"Cool" was the buzz word for Tua Tagovailoa on Wednesday when he conducted his first media session with South Florida reporters since last season, and the Miami Dolphins quarterback used it frequently when talking about new head coach Mike McDaniel.
The Dolphins have had only two practices this offseason after completing their two-day voluntary veteran minicamp, but Tagovailoa already is ahead in one very important category: the quarterback-coach relationship.
Tagovailoa didn't use the exact words, but what he said and didn't say certainly painted the picture of a different dynamic with McDaniel than he had with previous head coach Brian Flores.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen the videos of him at the luau; I think that speaks a lot," Tagovailoa said. "That’s kind of how the relationship has been. Very supportive. He wants to hang out. I go up there to his office and tell him I’ve got a couple of the guys coming over to hang out and he feels bad that he didn’t get an invite to come over and hang out. (laughter) It’s been a really cool relationship. It’s been different, but it’s been super cool.”
Tua Can Be Leader In His Own Way
That word — "cool" — came up again when the topic of leadership came up, specifically what Tua has done to grow in that role.
“I think the cool thing about being on this team under Mike is that Mike doesn’t force you to be what you’re not or what you don’t want to be," Tua said. "If this is how you lead, that’s all he wants you to do is lead the way you lead. He doesn’t want anyone to pull that guy to the side and tell him how bad his route was and whatnot and come back to the huddle. It’s more like, ‘Hey, go talk to the guy. Tell him what your thoughts are. He’ll tell you what his thoughts are. Meet in the middle,” and that’s what that is.
"For me, I’m not a guy to go screaming at the defense if they bust a coverage and we’re trying to get some work. After all of that, when our set is done, I’ll go over and kind of talk to them and say, ‘Hey, we really need you guys to help us on this because if you guys don’t give us the looks, then we’re not going to be able to execute that right in the game.’ For me, my leadership role on this team hasn’t changed. Just be myself. What more can you ask?”
For his part, McDaniel has been consistent in his public support of Tua, starting with the now-famous phone call from the plane on his way to South Florida that the Dolphins posted on their social media channels.
“I think support for any of us as players means a lot," Tagovailoa said. "We understand that the NFL is a tough industry. It’s tough to play because you’re playing against the best every Sunday. But to be able to have support of the head coach, the head guy, that should tell you a lot.
"There are a lot of changes, and a lot of good changes, I guess, with the people that we’ve picked up and the guys that we’ve acquired as well. The locker room feels different. We’re all excited. This is the first time I’ve seen a lot of guys show up to Phase I of OTAs and a lot of veterans are showing up to it. I think that speaks a lot to Mike and the relationship he has with a lot of the guys on the team and the amount of respect that he has from the players in the locker room.”
Tua And Flo
In the interest of fairness, we should point out that it's also the first offseason of Tua's NFL career where COVID protocols aren't in place (which would help contribute to attendance and mood) and Flores also did speak positively of Tua when he was asked.
Flores wasn't necessarily glowing in his praise, but then again that wasn't his style with any player, not just Tua.
All that said, it's pretty obvious that Tagovailoa and Flores didn't have what anybody would call a great relationship.
If there were any doubts, those disappeared when Tua was asked about it Wednesday.
“That’s a big question," Tua said. "Well, I’ll tell you this. I’m very thankful that he drafted me to come here to play for the Miami Dolphins. That’s what I’d say.”
If that's not saying a lot without saying a lot ...
And, while there has been no official confirmation of this by Tua, we can safely assume he never invited Flores to hang out.
Then again, inviting any head coach to hang out is unusual.
In fact, a media member flat-out told Tua toward the end of his media session that players just can't do that.
“You can," he replied. "This one, you can.”
Mike McDaniel is that cool?
"He's that cool. Yeah."