Canes announce Aristide as new LB coach following T-Will Departure

Travis Williams’ tenure as linebackers coach at Miami was short-lived and as a result, head coach Manny Diaz found himself yet again searching for a candidate that would assist with coaching up Miami’s poorest unit in 2020. The Canes officially announced on Monday that Ishmael Aristide would take over the reigns as the new outside linebackers coach.

 

Aristide spent the last two seasons as a defensive analyst for Texas A&M, where the Aggies defense allowed 317.3 yards/game, 9th-best in the country and tops in the SEC.

 

Before College Station, Aristide had stops at Ole Miss (player personnel analyst in 2017-18) and Auburn (GA in 2016). He played collegiately at Purdue from 2009-12.

 

Per a UM press release: “We’re excited to welcome Ishmael to the Hurricanes program,” Diaz said. “He is a sharp defensive mind and relentless recruiter who will be a great addition to our coaching staff.”

 

ANALYSIS

 

Now I know Aristide’s name might not ring a bell at first. This is because it is Aristide’s first gig as an on-field coach so he’s definitely not proven in terms of player development and relationships with current roster players.

 

This leads me to my next point on why Aristide is a big get for the Canes. Aristide made 247Sports’ most recent “30Under30” list, which notes the top 30  up-and-coming coaches under the age of 30. Here’s what 247’s Chris Hummer had to say on Aristide:

 

“Take a look at any member of Texas A&M’s 2020 recruiting class, and there’s a pretty good bet Aristide had a role in helping to land that player. Considered an elite recruiter, Aristide aided the Aggies’ pursuit of players like Donell Harris and one of the deepest defensive back classes in the country. He’s also been a big asset for Texas A&M’s defensive back room, working alongside defensive coordinator Mike Elko. Aristide came to College Station from Ole Miss, where he served as a senior defensive analyst from 2017 to 2019. Before arriving in Oxford, he was a GA at Auburn. The former Purdue Boilermaker is someone we expect to have an on-field role sooner rather than later. Those around the Aggie program are very high on him.”

 

It’s clear that Diaz jumped on the chance to get Aristide on his staff knowing that he is held in high regard, a great recruiter, and a Miami native.

 

Let’s start off with his recruiting prowess. Texas A&M has compiled top-7 classes in the past two recruiting cycles  and a big catalyst for both classes was Aristide.Fisher counted on Aristide to land a lot of the big fish that would eventually make their way to College Station, including former longtime Miami commit and four-star DE Donell Harris. If you don’t (or don’t want to) remember, Harris was a highly-rated defensive end that was initially in the 2021 class but switched to 2020.

 

He did graduate from an Orlando-area high school but his Miami roots do run deep outside of changing one recruit’s mind. If the Canes didn’t already build a fence around Miami Northwestern High after the 2021 recruiting class, it’s interesting to note that Aristide’s father Wallace is the principal.

 

All in all, it’s definitely far from a given that he will provide exponential growth to the linebacker room. But Manny Diaz recognizes that the next two recruiting classes are flooded with South Florida prospects and adding a fourth coach with major South Florida ties (TRob, DVD, Stephen Field, Aristide) should pay major dividends.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the opening night event for Super Bowl 54. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports Network)

Veterans vs. Newbies: The NFL Playoff Story

The playoffs in the 2020-2021 NFL season holds a special matchup. While the NFC has 3 starting QB’s over the age of 36, the AFC has 4 starting QB’s under the age of 26, and the youngest QB in the NFC is older than the oldest QB in the AFC.

After Wild Card Weekend, the Bills, Ravens, Chiefs, and Browns are left in the AFC, while the Buccaneers, Packers, Saints, and Rams are left in the NFC.  Here’s how I view the battle of the Veterans vs. the Newbies.

The NFC has over 200,000 total passing yards and 1600 total passing touchdowns between the 4 QB’s competing for the divisional title.

