Dolphins head coach Brian Flores showed a talent for understatement on Monday when he said that “it’s been an unusual kind of year and a half” for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins took Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft despite a serious hip injury that ended his final season at Alabama, moved him into the starting lineup despite getting good work from Ryan Fitzpatrick, pulled him in favor of Fitzpatrick during close games later in the year, and then saw him go down with injured ribs in the second game of this season. Everything in 2021 has also played out against a backdrop of a possible trade for Deshaun Watson that would mark a major change of direction before Tagovailoa has a full season of starts under his belt.
Sunday’s 30-28 loss to the Falcons was the 13th start of Tagovailoa’s NFL career. He was 32-of-40 for 291 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions in a game that head coach Brian Flores said shows that he’s improving as a player.
“I think he’s getting better every time he steps on the field,” Flores said, via Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald. “I think he’s pushing the ball down the field more, he’s making better decisions. I think he’s making quicker decisions. I think he’s doing a lot of things. Look, it’s a small sample size, but every time he steps out there, I see progress. I saw it yesterday for sure. I think he showed some grit and some growth, dealing with some adversity, dealing with a couple interceptions and then coming back and giving us an opportunity to win the game at the end. He’s a young player. Everyone develops at a little bit different pace, but I think he’s doing a lot of good things.”
There’s no sign that Flores’ feeling about Tagovailoa’s progress will stand in the way of a trade for Watson, which may mean that future improvements take place in a different uniform than the one that Tagovailoa’s worn during a fairly tumultuous start to his professional life.