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Armando Salguero: How Brian Flores REALLY Felt About Tua Tagovailoa

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Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores spent much of the last two seasons telling anyone who would listen how Tua Tagovailoa was the Dolphins quarterback.

He repeated it time and again in press conferences. He sought out reporters, usually from national outlets such as ESPN, to have them relate stories about how the Dolphins were committed to Tagovailoa, even as some teammates were privately criticizing the quarterback.

At one point Flores said, “I don’t know how else to say it, Tua is our quarterback.”

That was in public.

Privately, Flores was not a big fan of his starting quarterback.

The picture one gets from multiple sources, including coaches on the Flores staff, is of a coach frustrated by Tagovailoa’s work ethic. Flores thought it was, per one source, “sh-tty.”

Flores was frustrated because he didn’t think Tagovailoa put in extra time on Mondays and Tuesdays during game week.

And if you know Flores, this won’t surprise: Flores didn’t keep quiet about it. He was “really hard” on Tagovailoa about it, per a source, even in the presence of others.

When Flores would find out Tagovailoa was golfing on off days during the season, he’d become upset and criticize him for that.

Flores benched Tagovailoa twice his rookie season, despite making him the starter, because he felt veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick gave the Dolphins a better chance to win. By the end of the 2020 season, Flores had lost confidence in Tagovailoa.

At one point in the 2021 season, he told people within the organization, “We’ll never win a championship with this guy,” referring to Tagovailoa.

To be clear: Flores was part of the collaborative effort to draft Tagovailoa No. 5 overall in the 2020 draft. He wanted Tagovailoa at that point.

Had Flores balked at drafting Tagovailoa back then, opting instead for Justin Herbert, who was the only other real choice, the Dolphins would have likely gone in that direction, even though general manager Chris Grier and others wanted Tagovailoa.

Flores did not ask for that before the 2020 draft.

But unlike Grier, who remains convinced Tagovailoa can be a good NFL quarterback, Flores jumped off the bandwagon when he saw Tagovailoa work during the week and play on game days.

The coach saw the preparation and results and soured on the player.

Flores was the leading proponent of the Dolphins making a push to trade for Houston QB Deshaun Watson, per multiple sources.

And here’s the ongoing problem this leaves for the Dolphins: Because Grier is a believer in Tagovailoa, he has a vested interest in seeing the quarterback succeed.

And so the Dolphins are looking for a new head coach who will at least be open to the idea of sticking with Tagovailoa and furthering his development.

That new coach will be given the authority to make up his own mind on the quarterback, but the Dolphins don’t want the coming evaluation from the new coaching staff to be biased against Tagovailoa before it begins.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

4 Comments

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  1. If Flores doesn’t think Tua is a good QB and lazy then he deserved to be fired all the more. Flores was part of the group gung-ho about drafting him! The finger points right back at him if so. This doesn’t make Flores look any better, just petty. The measure of a good coach is being able to reach all your players the way you understand they need to be reached, not just the easy ones. Again, that’s on Flores. Learn to coach different types of players.

  2. This explains some things but raises a point that I was not expecting. The last thing I expected was anyone complaining about Tua’s work ethic. After all he was the starter under Saban for multiple years,
    But I respect Salguero and believe him.
    We will know soon whether Flores is too harsh or Tua too relaxed. Maybe a little bit of both.

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