Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores' press conference had rolled along for nearly nine minutes on Thursday before any reporter got around to asking about the team’s rookie starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins' game on Sunday will feature two quarterbacks who don’t fit the height specification for the NFL QB prototype, and the questioner wanted to know if the league’s perspective had changed in evaluating signal-callers in the draft.
But Flores took it as an opportunity to nip in the bud the idea that the Dolphins are not committed to Tagovailoa for the long haul.
“Now that you mention the quarterback, there’s a couple of things out there – let’s call it a source close to Dolphins' thinking is saying that we’re auditioning Tua,” Flores said. “I’m just going to tell you about my thinking. We brought Tua here because we believe in him, same as all the other draft picks. We believe in developing players, and I think you guys have heard me talk about the improvement of players on a daily basis. That would be the opposite of giving somebody a 10-game audition, so I guess that’s my thinking on that, just so everybody’s clear.”
Flores was referring to an espn.com article on Saturday. Citing “one source close to Dolphins' thinking,” it said Miami was switching from 16-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to Tagovailoa as its starting quarterback in the seventh game of the season because the Dolphins need to know if the fifth pick in the 2020 draft can cut it in the NFL before they plan their draft strategy for 2021.
The Dolphins hold the first- and second-round selections of the Houston Texans in the 2021 draft, obtained in the trade of offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil last year. The Texans have a 1-6 record entering their Sunday game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Right now, Houston’s former choices are the fourth and 35th in the draft, and Miami’s own picks in the first two rounds are the 16th and 49th. Plus with six other picks in 2021, the Dolphins have the positioning and the bargaining power to be a contender to obtain one of the top quarterbacks in next year’s draft if they want to.
By starting Tagovailoa now, Miami gets 10 games to find out if it needs to draft another quarterback was the gist of the article. But Flores intimated the Dolphins already had drafted their starting quarterback and now were helping him develop.
“I’m comfortable with what comes out of these 10 games,” Flores said. “I think since I’ve been here, I think everybody’s heard me talk about the development of players, improvement on a daily basis, so I just don’t see how someone close to Dolphins' thinking could say that this would be a 10-game audition. Not sure where or who that came from.”
In his first NFLstart and second pro appearance on Sunday, Tagovailoa completed 12-of-22 passes for 93 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in a 28-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
The Dolphins square off against the Arizona Cardinals at 3:25 p.m. CST Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, where the opposing quarterbacks will be Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray, the second- and first-place finishers, respectively, in the voting for the 2018 Heisman Trophy. Even though the Oklahoma quarterback won the Heisman Trophy, Tagovailoa earned the consensus All-American recognition that season as Alabama’s QB.
The Miami roster lists Tagovailoa as an even 6 feet tall and the Arizona roster lists Murray as 5-foot-10, prompting the original question that led to Flores' comments.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at?@AMarkG1.