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There are two ways to handle trade rumors in sports:
Squash them like a bug and let the resulting mess of puss and carcass serve as evidence that there is nothing to the rumor.
Let the rumor smolder — either because it’s absolutely true and there’s nothing that can be done about secret negotiations going public, or because you have some public relations policy that needs rethinking.
On Sunday evening, after his team completed its preseason with a 29-26 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Dolphins coach Brian Flores went the second route.
The first question the coach was asked after the preseason finale wasn’t about the game but rather the persistent reporting that the Dolphins have talked about trading for Deshaun Watson with the Houston Texans multiple times because Watson has a desire to play for Miami.
“You know, reports, speculation are not things we really get into,” Flores said. “Look, I understand the question but as I’ve said in the past, any conversations that we have or don’t have with other clubs are going to be internal.
“I’ve been pretty steadfast about that — with our players, with other clubs, and that will remain the case.”
It’s true Flores likes to run the Dolphins like a hermetically sealed can that offers no view into its contents. So it makes sense he doesn’t wish to comment on information that has leaked into public view.
That is simply his public relations philosophy.
But sometimes the philosophy betrays him.
And this is one of those times.
Because it’s clear he prefers to let both accurate reports and rumors linger in unison as a distraction around his team.
That’s the price for secrecy. He cannot say, no, it’s not true because his established policy is to always say nothing at all.
The problem, of course, is that this time the reports are true.
Despite the fact the Dolphins invested the No. 5 overall selection in the 2020 draft on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, they’ve engaged the Houston Texans on numerous occasions to discuss Watson.
This while publicly embracing Tagovailoa. Even on Sunday.
“I’m very confident in Tua,” Flores said. “He’s done a lot of good things this spring, this offseason, this training camp. He played well last week. And again, my conversation with the players are going to remain between me and that player.
“I talk to a lot of players every day. Obviously, I spend a lot of time with the quarterbacks. And, again, those conversations will remain between myself and that player.”
That’s a long answer. You know a shorter answer Flores could have used?
Tua Tagovailoa is our quarterback and we’re not replacing him.
That sentence does not betray any confidence or private conversation.
But Flores did not or could not make that declarative statement because it would be considered misdirection (or worse) if the club does indeed rescue the currently stagnant but ongoing trade talks with Houston and work a deal for Watson.
And so when Flores was asked again if it might not be beneficial to say the team is not interested in Watson, if he’s comfortable, this was his reply.
“I mean, I would say I’m interested in the players that are on our team,” Flores said. “That’s what I’m interested in. I’m interested in (third-string quarterback) Reid Sinnett who went out there and played his butt off tonight. I’m interested in (fourth-string running back) Gerrid Doaks, who we talked about a second ago.
“I’m interested in the guys that didn’t play today who we’re focused on recovery and being fresh for next week. That’s what I would say.
“I’m interested in the players on the Miami Dolphins.”
And with that the Flores press conference was over. And the Deshaun Watson to the Dolphins rumors continued to smolder.