The Dolphins head into their search for a new coach with firm support for their quarterback.
Tua Tagovailoa is expected to be the quarterback for the 2022 season, sources say, barring some sort of unforeseen occurrence. The organization's belief in him as their starter is considered significant, and it appears the search for a flashy replacement is over.
The franchise that was in trade discussions for Deshaun Watson for much of 2021 wants to build around and support Tagovailoa, rather than move on from him.
A new head coach will, source says, have the opportunity to evaluate every facet of the football team, including the QB. But the hope is to find a candidate who believes in him and can bring the best out of him.
The former first-round pick impressed in the second half of the season after getting healthy, leading to six wins in seven games that he started. He finished 2021 with a passer rating of 90.1 and a 16:10 TD-INT ratio. In fact, he played his best after the trade deadline when Miami explored but didn't ultimately complete a trade for Watson, who requested a trade from the team last offseason and did not play in 2021 amid 22 allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Dolphins have seven known candidates, all of whom are currently in the playoffs: Rams assistant head coach Thomas Brown, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Whoever gets the job will take over a team that won 10 and 9 games the last two seasons. While Brian Flores, who was fired Monday, assumed a team with bad contracts and aging players with the necessity to blow it up, the new coach will have a much better situation. Simply, improve the offensive performance and things look up.
Owner Stephen Ross said at his most recent press conference that he has "no plans" to pursue Watson again. That was truthful.
The new coach would come in with a belief in supporting Tagovailoa, not replacing him. Barring something unexpected -- some high-profile QB demanding a trade to the Dolphins, for instance -- the hire must have a plan to find a solution to the offensive issues in an organization where no one has given up on Tua.
That's one reason Daboll has emerged as an interesting name. He coached Tagovailoa at Alabama before taking over the Bills offense, and Daboll helped him become a top NFL prospect.
"I watched him grow," Ross said of Tagovailoa this week. "He's a fine young man, and he is right now our quarterback and that will be dependent upon the new head coach, but I have a lot of confidence in Tua."