The Miami Dolphins have become the breakout offense of the 2022 NFL season with the combination of Tua Tagovailoa and Mike McDaniel gelling perfectly. As the Dolphins ascend into playoff contention, their coach and quarterback shed light on what got them here.
McDaniel wasn’t a popular coaching candidate at the start of the offseason and he initially wasn’t Miami’s first target. Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross wanted Sean Payton and tried to lure him with a historic contract.
- Tua Tagovailoa stats (2022): 2,564 passing yards, 19-3 TD-INT, 115.7 QB rating
McDaniel’s interviews sold the Dolphins on hiring a 39-year-old head coach. Soon after landing the job, Tagovailoa and McDaniel shared a special FaceTime call that proved to be a sign of things to come.
After defeating the Houston Texans, sending Miami to 8-1 with its quarterback strengthening his case for NFL MVP, Tagovailoa shed light on how McDaniel’s trust and genuine interest in building a relationship has made all the difference.
“Having someone that first off believes in you makes all the difference. Having someone that calls me randomly just telling me how much I mean to him and the things that he’s trying to accomplish and we’re trying to accomplish as a team. It’s cool. I’ve never had that, I’ve never experienced that. This is my first time experiencing that kind of relationship with someone that is the head coach of an organization — just love that guy.”Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa on Mike McDaniel (via CBS Sports)
It represents a stark contrast from how things used to be in Miami, especially during the 2021 season. With Flores serving as head coach, rumors flew about his desire to trade for Deshaun Watson. While the veteran coach downplayed reports that he had a rocky relationship with the Dolphins’ quarterback.
The environment is an instrumental factor in determining a player’s success. in Tagovailoa’s case, he played behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL with an offensive scheme that only made things worse. With the on-field situation already working against him, the lack of support from the Dolphins’ coaching staff impacted him mentally.
Once replacing Tagovailoa and Flores with two future Hall of Famers was off the table, the Dolphins’ front office and ownership took the right approach.
Related: Miami Dolphins schedule
Mike McDaniel on Tua Tagovailoa’s previous struggles
All of the issues in Miami were easily identifiable from the outside and even more apparent for those with first-hand accounts or experiences in the situation. As McDaniel explained this week, it was apparent that everything going on in Miami wasn’t helping the face of the franchise.
“From my vantage point, I felt like he was put behind the eight ball..If you are not able to play your strengths in your position — one of the reasons you’ve gotten there is you’re an unbelievable point guard — I felt, how could he (be confident) with all the things going on?”Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel on Tua Tagovailoa, via Marcel Louis-Jacquez
All of this perfectly captures the difficulty of labeling top draft picks a bust. The best players in college football land with the worst teams because of the NFL Draft order. While it’s a way of bringing long-term parity to the league, it also means putting young athletes in positions where they are more likely to disappoint.
- Miami Dolphins offense (2022): 25.6 PPG, 386.7 total ypg, 8.5 ypa,
Before McDaniel joined the Dolphins, Tagovailoa was headed in that direction. He was trending toward bust status and with a team that kept trying to replace him. Fast forward to December and he’s in the conversation for MVP with Miami looking like a Super Bowl contender.