Prior to the 2022 NFL season, the general consensus across the NFL was that Miami Dolphins Tua Tagovailoa was at risk of being labeled a first-round bust.
Though he had enjoyed some success in his first two seasons in the league, he had not yet been able to prove that he had what it takes to be a franchise quarterback. That’s all changed this season, and Tagovailoa is currently even in the MVP conversation, according to some.
Based on the belief of Dolphins quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell, first-year head coach Mike McDaniel has played a major role in that shift. As Dolphins fans know quite well, Tagovailoa and former head coach Brian Flores did not have the best relationship.
It sounds like McDaniel has found a way to balance Tagovailoa’s very high expectations for himself with a more supportive approach to coaching.
“He has been very hard on himself, and he has had people that have been very hard on him as well,” Bevell told Kalyn Kahler of The Athletic. “At times that can hurt you because you can’t let things go. And you continue to dwell on those. And a lot of times if you do that, then we compound the problem. So it’s been our mission a little bit to try to help get him out of that. Because he is so hard on himself, so it’s like, we don’t need to double down on it.
“Mike does a great job with that, and then I kind of try to play right in the middle, where there are times where it’s like, yeah, you know that already, so how do we overcome it and how do we fix it? Just reinforcing the good and then, when things are not good, say all right, we don’t need to beat ourselves up about it, what can we learn from that situation to get better at it?”
Bevell spoke of the rehabilitation that Tagovailoa has gone through as a result.
“There’s been some rehabilitation,” Bevell said of Tagovailoa. “You know, processing there, just to get our mindset and our psyche where we can have some positive experiences to get our confidence back to where it needs to be.”
It’s an important reminder of just how important coaching can be, even at the highest level of the sport.
For Tagovailoa, the difference between this current season and his first two seasons have been stark. In his first two seasons, Tagovailoa started 21 games and threw for 4,467 yards, 27 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on a 66.2 completion percentage.
Already this season, Tagovailoa has passed for 1,980 yards, 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He’s completing an incredible 69.9 percent of his passes as well. Though he has started seven games this season, he’s only finished six. All six of the games that he’s started and finished have resulted in Dolphins victories.
When it comes to Tagovailoa himself, he’s still figuring out how to manage McDaniel’s boundless positivity.
“It’s mostly internally now,” he said. “I don’t show it as much when I am around Mike, but I do show it when I am around guys that I know won’t tell me what I feel like I want to hear at times. Because of how overly positive Mike is, and so, it’s like a give-and-take kind of deal.”
So far this season, there is no denying that Tagovailoa has looked like a different player. While McDaniel is not the only reason why, his role cannot be overstated.
There is a realistic path in which the Dolphin enter the final six weeks of the 2022 season with an 8-3 record. At that point, a playoff berth would likely be just a couple of more wins away. Suffice it to say, McDaniel’s first year calling the shots is going about as well as anyone could have hoped.