Fins’ Flores won’t be pressured into starting Tua

  • Covered the Broncos for two seasons with the Denver Post
  • Graduate of the University of Houston
  • A native of Jackson, Miss.

With increasing questions about when rookie Tua Tagovailoa will be elevated to Miami Dolphins starting quarterback, coach Brian Flores proclaimed he won’t be pressured into playing Tagovailoa while noting his past hip injury remains a factor in the decision.

“He’s checked all the boxes from a medical standpoint. He has. Look, the honest thing for me is if it was my kid, and he had a serious injury like that, I wouldn’t want his coach to throw him in there because of media pressure or anything like that. That’s kind of how I approach this situation and really all situations,” Flores said. “The players, essentially, they are my kids. So no one is going to pressure me into doing anything. When we feel like he’s ready to go, we’ll put him in.”

Ryan Fitzpatrick has started the first four games of the Dolphins season leading the team to a 1-3 record, including Sunday’s 31-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, a 69% completion rate, six total touchdowns and five interceptions. Tagovailoa has been active for every game so far as the No.2 QB but hasn’t played a snap yet.

Flores, who had a notable pause when asked, fell short of officially naming the veteran quarterback his Week 5 starter for Sunday’s game at San Francisco, but he said he would “presume it’s going to be Fitzpatrick.” He also noted the coaching staff typically meets Monday evening for day-after-game evaluation and potential starting lineup changes.

The 37-year-old Fitzpatrick is a team favorite and captain, but his play has been up-and-down this season and he’s clearly not the long-term answer in Miami. He knows that, saying earlier this year that he’s a “placeholder” for Tagovailoa.

After throwing two interceptions in Sunday’s loss, Fitzpatrick said: “I walk out of this game feeling terrible in that I felt like there was a lot of guys on our team that played well enough to win and I, unfortunately, was not one of them. And when that happens and your quarterback doesn’t play up to his ability, then you’re not going to win a whole lot of games in this league.”

“I thought we moved the ball pretty efficiently yesterday,” Flores said of Fitzpatrick, who totaled 362 yards and led six scoring drives Sunday (five field goals, one touchdown). “Look, I understand where everybody’s coming from with Tua. I get all that. At the same time, he’s a young player. He’s coming off the injury.”

Tagovailoa has not been made available to speak with the media since August 29. He hasn’t been on the injury report with his hip injury since Week 1. It has been 10 1/2 month since Tagovailoa suffered the injury

Of the rookie quarterbacks selected in the top-10 from April’s draft, Tagovailoa is the only yet to play. Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert have both played well in early action despite being on teams with losing records. Flores says their play doesn’t impact how he handles the Tagovailoa situation.

“No, I think every player’s different, every situation is different. No. I really don’t look at other players. I don’t play the comparison game,” Flores said. “We’re going to do what we feel is best for the Dolphins and for the individual players. … It’s all case by case. We don’t look at other situations and make decisions off of what other people are doing.”

Last season, Fitzpatrick started the first two games of the season before an abrupt midweek switch to Josh Rosen ahead of the Dolphins Week 3 game at Dallas. Rosen struggled immensely in three starts then Fitzpatrick was put back in the starting lineup for the rest of the season and played well.

But unlike last year’s situation, when the Dolphins hand the team over to Tagovailoa, it will likely be for good.

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