Tua Tagovailoa speaks glowingly of Mike McDaniel while low-key throwing shade at Brian Flores

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Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa praised second-year head coach Mike McDaniel for how much joy he’s brought to the game of football for the team.

Tagovailoa also appeared to take a bit of a shot at former Miami head coach Brian Flores when speaking to ProFootballTalk’s Peter King.

“Levity within the chaos,” King wrote. “Hard to imagine Brian Flores inserting levity within the chaos while coaching a football game with Tagovailoa as his quarterback in 2021. Tagovailoa said playing for McDaniel has ‘heightened the joy of the game’ for the players. ‘We have so much fun,’ he said. ‘If you were to ask me this question two years ago, you probably would’ve never seen our guys get as excited on a sideline because it felt like more of a job.’”

Tagovailoa began his NFL career playing under Flores, who was let go by the Dolphins following the 2021 season. Miami then decided to hire McDaniel, who had an up-and-down first season as the team’s head coach but led Miami to a playoff berth.

The offensive-minded McDaniel has clearly helped Tagovailoa develop, as the former No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft had by far his best season in the NFL in the 2022 campaign.

Last season, Tagovailoa played the best football of his NFL career, partly because of the addition of Tyreek Hill to Miami’s offense. Still, McDaniel had a major impact as well, especially since he’s allowed the quarterback to enjoy his time on the field.

Tagovailoa threw for 3,548 yards, 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 13 games during the regular season. He also led the NFL in yards gained per pass attempt and yards gained per pass completion.

The Dolphins picked up Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option on his contract, tying him to Miami for at least the next two seasons. That should allow him to grow even more in McDaniel’s scheme.

While the Dolphins had some solid seasons under Flores, it appears that Tagovailoa didn’t exactly love playing for his former head coach. In two seasons under Flores, Tagovailoa compiled a 13-8 record in 21 starts.

The Dolphins made the playoffs in the 2022 season under McDaniel, but they were knocked out by the Buffalo Bills in the first round. Tagovailoa missed that game due to a concussion he suffered in Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers.

If the Dolphins quarterback can stay healthy, the team should take another step forward in McDaniel’s second season as the franchise’s head coach.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.