What to Make of Flores' Tua Comments

Dolphins head coach Brian Flores had some interesting comments about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
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There wasn't necessarily a lot of room for interpretation regarding some of Brian Flores' comments about Tua Tagovailoa in Peter King's weekly Football Morning in America column.

For example, when Flores says he's looking for improvement from everybody on offense and that it's not just about the second-year quarterback, it's exactly the type of comment you'd expect (and want) from a head coach.

For one thing, Tagovailoa absolutely will need better production around him in his second season if he is to take a significant step forward.

Besides, it would be an awful lot of pressure to put on one player by making him the focal point — even though it could be argued that it does come with the territory of playing quarterback.

RELATED: Flores Says It's Not All About Tua

And it's not like it hasn't been done before, though it's truly not Flores' M.O. Remember, this is a coach who said toward the end of his first year as head coach he wasn't a big believer in the idea of "stars."

Flores did acknowledge that Tua is at "top of that list" when it comes players who should improve if they put in the work and, again, it should be no great revelation that Tagovailoa indeed is doing his part in that respect.

Maybe the more interesting comments came when Flores discussed Tagovailoa's rookie season, particularly as it pertains to pulling him twice in favor of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

It was Fitzpatrick who was the starter at the beginning of the season before Tagovailoa took over during the bye week after the Dolphins had won two in a row to even their record on the season to 3-3.

But Flores called on Fitzpatrick to replace Tagovailoa in the second half of the games at Denver in game 10 and at Las Vegas in game 15.

"If he had started the season, we wouldn’t have pulled him," Flores said, per King. "We put him in. We’re in a playoff chase. At that point (second half in game 15, at Las Vegas, when Ryan Fitzpatrick entered in relief), it’s hey, we’ve got to do whatever we’ve got to do to try to win. But no, my confidence wasn’t shaken in him.”

The phrase "whatever we've got to to to try to win" is key here. That idea is why Flores shot back against the idea of a "Tank for Tua" campaign in 2019, evidenced by the Dolphins going 5-4 in the final nine games of that season, and it was why it was Fitzpatrick who got the call to start the 2020 season.

If Flores was about looking toward the future and not always looking to win the game at hand, then Fitzpatrick wouldn't have started the 2020 opener, nor would he have replaced Josh Rosen on a permanent basis in October of 2019 when the Dolphins easily could have justified sticking with Rosen to get a fuller evaluation of what they had after trading second- and fifth-round picks for him.

It's the same principle that applied in the two games where Fitzpatrick replaced Tagovailoa last season: It was about trying to win the game at hand.

So while Tagovailoa appears to be the unquestioned starter heading into the 2021 season, does anybody really think for a second that Flores would hesitate to go with Jacoby Brissett in a game where Tua struggled?

And isn't that kind of what Brissett suggested when he talked about signing with the Dolphins as a free agent?

“That was my deciding factor was the opportunity to compete no matter where I went,” Brissett told The AP in April. “I have no expectations going in there. Just to go out there, compete, play my best, get better every day, hold myself to a starter-caliber player in this league no matter the situation. I’m looking forward to the challenge, looking forward to the opportunity to grow.”

So, yes, Flores expects Tua to get better because the quarterback will put the work in to get better, but there's nothing in his comments to King to suggest he'll approach his quarterback situation during a game any differently than he did last year.


Alain Poupart has covered the Miami Dolphins on a full-time basis since 1989. You can follow him on Twitter at @PoupartNFL.