Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has had a dream month. He’s the franchise’s most popular player, and outside of perhaps only Tyreek Hill, is probably its best player, too.
The Dolphins gave the fans what they wanted in Week 10: They mic’d up Tua for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, which was really smart. Tagovailoa had another great day — three touchdowns, no picks — and the Dolphins won convincingly.
So yes, there were plenty of Tua highlights in the 10-minute raw cut the team dropped Tuesday night. But the real value is what was learned beyond the X’s and O’s.
Tua Tagovailoa Mic’d Up Highlights
Tagovailoa, the third-year quarterback, is enjoying a breakthrough season and has gone from a question mark to an MVP candidate. He leads the NFL in QBR (82.6), yards per attempt (9.1), passer rating (118.4), and EPA+CPOE (.23).
But what about the man behind the numbers? That picture came into a bit more focus with the Dolphins’ video release.
Tua is Finally Having Fun
Perhaps the quote that best summarized Tagovailoa’s two trying years with Brian Flores came when he was asked if he felt wanted after the Dolphins made a strong push for Deshaun Watson before the 2021 trade deadline.
“I don’t not feel wanted,” Tua replied.
Fast forward a year and the answer would have a ton more conviction. Put simply, he’s feeling himself. His energy is off the charts.
When he’s not dicing up defenses, he’s putting together an audition tape for Dancing with the Stars. When things are going really well, Tua has come to enjoy doing the Smeeze (which those of us of a certain age had to look up).
Mike McDaniel has brought the fun back not to just Dolphins football, but has made football fun again for Tua.
“You look like a young me,” backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater told him after a Tua TD celly. “.. Bouncing around after you make a play. I like to see that.”
Tua is a Different Kind of Leader
Much was made about Tagovailoa not being a team captain in 2021, but it wasn’t until much later that the full reason was known publicly. Flores wanted each of the candidates for captaincy to get in front of the room and make their case.
Tua declined. And this week’s video helped explain why. It’s not something he seems super comfortable doing.
“I always stutter every time I give a speech,” Tua told Bridgewater and Dolphins assistant Darrell Bevell at one point. “I don’t know how to give a speech.”
But leadership can manifest itself in many ways. Tua made a point to go to most every teammate Sunday to provide some encouragement.
When Jeff Wilson was stopped short on a fourth-down run, Tua picked him up — literally and figuratively — saying, “that’s not on you.”
“The love out here, they’ll run through a brick wall for you,” Bridgewater told Tua at one point.
Dolphins’ Offensive Dominance Surprising Even to Coaches?
When the outcome of Sunday’s game was long determined, McDaniel and Tua shared a revealing moment. The Dolphins were supposed to take a big leap forward in 2022, but few outside the building expected them to be this explosive.
Heck, it’s fair to wonder how many people inside the building saw this coming.
Sunday marked the third straight game the Dolphins scored 30 or more points — the first time the Dolphins have done that since 2009. But one stat seemed to particularly impress McDaniel.
“We’ve punted twice in the last three weeks combined,” McDaniel told Tua, with a hint of amazement.
Credit should be shared, of course. The scheme, weapons, and offensive line are all much improved over 2021. But so is the quarterback play.
“You are playing at a very, very high level, dude,” McDaniel told Tua.
Tua replied, modestly: “Ah, I’ve just got to keep chopping wood.”
McDaniel’s reponse: “That’s the name of the game. But facts are the facts. You’re playing at a very high level. That doesn’t mean anything for the next time you’re on the field. But it’s OK to admit, ‘I’m not turning the ball over, getting the ball out, making smart decisions.'”
Tua Has Respect of his Peers
After the game, Tua sought out Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett — who was his backup in 2021. The two shared a warm embrace.
“Way to play,” Brissett told him.
Tua said back. “Love you man.”
He then found Browns pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who fondly told him, “I’m tired of you, too.”
That might have been in response to an earlier sequence when Clowney got around the edge quick and would have had a sack if Tua had not side-stepped the pressure and gotten the pass off.
Tua made a point to find Clowney after the play and say, “Hey Clowney, you were close!”
The Dolphins largely held stud defensive Myles Garrett in check Sunday, but Garrett wasn’t mad. He actually seemed impressed.
“Much respect,” he told Tagovailoa before both players went their separate ways.
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