There, of course, is one notable exception:
This season, Tagovailoa is throwing interceptions at a higher rate (2.7%) than at any point in his NFL or college career.
His 10 picks are the fourth-most in football this year and are a big reason the Dolphins have the NFL’s eighth-worst turnover margin (-8).
The seven teams behind them in that category — the Falcons, Panthers, Browns, Raiders, Vikings, Patriots, and Commanders — are a combined 20 games under .500.
“He can protect the ball better,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Wednesday. “He knows that. There’s literally no one on the planet that is more angry every time there is a turnover. I’m just telling you. And with that, he has to use it constructively.”
Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa Talks Turnovers
Tagovailoa got two more teaching moments in Friday’s win over the Jets when he threw two picks in the span of seven plays, including one that Brandin Echols returned for a touchdown.
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) November 24, 2023
Tagovailoa is a perfectionist who internalizes any failures, and while he doesn’t spiral in the way he did at times before, he still beats himself up over those turnovers.
“I would say any quarterback in the league would probably get down on themselves the way I get down on myself when it comes to turnovers,” Tagovailoa said. “Especially when your defense is playing well, and you turn the ball over, none of us try to do that. We don’t ever want that to happen, but we do know it’s a part of the game that we play.
“So games are never won in the first, second, or third quarter, and I understand that. As we went into halftime, I knew that I just had to come out and just continue to play the football that I should be playing to the standard that I expect for myself and my teammates expect from me.”
To his credit, Tagovailoa often follows up a turnover with a scoring drive (Friday notwithstanding), and that resiliency is due in no small part to the positive reinforcement that McDaniel showers him with.
That dynamic was captured in the most recent Hard Knocks episode, which showed McDaniel lifting up Tua as he came to the sidelines after his pick-six.
“My personal opinion is that there’s an art to playing the game of quarterback,” McDaniel said. “When you’re able to execute at a high level, you forget that it’s a progression and as a player that is highly motivated and highly committed, there’s sometimes that the play to make is not throwing it to the other team. That’s the play.
“I try to do my best to minimize those situations where that’s the best alternative. But there’s sometimes when you’re playing the position, that’s a learning process. What I don’t do is just scream, ‘Don’t throw picks,’ because that’s like the coaching point ‘Catch the ball’ for me. I’m pretty sure everyone is trying. That’s why it is so important to be so deliberate every day and so intentional because you can recreate those moments of competitiveness.”
McDaniel has repeatedly pointed out how coachable Tagovailoa is, but at some point, players are who they are.
And in his career, Tagovailoa has thrown interceptions at basically the league average (2.3%). He’s seemingly always good for one or two interceptable passes a game.
The Dolphins’ championship hopes might depend on him dropping that number to zero or one.
“I take it upon myself every time regardless of Mike saying that it was his play-calling,” Tagovailoa said.
“He entrusts me to go out there with whatever play that we have, and if it’s not the right coverage that we want that play in, to get us out of it, throw the ball away to do something but not throw a pick-six in that situation. So, I appreciate the trust that he continues to have in me, but that’s something I can’t do.”
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