I guess it’s safe to say that if Sean Payton was the coach of the Miami Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa would have little to possibly no room for error as a starter.
That’s what I gather after hearing Payton’s appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on Monday, where he went to bat for one of his former players.
Payton believes that at some point during Mike McDaniel’s first season as Miami’s head coach he will make a call to the bullpen for a new arm — in this case, former Saint and current Miami backup, Teddy Bridgewater.
“I think at some point we’ll see two in Miami,” Payton said to Cowherd. “I think at some point, and they played well yesterday with Tua, but Teddy Bridgewater I’ve had before, he’s an outstanding player. And I think that’s one of the unique things this year, I counted eight teams where I believe we’re gonna see multiple quarterbacks play. Not because of injury, but because of a controversy, if you will.”
Payton has more time on his hands this year than he usually does to offer the football-watching public his opinions. He left the New Orleans Saints after last season, and it appears that he was the Dolphins first choice to be their head coach in 2022. The NFL launched an investigation into the franchise following the lawsuit that Brian Flores filed against the NFL for racial discrimination. One portion of that lawsuit accused Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of surreptitiously setting up a meeting in which he basically ambushed Flores with a “prominent QB.”
That quarterback, per the content of the NFL’s investigation, appears to be Tom Brady. The investigation revealed that the Dolphins had “impermissible contact” both when he was on the New England Patriots roster, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Dolphins also had conversations with Payton before he had officially stepped down as the Saints head coach.
The reports from Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio and The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin in early 2022, were that Brady and Payton were coming to Dolphins as a package deal, with Brady either as quarterback or a minority owner.
We certainly know now if Payton was to take that job, it wouldn’t have been with the goal of molding Tagovailoa into the star quarterback that many thought he could be when he finished second in the Heisman trophy voting in 2018. Not when he heaped praise on Bridgewater, who despite winning his only five starts for the Saints in 2019 wasn’t brought back — and following that, underwhelmed as a starter for the Broncos and Panthers in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Who knows what Bridgewater could’ve been without that horrific injury, but today he’s not a player who can help any offense become more dynamic — even if his former coach believes in him.
Then again, nothing from the Dolphins 20-7, Week 1 victory against the Patriots should give viewers or fans supreme confidence that Tagovailoa — who is now 4-0 against Bill Belichick and the Pats — will become a top-tier NFL quarterback. Even so, nothing he did will have anyone else thinking that Bridgewater needs to be behind center — unless Tua gets hurt.
Miami’s signal caller wasn’t helped by the guys in front of him, either. I can confidently say after the first game the Dolphins’ offensive line has made minimal improvement from its disaster of a 2021 season. Running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert averaged 2.1 and 3.2 yards per carry, respectively, while Tagovailoa didn’t throw the ball down the field much as he dealt with defensive pressure.
In his third season as an NFL, regardless of the line play and how many games he missed, Tagovailoa need not repeat some of the poor decision-making he displayed in the fourth quarter. On a 2nd and 3 with just under nine minutes remaining, he rolled out on a designed bootleg to the right. Against mild pressure, he nearly threw an awful interception on a pass he lobbed right into double coverage. Then there were two times, when pressured, flung the ball into the ground. One was a near fumble, and the other could’ve easily been called for intentional grounding.
Despite that, there were enough positives to make the idea of Bridgewater sharing time with Tagovailoa not realistic in any way. He put the ball in the hands of his playmakers, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, whenever he could. And that 4th and 7 thrown to Waddle in coverage that went for a touchdown is the type of play that can change any game against any team.
But Payton didn’t get the Dolphins gig. And judging from what he said to Cowherd, if the 2022 plan was him at head coach and Brady in the front office, the Dolphins are lucky they got the league sued for systemic racism.