Between the 4 teams in the NFC, there is a lot of talent but the division title will only go to one of them.

Here is where I rank each of them throughout the playoffs:

4. Rams: I think that the Rams will lose their game to the packers next weekend. The Rams showed promise against the Seahawks, and beat that very talented team, but I can’t see the Rams stopping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

3. Buccaneers: The Buccaneers probably have the best offense in the NFC. Between the GOAT, Tom Brady, and his explosive receiving core, that offense is amazing. Unfortunately for Brady and the Bucs, it seems like the Saints have been their kryptonite. I think that the Buccaneers will lose to the Saints next weekend to be the 3rd best team in the NFC.

2. Packers: This is a risky placement for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams have been unstoppable, and while they should definitely make the divisional game, I think that the Saints(or Buccaneers) will be able to take down the Packers to grab the divisional title.

1. Saints: I really believe in Drew Brees to make it to the Super Bowl. He has an amazing defense, and an unstoppable offense on his side, along with an extra desire to get in, due to his past 3 years in the playoffs, as he got knocked out by the Vikings twice, and the Rams once, stopping him from making the Super Bowl. I think Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and the Saints defense can bring a divisional title to New Orleans.

 

The AFC is a fully different story. Every quarterback is age 25 or under. Between the four QB’s, they have less than 45,000 passing yards and under 300 total passing TD’s.

These young quarterbacks are easily some of the best in the game already. While Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson have won an MVP, Josh Allen was a top 3 contender this year for sure, and Baker Mayfield is starting to play much better.

Out of the 4 AFC teams, here are my bets for the playoff standings:

 

4. Browns: The Browns portrayed a shocking performance against Steelers. While the defense played amazing, and Baker mayfield carried the offense to a 48 point showing, I can’t see them holding the Chiefs offense enough to win.

3. Ravens: Lamar Jackson is terrifying to play against. His arm, along with his speed and agility, make the perfect dual threat QB. I think they will be close but, I think the Bills will come out on top in this game.

2. Bills: Josh Allen just played the best year of his life and has been leading his dominant team. Stefon diggs led receivers in yards in the regular season, and has also been playing amazing, earning them the number 2 spot in the AFC

1. Chiefs: I’m sorry, but I don’t see a world where anyone beats the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce are unstoppable in the passing game. The Chiefs offense along with a pretty skilled defense shouldn’t lose to anybody in these playoffs.

Overall, I think the young group of the AFC will beat out the veterans of the NFC, and the Chiefs will beat the Packers in the Super Bowl.

Can experience win, or will the new guys be able to take the ring.

This Dave Hyde Article About Tua Tagovailoa Sucks

Dave Hyde is a sportswriter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. And this Dave Hyde article sucks. We’re not saying that he’s incompetent and should lose his livelihood (he’s won major awards!). What we are saying is that, like his colleagues in the South Florida sports coverage community, he tends to fall back on lazy hot takes and cliches and Tweets. Well, no more. This aggression will not stand, man. Because that’s enough with that shit, already. He and his buddies should do better. And until they do, we’ll be here to call them on it.

LET’S GET DAVE’S ASS and his Sunday Dolphins article.

A bad Dolphins day, an ugly finish — and now an offseason riddle about Tua’s future at QB (published on Sunday, January 3, 2021)

If I’m Miami Dolphins owner, Steve Ross…

We’re simpatico like that. I call him Steve. Sometimes I call him Stevesy. Sometimes he calls me Davey Bean Dad.

I give general manager Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores a few days to decompress…

THE SUMMER OF FLORES.

… before sitting them in a room…

I’d sit Chris Grier and Brian Flores in a room. Like an Escape Room where they have to solve their own murders!

…and asking: Do they still trust their careers with Tua Tagovailoa’s future?

