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What to Say About the Watson Talk and Tua?

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores expresses his support for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores addressed the media Friday for the first time since the latest rounds of Deshaun Watson rumors surfaced, so quite naturally he was asked about reports of his team looking to make a trade for the talented but embattled quarterback.

And, as he's done consistently since the Watson talk began all those months ago, Flores said exactly what he needed to say.

“I don’t really get into rumors," Flores said. "Tua is our quarterback. We’re happy with our quarterback situation and I’ll leave it at that, which I’ve said multiple times.”

There really wasn't anything else Flores could have said other than make a strong commitment to Tua for the rest of the 2021 season, something along the lines of, "We will not be trading for Deshaun Watson. Tua is going to be our starting quarterback for the rest of this season."

But it's been pretty well established by now, based on report after report, that the Dolphins do have an interest in Watson and a deal could be consummated if they ever reach an agreement with the Houston Texans when it comes to compensation — assuming they're comfortable with all the moving parts involved, namely Watson's status with the NFL in light of the 22 accusations of sexual misconduct.

So Flores saying that "Tua is our quarterback," well, it means what it means.

Yes, Tua is the Dolphins quarterback. He was in January when Chris Grier made that same statement and he remains the starting quarterback until such time as he's not the starting quarterback.

Look, this is not about taking apart Flores' comments because it's what NFL coaches must do. It's what Kliff Kingsbury did in the offseason of 2019 with future Dolphins QB Josh Rosen until the Arizona Cardinals selected Kyler Murray with the first overall pick in the draft.

So Rosen was "our guy," as Kingsbury said ... until he wasn't.

More importantly, what was Flores supposed to say? The head coach positively, absolutely, unequivocally has to publicly support his quarterback at the moment.

And when it comes to Tua, there's certainly a possibility — maybe even a probability — that he indeed could be the starting quarterback for the remainder of the 2021 season if a Watson trade doesn't materialize.

And maybe that's the best course of action for the Dolphins, though that's another story for another time.

This story is about managing a volatile situation, and there really was only one way for Flores to do it if a Watson trade remains a possibility — and that's to do what he did.

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The bottom line is that Flores' comments didn't mean anything one way or another in terms of what the Dolphins might be thinking in terms of a possible Watson trade.

It was the same thing with Tua's teammates, who all downplayed the idea of distractions whenever they were asked this week about the Watson rumors.

“They have been handled pretty well because nobody has changed," tight end Durham Smythe  said. "Everyone has been the same. That shows a lot of maturity that they can handle things said on the outside. We’ll keep handling business.”

Said defensive tackle Adam Butler: “You have to keep a level head. Focus on what’s important. Ignore the noise. Ignore the rumors.”

And this is what Flores said about distractions: “I really don’t see it as a distraction. I think our players are kind of blocking out all the stuff that’s gone on outside of our building. That’s what I’ve seen here in the building and meetings and practice. And yeah, I think our focus is on Atlanta and that’s really where our focus should be.”

Flores also addressed how the coaching staff would go about making sure the trade talk wouldn't affect Tua's psyche.

“I think his preparation, the way he practices and the way he performs has been good," Flores said. "I thought he played very well last week. I thought he was out for a few games and he came back and played I thought very well last week. I think his psyche is in a good place. He’s a confident kid. He’s a tough kid. And really, he’s played in two games this year so he should have a lot of confidence in the way he’s played. We have a lot of confidence in him because of the way he’s played ... Our focus is on Atlanta and trying for him to play well again and our team to play well again.” 

Flores also was asked a very poignant question about where he sees Tagovailoa's career headed after his first 12 NFL starts.

“I think he’s developing," Flores said. "I think this kid is smart. I think he’s tough. I think he’s talented. I think he’s accurate. I think he definitely has an opportunity to be a very good player. But there’s a lot that goes into that. A lot of work from him, a lot of work from us. It doesn’t just happen overnight. He knows that. We know that. There’s always bumps in the road for anyone in any career or any profession. I’m sure you’ve had your own bumps in the road. And you have to work through those, work through that adversity and you become better for it. He’s already dealt with adversity with the hip (injury). He’s overcome it and I think he definitely has a chance to be a very good NFL player.”

Again, these comments alone might suggest that Flores is eager to see Tagovailoa develop as his head coach, but they probably wouldn't be different if the Dolphins were on the verge of trading for Watson.

The bottom line is that Tua will remain the Dolphins' starting quarterback until such time that a trade is made or he could remain the starting quarterback through this season and beyond, maybe even for the next 10 years.

There should be some sort of clarity by Nov. 2 (trade deadline) at the latest because Flores' comments certainly didn't provide much of a clue.

The coach said what he needed to say regardless of how the whole situation plays out.


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