ 32-yard line with 1st-and-10, trailing 20-14 and 14:09 remaining in the game. And the concept Miami called doesn’t really matter, because left guard Austin Jackson takes an immediate “L” at the hands of Grady Jarrett at the snap. The play is dead. But instead, Tagovailoa, while in the grasp, attempts to shovel the throw out to Waddle, who is sitting down overtop of the ball in the shallows. Interrupted sight-lines and the chaos of the play lead Waddle to resume drifting at the same moment Tagovailoa manages to quickly shovel the ball out to the spot Waddle is standing, leading Tagovailoa to turn the ball back over to Atlanta for a three-play, 14-yard touchdown drive to put Miami back down 13 points. 

In all, Tagovailoa’s ball security has been okay. His rate of turnovers isn’t egregious by any means—the missteps are just generally coming at inopportune times for the Dolphins. 

Avoiding Pressure

Tagovailoa has been sacked five times this season and just once in the last two games, but it hasn’t been without plenty of effort from Tagovailoa. The Dolphins’ second selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Austin Jackson, is a primary culprit. With 33 pressures conceded in six games this season (he dressed but did not play in Week 1 after missing practice due to COVID-19), no NFL offensive lineman has conceded more pressures this year than Jackson through seven weeks of play. Perhaps the case could be made that he’s done better since being pushed inside to left guard? He’s given up 13 pressures in three games at guard versus 20 pressures in three games at tackle. 

But Jackson, while problematic, is far from the biggest issue. Right tackle Jesse Davis has been a sore spot as well. He’s tied for 15th in the NFL with 21 pressures allowed. Miami’s new starting left tackle, Liam Eichenberg, has been given a tough chore—he’s been cross-trained at three positions this summer before finally settling in at left tackle. And the tinkering has taken a toll. He’s allowed 22 pressures himself this season. He’s at least settled in respectably well over the last month since taking over at left tackle full time with the exception of Week 6 against Jacksonville, where former top-10 overall pick Josh Allen terrorized him for 5 pressures. 

Tagovailoa, to his credit, has done well to navigate the pocket on his deep set drops and has shown an understanding of when to climb and where his escape routes are. Once he’s outside the pocket, a little extra conviction wouldn’t hurt—he missed a potential big play against Jacksonville by lofting a throw into open grass on 3rd-and-2 that fell harmlessly to the ground despite him being able to run and convert the first down. But a promising sign for Miami on that front was that Tagovailoa proved to be a quick study, twice keeping the ball once he broke the pocket against Atlanta with terrific results. The first was a juke of Falcons standout linebacker Deion Jones in the open field that left Jones grasping at air as Tagovailoa ran for a first down. The second came in the fourth quarter, where Tagovailoa—battered ribs and all—leveled Erik Harris on a big hit in the red zone. 

Pre-snap process and play structure is going to be more important for Tagovailoa as an NFL quarterback than some of his contemporaries. Because he doesn’t have the strongest of arms and because he’s quicker than he is fast, Tagovailoa will need to continue to develop his sense of identifying pressure situations and understand where he’s blocked up, when he’s hot, and where his outlets are when those barriers exist on any play. Consider it a continued work in progress—Waddle attempted on one play against the Falcons to point out a nickel blitz and executed a quick hook to make himself available for Tagovailoa to replace the blitz with the football, but Miami instead handed the ball off and ran directly into the blitz for a tackle for loss. 

It isn’t supposed to be perfect right away, but all of these dynamics for Tagovailoa are heightened by the not-so-quiet murmurs of what looms on the horizon barring a sudden change. 

This is all a lot to ask of a young quarterback, and those who would argue that putting that kind of timeline and expectation on a second-year quarterback isn’t fair wouldn’t be wrong. But the environment we’re seeing Miami in right now isn’t a fair and just world, it’s a world of conquest—only the conquests aren’t coming on Sunday afternoons right now, they’re coming in the evaluation process as Ross tries to sort out where in the hell he went wrong with his signing off on a Flores and Grier-led rebuilding effort that has just completely collapsed in Year 3. 