I’d sit them in a room and ask them questions like: Do you still trust your careers with Tua Tagovaiola’s future? Have you ever seen your father naked? Do you own a My Pillow? Have you ever ordered a cheeseburger at a Wendy’s drive-thru and then immediately driven to a McDonald’s drive-thru to order fries? Have you ever walked in on cats doing it and then just let them finish? Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party? How much money would it take for you to spend the night in a cemetery? Why do old people like to grasp your arm with a grip-of-death when they talk to you? What’s the deal with that Megan Thee Stallion? Have you ever visited the Chinatown section in a major city? Isn’t it sad that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs? What the fuck IS a Bean Dad?

Yes or no.

Black or white.

In or out.

Day or night.

No hemming, no hawing…

No shenanigans! No tomfoolery! No ballyhoo!

No talking of dropped passes or assertions about needing better players around him.

No talking about the actual real problems this team has! Fuck that.

Shove your excuses and assertions about Tua having no weapons up into your asshole, Dolphins! Even though Dave Bean Dad Hyde made this exact argument for Ryan Tannehill back in 2018 when he had better weapons than Tua. He quoted Bill Walsh and everything!:

“[Tannehill’s] good enough, in other words, if the team around him is good enough. “Organizations make quarterbacks,’’ the great Bill Walsh said, and he should know, as Joe Montana and Steve Young had a great system with Hall of Fame talent around him in San Francisco. Update that to the last Super Bowl, when Philadelphia’s Nick Foles moved in for injured Carson Wentz and won. That’s why of all the odd moves the Dolphins made this offseason –– ridding themselves of talent, signing four free agents over the age of 32 by the first kickoff — hoping on Tannehill should be the most logical one.”

I can write inconsistent shit like this because I have no accountability. PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO SUN SENTINEL ONLY NINETY NINE CENTS FOR FOUR WEEKS.

Is Tua still The Guy or not?

Tua was forced to throw the ball to a guy not good enough to make the Patriots this year and two running backs you literally never heard of until last month who were statistically the worst at breaking tackles BUT IS TUA STILL THE GUY OR NOT COME ON ANSWER THE QUESTION.

And, beyond that, after Tua’s unimpressive rookie year…

An unimpressive 64.1 percent pass completion, and a passer rating of 87.1 — which are better numbers than what Josh Allen put up his first two seasons.

Moreover, according to non-Dolphins beat writer and overall cool dude, @BaseyCrock, Miami’s receivers had the third most drops and were 27th in yards after the catch while, as mentioned above, their running backs were dead last in yards after contact — and third lowest yards per carry. But I remain UNIMPRESSED WITH THIS PISSANT HAWAIIAN BOY.

…Ross should ask why the Dolphins (10-6) wouldn’t be in the market for another top quarterback with their third-overall 2021 NFL draft pick.

No, he shouldn’t ask that. Because this is real life and not fantasy football where Dave Hyde’s Pussyhammers finished first in his 12 team redraft Yahoo! Fantasy League this year after taking Aaron Rodgers with his fourth round pick. A draft day steal! DAVE HYDE’S PUSSYHAMMERS WILL FUCK YOUR SHIT UP!

The fact last January’s question remains this January’s question says the Dolphins drafted the wrong quarterback last spring.

This sentence makes no goddamn sense. Please consider subscribing to the Sun-Sentinel for more sentences like this one.

If there was a re-draft today, the quarterback the Dolphins passed on, Justin Herbert, would be taken over Tua. It’d be a slam-dunk, too.

DeVante Parker and Isaiah Ford would be dropping passes left and right with even more GUSTO with Justin Herbert in there. Slam dunk and other obscure 1970s sports idioms slap me some skin oh yeaaa!

For that matter, if we’re doing hypothetical replays, the quarterback the Dolphins passed on a few years back, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, would be drafted before anyone except Patrick Mahomes.

Once again, Tua had a better rookie season than Josh Allen’s first two seasons in the league. Google is a thing you can use for your own edification.

