1-0. That’s the Dolphins’ record when Tua Tagovailoa plays a full game, and a mentality they look to hold after this week, when Tagovailoa returns from fractured ribs to face the Jaguars in London this Sunday.
Miami’s four-game stretch without Tua didn’t go so well, as Jacoby Brissett was unable to lead Miami to any wins against tough teams, with a combined 12-8 record.
But the quarterback wasn’t the only issue, however, as Miami’s offense is 31st in total yards per game, and last in rushing.
Miami’s defense was also unable to hold their own, allowing 30.8 ppg in the first five weeks, which is 30th in the league.
Considering Miami’s defense was looked at as a potential top-5 unit in the league, their disappointment cannot be understated.
But through the fire of a 1-4 start, Tagovailoa’s return brings a glimmer of hope to a unit that desperately needs one.
Bringing a 7-4 record as a starter, Miami has been significantly better with their potential franchise QB.
The offense was at it’s smoothest in Week 1, when Tua was able to orchestrate two RPO-filled touchdown drives against a tough Patriots defense coming out of the halves. The offense was clearly made for him, and with only one week of film under new OC’s Godsey and Studesville, it is truly unknown how successful Tagovailoa can be with this group.
But, even with a fanbase questioning the jobs of Tua Tagovailoa, Chris Grier, and Brian Flores, nobody needs a turn-around from this team more than the third year head coach.
First Two Years
Coming into the year, Brian Flores was looked at as a rising star in this league. In his first season, he was able to lead a Miami team bereft of household names to a 5-11 record, including an impressive win in New England against his former team.
2020 was more of the same. The defense took a major leap, placing 4th in scoring and finding a knack for creating turnovers.
But the offense, on the other hand, was mediocre at best. Finishing 15th in points per game (a number helped by several defensive scores), they struggled to find consistency in the run or the pass. These struggles were blatant against contenders like the Bills and Chiefs, both of whom Miami struggled to hold their own against.
So Miami went to their third (and fourth) coordinators in three years under Flores, promoting Godsey and Studesville from position coaching jobs.
Along with that, they invested significant capital in getting weapons for Tagovailoa to succeed in Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle.
Going into the season, there were reasons for optimism regarding Miami’s offensive group. They looked significantly more fluid in preseason and training camp, connecting on several big plays, and the new coordinators looked to be implementing more modern schemes.
Even with Miami putting up 17 points in Week 1, the offense had shown flashes that fans hoped would become a constant.
But before this could be realized, Tua went down with an injury and Miami was forced to go to Jacoby Brissett.
As previously mentioned, Brissett had truly started to uncover many of Miami’s flaws as a unit. Receivers were struggling to get open, play-calling was looking reminiscent of years’ past, and the former Patriots QB was missing reads and failing to capitalize in key situations.
But now, just as Miami’s season looks bleak, and Tua Tagovailoa looks to turn them around, Brian Flores’ career might depend on his success.
Now having his third offensive staff in as many years, Flores’ inability to lead a competent group has become a major concern. While defensive-minded Chargers HC Brandon Staley wows fans in interviews, Flores repeats the same ideas of wanting to get Miami’s situation under control.
One way fans believed Miami would do so was by potentially making a move for Deshaun Watson. Following a significant injury to their young QB, now looked like the time to acquire the troubled superstar.
But in the prime window to make a trade, Miami stood pat, signaling Tua has this year to perform. This coaching staff has shown faith in their QB that many believed wasn’t there, as he is the last resort.
So now, with Tagovailoa coming back, it’s his team. If he fails to succeed, Brian Flores’ inability to find consistency will stick out like a sore thumb. While teams such as the Bills, Chargers, Ravens, and Chiefs led quick rebuilds centered around a young, explosive QB, Miami’s has seemed to go the opposite way.
In his first year with real expectations, Flores has started 1-4, and neither side of the ball has performed well. But the return of his young QB brings momentum. A sense of spark Miami hasn’t had thus far, in a time when they most desperately need it.
The NFL is very much a “what have you done for me lately” league, and Flores’ future as Miami’s HC could be on the line if Tua Tagovailoa and Miami’s offense can’t meet preseason expectations.