Despite an up-and-down rookie season, Tua Tagovailoa will remain the Miami Dolphins’ No. 1 quarterback heading into next season.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores made the announcement Thursday in an interview with ESPN.
“A lot of attention gets paid to Tua, but I thought he made a lot of improvement over the course of the season,” Flores told ESPN. “I’m excited about the future with him. He’s a young player, talented player, bounced back from the hip (injury he sustained in college).
“I think this is a big offseason for him. That Year 1 to Year 2 jump will be important, like it is for all rookies.”
The comment echoes those of Miami general manager Chris Grier, who said after the 2020 season, “Tua, we’re very happy with. He’s our starting quarterback.”
The No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Alabama, Tagovailoa went 6-3 in nine starts this season. Twice he was replace midgame by the club’s former starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who fell short in relief against the Denver Broncos on Nov. 22 but guided the Dolphins to a come-from-behind win against the Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 26.
Fitzpatrick had a 4-3 mark as a starter in 2020.
The split duties didn’t cause any friction in the locker room, Flores told ESPN.
“Anyone who saw the Dolphins this year saw we were a tight-knit group and I think that’s still the case,” Flores said. “The idea that there is any kind of fracture is overblown. I thought there was a lot of support throughout the locker room.
“My message to the team has been to ignore the noise and the people inside the building are going to tell the truth to you. Without all the information, how do you make any determination about what’s going on?”
Tagovailoa, 22, completed 186 of 290 passes (64.1 percent) for 1,814 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was intercepted five times.
“We learned that he’s healthy,” Flores said. “He still has a lot of his mobility. He’s accurate. In the Arizona game, he brings us back in the fourth quarter. He brought us back in the Kansas City game. He also didn’t play as well in other games. He had some bright spots and not-so-bright spots. That’s the life of a rookie.
“If he continues to learn, study, stay healthy, get stronger, work on his footwork and his eye progression and pick up where he left off, then I think we’re going to be happy with his improvement.”
Fitzpatrick, 38, finished 183 of 267 (68.5 percent) for 2,091 yards and 13 TDs with eight interceptions. During a 16-year NFL career that has taken him to eight clubs, Fitzpatrick has a 59-86-1 record as a starter. In 165 total games, he has a 60.7 percent completion rate with 223 touchdown passes and 169 interceptions.
The Dolphins finished 10-6 this season, the best record of any NFL team that failed to make the playoffs.