Tua Tagovailoa's greatness was plain enough to see at the college level, but two years into his NFL career, the Miami Dolphins quarterback hasn't shined the same way. If pro greatness is in Tagovailoa somewhere, new coach Mike McDaniel believes he's the man to bring it out. And in an initial conversation with the former No. 5 overall draft pick, McDaniel told him so.
"We're going to have an extensive professional relationship, my man," McDaniel said on a video call with Tagovailoa that was distributed on the team’s Twitter account. "One thing I know about you is you have the ambition to be great. My job is to coach you to get all of that greatness out of you."
The former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator arrives in Miami at a point where his quarterback could probably use such a vote of confidence. The Dolphins and Houston Texans held discussions near the Nov. 2 trade deadline about a potential deal that would've brought quarterback Deshaun Watson to Miami. That's not exactly inspiring for a quarterback who, at the time, had only started 14 career games. Asked if he still felt wanted by the Dolphins as the deadline approached, Tagovailoa replied, "I don’t not feel wanted."
While the Watson trade never came to pass, Tagovailoa later lost a big supporter in coach Brian Flores, who maintained his belief in the quarterback's ability throughout the season but was fired a month ago.
Tagovailoa has flashed effectiveness at times in Miami, but a lackluster rushing attack and poor pass protection haven't made things easy. He also had a setback on injured reserve, with broken ribs, early in the season.
McDaniel is now in as Tagovailoa looks to reset for Year 3.
"It's going to be fun, man. It's going to be work. But I know you're not afraid of that," McDaniel added in his conversation with Tagovailoa. "So this is an awesome day for me. I'm damn sure going to make sure when you look back on this day, you are going to be like, 'Damn, this is one of the best days of my career too.' I will earn that from you too, OK?"
The club's first order of offseason business, through free agency or the draft, could be to improve its offensive line, which was among the worst pass-protecting lines in the NFL last year. If there is any NFL greatness to be gotten from Tagovailoa, McDaniel will need some time to find it, and his quarterback will need more time in the pocket.