Coming into the season, Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa was considered firmly on the “hot seat.” Called by some a disappointment as a second year player who had to overcome a devastating injury to play his rookie season, and with a supporting cast that could be generously considered mediocre, a 2022 season featuring a couple of additions along the offensive line and explosive WR Tyreek Hill was oft cited as his “last chance” to prove himself good enough to start in the NFL. All this at the ripe age of 24 years old, mind you.
The good news for Tua is that he also had a new head coach named Mike McDaniel, who immediately forged a close bond with his QB unlike predecessor Brian Flores who seemingly did everything in his power to kill Tua’s confidence.
“I don’t think [Brian] Flores was shy about telling [Tagovailoa], ‘Hey, I should have picked Mac Jones.’ I don’t think he was shy about telling him that. In fact, I know that he wasn’t,” Michael Lombardi said on The GM Shuffle podcast (h/t Zack Cox of NESN).
Lombardi—a former NFL executive with several teams, including the New England Patriots—said Flores directly criticized Tagovailoa in a conversation during the regular season.
“If I’d have knew you were going to be this bad, I would have picked Mac Jones,” Flores told the quarterback, according to Lombardi.
Between Flores and our modern, toxic social media culture, the super talented youngster went to some pretty dark places as he questioned himself.
Thankfully, Flores was properly sent packing in the offseason and McDaniel took the time to really connect with his young passer. This was an interesting answer when asked about Tua’s development this season, and how deep his confidence had been shattered.
Mike McDaniel on his early interactions with Tua, how he realized just how much damage was done to Tua's psyche and how he worked to restore his confidence. We really are blessed. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/jEUrmY3akj— I Ain't Him (@Phincane) November 27, 2022
The results? Eh, not bad, if you are into this kind of thing.
Tua leading league in:— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) November 28, 2022
QBR vs Man
QBR vs Zone
QBR under pressure
QBR in the pocket
QBR outside the pocket
QBR in the red zone
QBR in Q4
QBR on 3rd down
Any questions ?
Make no mistake, surrounding Tua with more talent has made a massive difference, but so much of football is mental. Nick Saban has famously (infamously?) been on something of a tirade recently about negativity surrounding the Alabama program and how it makes his job more difficult. McDaniel and his staff were able to get Tua’s mind right and focus on the work, something that Saban has preached consistently. It’s likely even harder to do that with younger players who haven’t yet cashed that first signing bonus check, if they ever will.
Watching Tua thrive in a better situation has been so satisfying after a college career marred by injuries followed by a rough start. May he continue growing and have the Hall of Fame caliber career that he was seemingly born to have.