Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa blocking out critics: ‘If I can’t hear you, you’re not that important to me’

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Tua Tagovailoa seems to understand he’s in the crosshairs this season. But that doesn’t mean the Miami Dolphins quarterback hears what his vocal critics are saying about him prior to his third NFL season.

“I don’t know any of those guys,” Tagovailoa said Wednesday. “If that’s what they have to say, then good for them. … They draw people for clickbait or I don’t know, whatever that is.

“If I can’t hear you, you’re not that important to me. If you’re in my circle and I can hear you, what you’re saying, obviously you’ve got to be extremely important to me. So, if I can’t hear it, then it’s probably not important.”

Tagovailoa presumably can hear the words of new Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel. Branded as an offensive guru, McDaniel arrives from San Francisco aiming to get the most out of Tagovailoa, who has been the third-best QB in the 2020 NFL draft class to date, behind No. 1 pick Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, who went sixth — one slot after Tagovailoa.

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It’s undoubtedly a critical season for the QB. Year 3 is often a crucial barometer for young quarterbacks in general, and the Dolphins will have a decision to make next summer on Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option and possible extension talks.

If he’s not the guy in Miami, the Dolphins have extra ammo in the 2023 NFL draft to potentially select Tua’s successor. (One of their two first-rounders next year, coincidentally, comes via the 49ers from last year’s Trey Lance trade).

What McDaniel wants Tagovailoa to focus on this season is his “short term memory” and to have “deliberate intent on each play,” the coach said.

McDaniel added: “Tua is super hard on himself, which is a good thing, but too much of anything in excess isn’t. He has high standards. I don’t want it to impede the next play.”

This almost suggests that in McDaniel’s mind, Tagovailoa’s middling returns through his first two seasons might have as much to do with mental aspects as much as they have physical ones. Whatever the case might be, McDaniel appears set out to find out if his new quarterback can handle the future criticism that’s bound to roll in and thrive on the field while leading a remade offense, led by the additions of wideout Tyreek Hill, left tackle Terron Armstead, running back Chase Edmonds and, of course, McDaniel.

The time for Tua to prove his draft status and remain in the Dolphins’ plans is as clear as day: play better and score more points, and those critics likely will quiet up, whether or not he can hear them.

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