More support, confidence has altered Tua Tagovailoa’s career


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Tua Tagovailoa’s career-changing turnaround stems in part from a trust-inducing moment with Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel.

Prior to the season, McDaniel compiled a highlight video of some 700 of Tagovailoa’s greatest plays in an attempt to boost his young quarterback’s self-confidence. That detail was first reported on CBS’s broadcast of Miami’s 30-15 win over Houston on Sunday.

Tagovailoa’s first two NFL seasons were filled with turmoil. He dealt with various injuries. He was benched multiple times in his rookie year. When he failed to make a jump in Year 2, Miami actively searched for his replacement.

Tagovailoa told CBS that he looked in the mirror several times last year and asked, “Am I disgusting?” as the Dolphins’ confidence in him seemed to fade with each passing week.

McDaniel, hired by Miami in February, wanted to make sure Tagovailoa knew he had greatness inside of him.

“Anybody who gets drafted as a top-10, top-five quarterback, wants to be good,” McDaniel said. “To be recruited super high and then not meet the expectations of the franchise, it’s a tough place to live. That was the motivating factor behind it all.”

In Year 3, Tagovailoa has more support than ever in his professional career. And that has made the difference in his game. He has led the Dolphins to an 8-3 record and has the best passer rating in the NFL (115.7).

“I think anyone here can attest that someone believes in them,” Tagovailoa said, “and how that changes the way they see themselves but also the things around them, so perspective.”

Tagovailoa is 14-2 in his last 16 starts. His .875 winning percentage as of Nov. 21, 2021 is the best of any starting quarterback in the NFL.

Before being pulled in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, which the Dolphins led 30-0 at halftime, Tagovailoa completed 20 of 34 passes for 278 yards and a TD. He has posted a passer rating of at least 90 in each of his last six home starts.

“He had the stuff on tape. I think that’s a credit to him,” McDaniel said. “To his credit, he really listened, he took the training that he’s good. He said, ‘Okay, Coach, I believe you.’ And I think you guys have seen the waste up close and personal for a while.”

Miami’s defense had one of its best performances of the season on Sunday, generating pressure and turnovers, which has been a focal point in recent weeks. The Dolphins held Houston to 210 total yards, had a season-high five sacks, forced three turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown.

Miami’s running game has been inconsistent for most of the season, but it’s trended upward since the Dolphins acquired Jeff Wilson at the trade deadline. With Raheem Mostert sidelined with a knee injury, Wilson had 13 carries for 39 yards on Sunday, his fewest since he joined the team.

Safety Eric Rowe pitched in for a season-high 55 snaps Sunday and fumbled with a hit on Texans tight end Jordan Akins, leading to Xavien Howard recovering a fumble and scoring a touchdown. .

After veteran left tackle Terron Armstead left late in the second quarter with a pectoral injury, the Dolphins’ offensive line allowed four sacks. Armstead has dealt with a toe problem all season, but Miami’s offensive line is clearly better when he’s on the field. Brandon Shell replaced Armstead at left tackle, and it’s probably either Shell or Greg Little in that spot when the Dolphins face San Francisco on Sunday.

McDaniel said he would know more about the extent of Armstead’s pectoral injury after the tests. … RT Austin Jackson left the game with an ankle injury. He made his first start since Week 1 after dealing with ankle and calf issues.

174 — Tagovailoa’s pass attempts since his last interception, which is a Dolphins record.

Miami will begin a three-game road streak against San Francisco in Week 13. After that, the Dolphins will take on the Los Angeles Charges and Buffalo Bills before returning home to play Green Bay on Christmas Day.

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