Tua Tagovailoa experienced how difficult the NFL can be during a challenging rookie season, one in which the former top-five draft pick admitted he didn’t know the full playbook. Perhaps Tagovailoa’s struggles correlated with the Miami Dolphins failing to snatch a playoff berth in the season’s final week, and knowing the playbook better is an aspect of his game Tua vows to improve heading into Year 2.
Brian Flores recently defended Tagovailoa, as the Dolphins head coach focused on how much better his quarterback has been at the team’s voluntary minicamp. Flores understands what his starting quarterback went through, as he had a front row seat to Tagovailoa’s triumphs and failures.
“They kind of go back to what we talked about last week with him being more comfortable, him just having better command in the huddle right now. Honestly, I just think he’s comparing last year to where he is right now, and I get it. I understand that,” Flores said on a conference call with reporters Friday. “I remember being a first-year position coach and coming out of that year, going into the spring, going into the next season and saying, ‘I could’ve been better last year. I should have been better. I’m better now.’ So I think contextually, I think we all understand where he’s coming from.
“I think he’s thinking about where he is right now versus that time a year ago, just reflecting. And that’s good. This time is about reflection and where you are now versus where you were six months ago. I think he’s worked hard to improve in a lot of areas, and I think he has and I think he’s kind of communicated that out.”
Flores discussed how Tagovailoa has a routine compared to last season, having a set schedule revolving around “how he studies, how he eats, how he trains,” which is an itinerary he didn’t have last year. Of course, it was difficult for Tagovailoa to develop a routine since NFL teams did not have a minicamp nor preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tagovailoa completed 64.1% of his passes for 1,814 yards with 11 touchdowns to five interceptions (87.1 rating). He also rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns. His interception rate of 1.72 was the second-lowest in team history and the sixth-lowest in NFL history for rookie quarterbacks (minimum 300 attempts).
Despite Tagovailoa’s up-and-down rookie season (one which he was benched three times), Flores is moving forward with his franchise quarterback. The Dolphins are looking to build, not review.
“Last year is last year. I’m more of a forward-thinker,” Flores said. “I think Tua – we’ve talked about his growth a lot from the last six months and how he’s reflected on that. I think my focus is on helping him improve on a daily basis. Obviously you use the past to kind of point you in the right direction of where to make those improvements and we’ll just continue to focus on this one day at a time and help Tua.
“We as coaches, that’s what we’re trying to do, is help them all get better, improve, reach their potential. If we can do that with the individual players and then pull it all together in different units, in groups; then hopefully we have a team that supports one another and can be productive on the field.”