In fact, Allen’s number one receiver, Stefon Diggs, finished this season as the best receiver in the NFL across the board in all major stats (look it up). Entering his third season as a pro this year, Josh Allen was dismissed as an “athletic QB with accuracy issues.” Then Diggs, a Pro Bowl wide receiver with great hands and wheels, arrived from Minnesota via a trade. And now Allen is in the MVP conversation and being mentioned with the likes of Patrick Mahomes. Weapons fucking matter. But who are we to question the wisdom of Dave Hyde, virtual GM of Dave Hyde’s Pussyhammers?

Allen, a certified star….

Josh Allen, A CERTIFIED STAR, has Stephon Diggs, the NFL’s number one receiver according to Pro Football Reference. Tua, a rookie who has played in a total of nine pro football games in his life, has DeVante Parker, the 48th ranked receiver according to Pro Football Reference.

Do you see a pattern with quarterbacks here?

YES! One quarterback has Stefon Diggs, a man with bear paws for hands, and the other has DeVante Parker, a man with shoe horns for hands.

Haven’t you seen it for 20 years?

Six of those years we’ve seen you defend Ryan Tannehill for the same exact stuff you’re now spraying your Dave Hyde shit all over Tua about.

It’s why for this latest rebuild to be a success, the quarterback has to be a success. Until then, all conclusions are on hold.

ALL CONCLUSIONS ARE ON HOLD. EXCEPT FOR MY CONCLUSIONS WHICH IS THE DOLPHINS SHOULD THROW AWAY THE NUMBER 3 PICK ON ANOTHER QUARTERBACK BASED ON… checks notes…. NINE GAMES.

This looks to be a quarterback-rich draft again. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the seeming sure thing at No. 1. Brigham Young’s Zach Wilson is the rising commodity, and Ohio State’s Justin Fields just dissected Clemson in the college playoffs.

Tua was a better draft prospect than Justin Fields and Zach Wilson BUT GO ON.

It wouldn’t look good to take Tagovailoa with the No. 5 pick one year and his potential successor with the No. 3 pick the next draft.

You JUST literally wrote this sentence!: “Ross should ask why the Dolphins wouldn’t be in the market for another top quarterback with their third-overall 2021 NFL draft pick.” GAHHHHH.

Perhaps the only one to do it was former Dolphins general manager Joe Thomas.

Ah the Joe Thomas era where you can draft a quarterback who wore spectacles and threw the ball seven times a game because you had MANTANKS for running backs.

He took Rick Norton with the top pick in 1966. When that didn’t work out, he took Bob Griese with the fourth pick in 1967.

Bob Griese, the Trent Dilfer of the 1970s!

The moral: Keep drafting a quarterback until you have one.

Ok, yea, sure. But the crux of this entire article has been about how the Dolphins should tell Tua to fuck off after nine games of throwing to Isiah Fucking Ford and that they should have drafted Justin Herbert instead so he could throw passes to Isiah Fucking Ford rather than, say, I dunno, perennial Pro Bowler Keenan Allen.

Do the Dolphins have one now? That’s the question of the offseason.

But the bigger question of the offseason is who will Dave Hyde’s Pussyhammers take with their first pick in 2021? Derrick Henry? Dalvin Cook? Christian McCaffrey? STAY TUNED. SLAM DUNK.

 

Chris Joseph (@ByChrisJoseph) is a host of the Five Reasons comedy podcast, Ballscast. He’s written about sports and movies for Deadspin, Miami New Times, CBS Sports, and several other outlets.

Tua Tagovailoa left the final game of his rookie season with a bitter taste after the Dolphins were routed by the Bills.

Pressure Point: Dolphins shift focus to vital offseason with No. 3 pick

The crash-and-burn of the Miami Dolphins’ unexpected playoff run shouldn’t leave a lasting sour taste or taint a truly exceptional season.

Though rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said he and his teammates were left with “a bitter taste in our mouths” in the immediate aftermath of the 56-26 debacle Sunday at Buffalo. “That’s not the way we wanted to go down.”