Tagovailoa cannot control the play of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, which has undoubtedly complicated the patience that Tagovailoa should be afforded given the initial messaging of Miami’s hierarchy: that they were going to build this thing up the right way. He also can’t control that Watson has seemingly “chosen” Miami as his preferred destination amid a standoff with Houston ownership and a slew of legal questions. 

But he can control the narrative around himself. And as Flores’ missteps continue to manifest on Sundays, Tagovailoa transcending the chaos and elevating both his play and the performance of those around him will open the door for Ross to choose HIM at the end of the day—given that once the trade deadline passes the option to trade for Watson will be completely off-limits for several months and the evaluation of Miami’s current players will take center stage. 

The Dolphins, who at this point last year arguably had the best-aligned pathway to develop their quarterback given the 2020 offensive line investments and Flores’ ability to maximize the 2019 and 2020 rosters, will not have made it easy for him. And no matter what happens, if we reach Nov. 3 and Miami has made no trade for Watson, the Dolphins will have perhaps the most difficult outcome possible. Because as this season has descended into chaos, it is important to remember that the team’s brass passed on a number of occasions to give a full-throated endorsement of Tagovailoa or denounce to any degree that the team would not be pursuing or trading for Watson. And with a young quarterback like Tagovailoa in the picture, Ross must recall how things went the last time his team courted someone to fulfill a job that was already claimed: things quickly unraveled as the Dolphins tried to put the proverbial toothpaste back into the tube. The team granted Sparano with a two-year contract extension in the week after the team courted Harbaugh back in early 2011, only to see the team stumble to a 4-9 start to the season and the unceremonious firing of Sparano before the 2011 season had even come to a close. 

There’s no going back. There are no take-backs. There are no mulligans. The damage of the espionage against the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Miami’s hand-selected quarterback of the future, is done even if the trade with Houston is never consummated. And if Miami reaches the end of the road in 2021 without a trade and faces the prospect of several months of the 2022 offseason with no guarantee of securing Watson’s services at the end of the day, they’d be wise to proactively avoid the “lame duck” status that is sure to follow by brushing the past year under the rug and pretending it all didn’t happen in a bid to bring everyone back who would potentially be on board with maneuvering for Watson.

Someone is going to have to go—for the betterment of the organization and to alleviate this intense battle for the future of the Dolphins. And Tagovailoa’s next three months will afford him every opportunity to remove the doubt that exists in his play and help realign the narrative about who he is as a player. The past two weeks are a great start, but Miami’s next three are Buffalo, Houston, and Baltimore. He’ll need every bit of the same proficient play and timely performances against AFC playoff contenders (and Houston) to really build the resume needed to climb the ladder, quiet the noise, and win this battle royale for the future in Miami. 

And if Tagovailoa does indeed win Miami’s Game of Thrones in 2021, Ross would be foolish to not surround the young quarterback with an infrastructure that actually believes in him and, more importantly, is capable of building the environment needed for his successful development. Not the kind that is willing to offer modest endorsements while also pulling him out of the game in the fourth quarter in favor of a grizzled veteran. Or the kind that was so brazen as to surround him with a coaching staff comprised of two long-time position coaches in the NFL serving as co-offensive coordinators, a first-time offensive line coach, and a first-time NFL coach serving as his quarterbacks coach. Perhaps Miami had the best of intentions with the hiring of Charlie Frye as the team’s quarterback coach given his relationship with Tagovailoa going back to the Elite 11, but Frye’s resume offered no clues that he was ready to play such a heavy role in Miami’s offensive system and the development of a young quarterback. Frye has three years of college coaching experience: one year at Ashland University with the wide receivers and two years as the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Central Michigan. 

The inability to construct a strong or even respectable offensive staff of coaches (four offensive coordinators and four offensive line coaches in three seasons) is reason enough to be skeptical that Flores is the right coach for these Dolphins if they’re going to be in the business of developing a quarterback. But Tagovailoa must first convince the powers that be that they should be in the business of developing him. That’s his only hope to win the chance to be the last man standing amid all of the contenders in Miami’s battle royale. 

That is, of course, assuming the Dolphins don’t act ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline first.

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