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The man who is the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback now walked over to the man who the team has chased to become the starting quarterback going back to 2019 and the two had what seemed to be a pleasant chat on Wednesday.
Tua Tagovailoa and Tom Brady talked to each for a while during Wednesday’s dual practice between the Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and anyone watching could gauge no animosity or ill will between them, something Tagovailoa later confirmed to reporters.
“I was able to talk to Tom,” Tagovailoa said. “We were talking on the side for a good bit. He was asking how the offseason was. We were talking a little about golf at the same time. For the most part, 23 years playing, that’s a long time. That’s a lot of knowledge. So I was asking him some things. He gave me some good insight. I’m going to keep that between me and Tom.”
And that speaks to the respect each has for the other.
Tagovailoa obviously respects Brady’s accomplishments over a 23-year career in which he’s become the winningest Super Bowl quarterback in the history of the game, capturing the ultimate prize an unprecedented seven times.
Brady meanwhile, is perhaps like all the rest of us in that he respects Tagovailoa for his ability to be an incredible survivor.
Tagovailoa, about to begin his third NFL season, has already survived more coup attempts than any tin pot dictator. He’s weathered more attempts to replace him or sideline him than any quarterback in recent draft history, as he’s weathered countless storms and come out dry every time.
Think of it, since being drafted with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Tagovailoa has survived:
*Being benched multiple times his rookie year and having teammates (at that time) speak behind his back about their doubts he could turn the team into a winner.
*Bearing the brunt of former coach Brian Flores who had something of a hard approach for developing Tagovailoa in that he often spoke harshly and critically to him, sometimes in front of others.
*Surviving Deshaun Watson. Recall that the Dolphins were not only a chief player, but at one point the lone player in the 2021 in-season derby to trade for the Houston Texans quarterback. Flores wanted the trade. And club owner Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier weren’t sufficiently sold on Tagovailoa that they dared overrule Flores.
*And then the Brady flirtations. Those started in 2019 and continued into late 2020 and even into February of 2022.
Tagovailoa, in the shadow of a facility that Brady now trains in as the Buccaneers’ quarterback, was asked by a Tampa reporter for a reaction to the Dolphins’ tampering with Brady, as proven by last week’s release of an NFL investigation.
“It was in 2019,” Tagovailoa said. “I came in 2020. So they picked me”
Also in 2020, the reporter insisted.
“Also in 2020? Well, it’s 2022 and I’m still here,” Tagovailoa replied. “To me, that’s all noise at this point.”
It’s not just noise. The Dolphins were docked one of their two first-round picks in 2023 based on the investigation’s findings. And, yes, that affects Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins, you see, have prepared their roster with enough talent, they believe, to allow Tagovailoa to make a huge performance leap in his third season. But if he doesn’t, they once calculated, those two first-round picks would be good ammunition to find a new quarterback in the draft.
So, another potential replacement for Tagovailoa.
But like those past attacks on Tagovailoa’s grasp of the Miami starting job, this one is weakened to the point of seeming unlikely — even if Tagovailoa doesn’t show he’s elite.
The Dolphins would have to go another direction to find the latest in the litany of replacements because they no longer have the draft pick ammunition to trade up for a potential high pick.
Brady, meanwhile, now seems out of reach because it would look too suspicious for him to sign with the Dolphins as a free agent next offseason after it’s been proven the Dolphins have been illegally tampering with him since 2019.
Plus, there’s no guarantee Brady wants to play in 2023 anyway.
All that is looking way too far in the future to decipher now, of course. And that distance gives people such as coach Mike McDaniel the luxury of dismissing the subject.
“For me, nothing happened,” he said. “Everyone else is the one making it awkward. It doesn’t occupy a single iota of space with anybody. It’s hard enough to be good in this league.
“As the Miami Dolphins, all of our energy is very coordinated and only has to do with us getting better and everything else would be an opportunity cost that we’re not willing to expend.”
That is, of course, the right message and one that has to be music to Tagovailoa’s ears. Because try as he might to deny it, he’s been aware of the many attempts to displace or replace him.
He’s survived them all by playing just well enough to suggest he can get better next year and if he does that again in 2022, the narrative he’s definitely out will be harder to execute than it is to articulate.
So don’t be surprised if Tagovailoa continues to survive.
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and it was a surreal scene because thanks to some excellent reporting and Salt of the Earth Tua Tagovailoa was sharing stories about this trip across Florida and was talking about paying for teammates’ dinner as well their Uber ride, and visiting a mall and his approach to getting gas back home and it dawned on me.
This young man is just so humble and forbearing and tractable that it really suggests he not quit
“We got to go out to dinner with a couple of the guys the first night. Also got to actually just walk through the mall with a couple of the guys just yesterday and then go to dinner again. I thought it was a pretty good trip.
It was good to spend some time but also be with the guys in preparation a practice like this. So we were able to talk through some things we don’t normally get to talk through until the day of practice.
Tagovailoa said he picked up the dinner tab Tuesday night. A group of players piled into the big Uber ride the quarterback ordered and paid for and then they went to Ocean Prime
“That was a big dinner tab,” Tagovailoa volunteered. “But it was good. Everyone enjoyed themselves. And I picked up the Uber, too.”
Tagovailoa couldn’t estimate how many players were at dinner because the group was so large.
“I don’t even know,” Tagovailoa said. “I was barely talking to half of the guys because everyone was kind of far away from each other.”
“I don’t think anyone recognized me, no way. I was wearing some shades, a hat, a hoodie.
Nobody recognized me. They recognized the other guys but then I went to the bathroom when they recognized a couple of the guys or I just walked out of the store.”
Tagovailoa tried to tell reporters he doesn’t often get recognized in South Florida. And no one believed him.
“No, yeah, of course,” Tagovailoa finally relented. “But I barely go out so. It’s because I try to find a gas station when I have to go put in gas that I think nobody’s going to be at. And it’s weird because then everyone starts coming and pulling up. You know, sometimes nobody knows it’s me. Like some older people go to the gas station that I go to. You know, I like it, I love it, so it’s good.
“anything over a thousand dollars, that is, by gosh, that is a lot of money. That’s a lot of money.”