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McDaniel, Tua, Jimmy G and the Dolphins QB Situation

Can Mike McDaniel help Tua Tagovailoa reach another level as a quarterback or might he try to convince the Dolphins to trade for Jimmy Garoppolo?

The hope with the Miami Dolphins hiring Mike McDaniel as their new head coach is that he can use his highly respected football mind to help their offense take a major step forward.

But what does it mean for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa?

In light of the reports indicating the Dolphins wanted to hire a head coach willing to work with Tagovailoa (along with keeping most of the defensive coaches), it's really not surprising to now be hearing that McDaniel wowed team officials for his vision for the 2020 first-round pick.

It's also not surprising to hear reports like the one from Peter Schrager on Good Morning Football when he relayed this conversation he had with McDaniel over the weekend: "He’s bullish on Tua and is excited to maximize what he does best.”

It's exactly what you would expect — and hope — to hear from the incoming head coach, particularly after what the reports of the Dolphins hopes, because everybody obviously has to be on the same page.

Yet, it's probably not going to stop the speculation of a possible trade for a quarterback this offseason.

Let the Jimmy G speculation begin

And with McDaniel coming over from the San Francisco 49ers, one name that's going to pop up is Jimmy Garoppolo.

The former New England Patriots second-round pick is headed into the final year of his contract and it's difficult to see the 49ers not try to move him after they gave the Dolphins two future first-round picks and a third-round selection to move up from 12th to third in the 2021 draft for the opportunity to take quarterback Trey Lance. analyst Bucky Brooks included the Dolphins among the five best fits for Garoppolo this offseason.

"The Dolphins' new head coach might win the job by touting a plan to develop Tua Tagovailoa as the team's franchise quarterback, but having an insurance policy at the position is a sensible option if the third-year pro falters while adjusting to a new system," Brooks wrote for a story that appeared Friday afternoon. "If 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who is in the second round of interviews with the team, is named as the head coach, it is sensible for the Dolphins to make a play for Garoppolo based on their previous connection. Jimmy G's experience in the scheme and understanding of the standards could help the new coach institute a new culture while also chalking up a few wins along the way."

Here's where we step in to say we don't like the idea of making a trade for Garoppolo.

Now, we've said for a while the Dolphins absolutely should explore every avenue to try to upgrade the quarterback position if they have the opportunity, but here's the thing: It says here that Garoppolo really isn't an upgrade over Tagovailoa, and of the two options the Dolphins are much better off continuing to work with Tua to see where he can get.

Jimmy G vs. Tua

Because Tua supporters are always quick to point at his record as a starter, we could do the same for Garoppolo and he'd have a clear edge with his .702 career regular season winning percentage (33-14), which beats Tua's .619 (13-8).

Garoppolo also has a pretty big advantage when it comes to passer rating with a career mark of 98.9 compared to Tua's 88.8.

One argument against the trade is Garappolo's $24 million salary for 2022, though that obviously could be reduced with a restructure that likely would entail adding more years to his deal.

The other argument is that Garappolo hasn't come up big in big games and that ceiling is why the 49ers felt the need to make the mega trade to be able to draft Lance.

In six playoff starts, Garappolo has a putrid passer rating of 74.1 and only once has been able to top 90 — it happened in the 2019 NFC Championship Game when he attempted only eight passes in the 49ers' 37-20 victory against the Green Bay Packers.

The idea from this end about exploring trade possibilities at quarterback is to land an elite guy, if one becomes available, not somebody who'll succeed only if everything around him is functioning at a high level.

So Garappolo, from this vantage point, is no more a solution at quarterback than Tua would be if he keeps performing at the same level he did his first two seasons.

And forget about the idea of bringing in Garappolo as a backup because it sets up the dangerous scenario where McDaniel is tempted to go back and forth between the two QBs. And remember what they always say about how having two QBs is like having none.

What can McDaniel do to help Tagovailoa?

Well, right off the bat, helping the running game become productive certainly would help, though we'd caution against expecting the Dolphins to immediately get into the top five in that category because the 49ers were in the top 10 only twice in McDaniel's five seasons in San Francisco.

What about maximizing what Tua does best?

Well, let's be honest, what Tua does best is the short, quick passing game, which is exactly what he was doing during his high point of the 2021 season, the four-game stretch against Baltimore, the Jets, Carolina and the Giants when he had a 109.2 passer rating.

That was peak Tua right there and the key is trying to extend that kind of production beyond four weeks. The concern, of course, is whether can produce against better competition or when the team falls behind by a couple of scores.

While he hasn't played any playoff games yet, Tua's struggles against Buffalo the past two seasons and against Tennessee in that January game in Nashville were major reasons for concern.

It will be McDaniel's job to help raise Tua's ceiling if the Dolphins continue with him at quarterback and it makes more sense to stay the course there than make a move for Garappolo when his own ceiling pretty much has been established by now.