MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel believes a seventh-round rookie who has never made an NFL start gives his team a better chance to win than a former Pro Bowler who is perfectly healthy but unable to practice the whole week.
That’s the fairest way to interpret McDaniel’s decision to name Skylar Thompson, not Teddy Bridgewater, the starter for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings — even if Bridgewater is, as expected, cleared from the concussion protocol late this week.
“It’s exciting,” Thompson told reporters Wednesday. “It’s a dream come true. It’s something I’ve worked for my entire life.”
Miami Dolphins’ Skylar Thompson To Start in Week 6
McDaniel has had an insanely challenging start to his time as Dolphins coach, with injuries to his starting quarterbacks in each of the last three weeks. Tua Tagovailoa and Bridgewater are both in concussion protocol, and neither could practice fully Wednesday.
But credit McDaniel for 1. Having the pulse of his locker room; and 2. Being the best communicator the Dolphins have had in decades.
McDaniel showed off both strengths during his Wednesday news conference when he gave a detailed rundown of the NFL’s most scrambled QB situation.
He began the briefing by announcing that Tagovailoa has progressed enough in the two weeks since suffering a concussion that sent him to the hospital to throw and practice on an individual basis.
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Tagovailoa continues to make big strides. But even if he’s cleared from the protocol in time for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, he will not dress or play.
“He hasn’t done a thing on the football field for literally two weeks,” McDaniel said. “That wouldn’t be fair to the player, that wouldn’t be fair to the team. I think that’s something that I don’t feel comfortable putting him in that situation.”
Bridgewater, meanwhile, is a totally different case. He is in the concussion protocol because of a technicality.
If the league hadn’t last week modified its head injury policy — and if a spotter didn’t see a stumble that literally no one else on the planet did or has since — Bridgewater would never have been pulled from the game. And he would have presumably practiced fully this week.
But that’s not reality. The reality is that Bridgewater is barred from practicing at all until Thursday, and then can only do so on a limited basis.
However, there’s a very high chance he will get the green light from doctors to play Sunday. Most coaches would roll with Bridgewater, even with limited reps.
McDaniel is not like most coaches.
Why the Dolphins Are Starting Skylar Thompson
McDaniel explained his thinking thusly:
“What gives me the confidence is that I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think the team would agree, in terms of their confidence [in Thompson]. You’re always trying to keep the pulse of how everyone feels. The quarterback’s job is to make people better. He’s, as you guys have noticed, how a lot of people have noticed, he’s not the run-of-the-mill rookie.
“But also, it’s not just about the quarterback. It’s about a collective group of individuals together. He’s going to have the opportunity to have all the full-speed reps this week because of the position is in in the protocol. We’re very fortunate to have three quarterbacks that our guys really believe they can operate at a high level with.”
The Dolphins’ locker room on Wednesday expressed the same faith in Thompson — who was fantastic in training camp and the preseason but made some rookie mistakes when thrust into action in Week 5.
“I think he’s just confident in himself. He’s got confidence in his ability to throw the ball, his preparation throughout the week, believing in what he sees when the defense shows up,” said wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. “Skylar is going to be one of them ones.”
McDaniel obviously agrees.
When he went through a post-mortem of Sunday’s loss to the Jets with Thompson on Tuesday, McDaniel told him context was important.
“Understand that game is that game,” McDaniel said he told his young QB. “Take it for what it is you got basically, your first start out of the way. This week have a great opportunity to hone in on the details of all the things you’ll be asked to do on Sunday. And so move forward with that and gain confidence with that, because if that’s the worst, that we’ll see which, you know, you talk about controlling the controllables. and you can if you’re, if you’re going into a game, especially as a rookie, completely blind without reps, if that’s the worst you’re gonna do, we’re all right.”