As unpleasant as it was to watch, the cold dose of reality did provide an honest gauge to take into the offseason.

The Browns, Ravens and Colts did the Dolphins a favor by winning their games to bump Miami out the playoffs. At this point the Dolphins aren’t ready to compete with the teams like the Bills in the postseason.

The objective is to build a team that can.

Coach Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier are working on something that has a chance to be special, and this 10-6 season was a significant step in that direction. The offseason will offer opportunities to add much-needed talent, particularly on offense.

Who will Dolphins pick at No. 3?

The next few months will bring considerable debate about what to do with the third overall pick in the draft, the main spoil of the Laremy Tunsil trade with the Houston Texans.

The Dolphins can thank Ryan Tannehill and the Titans for clinching it for the Dolphins with Sunday’s last-second win over the Texans, 41-38. Tannehill’s 52-yard pass to set up the winning field goal was another Miami Miracle.

The hot topic will be, do they take Oregon tackle Penei Sewell or Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith?

Sewell is regarded as a generational talent, evoking comparisons to Hall of Famer Orlando Pace. Smith would Tagovailoa a familiar target from their time together at Alabama.

Sewell will become an instant force on someone’s offensive line. But the Dolphins have a crying need for receivers — more than one.

That was painfully obvious Sunday with 10 or 11 catchable passes that were not caught. It has been evident all season.

Debatable if is to high for Smith. Maybe the answer is to trade down with a team that covets Sewell in order to draft two premier playmakers.

The Dolphins will also have their own pick at No. 18, as well as No. 36 and No. 50 in the second round, so they have options.

Pick QB or stick with Tua?

There are some voices clamoring for the Dolphins to draft another quarterback, already sour on Tua. Despite a respectable first season with a limited offense — he came into the season finale with 65 percent completions, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

His three interceptions in the second half at Buffalo give them more fodder. The first, a pick-six, happened  because DeVante Parker fell down, the other two were on Tua.

I’m sticking with Tua. Tough to draw a conclusion on whether or not Tua is worthy of the franchise quarterback tag when he’s running the junior varsity offense.

Do Dolphins receivers ever get as wide open as the Bills’ crew was all day? Do Dolphins quarterbacks ever have all day to sit in the pocket like Josh Allen and Matt Barkley did all day Sunday?

And what of the play calling, which offensive coordinator Chan Gailey acknowledged last week has been more conservative for Tua than when Ryan Fitzpatrick is in the game?

Will Chan Gailey return as OC?

Whether Gailey, who turns 69 on Tuesday, is retained or retires is one of the key offseason questions.

Regarding Gailey and the play calling, Tagovailoa said: “I think me and Chan’s relationship is really good, and our partnership with what I kind of want called and the communication between us I think is really good.

“Just today, I don’t think I put us in a really good situation. With the defense giving us a turnover on the first series and not going down and punching it in, there was a lot of miscommunication on that first drive for us. …

“We need to be better in that aspect of opening up games. First drives, we’ve got to go down and give our team some spark.”

Inexplicably, Gailey waited until the Dolphins fell into a huge deficit to take the reins off Tagovailoa with more uptempo and downfield throws. The change brought an impressive 75-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, but the spate of interceptions followed.

It wasn’t just the shortcomings of an offense short on playmakers that led to the drubbing. The Bills torched Miami’s highly regarded defense and special teams too, producing touchdown in all three phases of the game.

Interceptions by Byron Jones and Xavien Howard (his 10th of the season, tying the franchise record) were the lone highlights for Miami.

“We didn’t play well as a team,” said Flores, who avoided criticism of Tagovailoa while distributing blame, but said, “That includes Tua. He’s got to play better as well. But everyone’s a part of that.

“Look, he’s played well over the course of the season. We as a team have played well. We didn’t have it today.”

Flores, Grier face vital offseason decisions

As much as you want to see your team make the playoffs, it was difficult to root for that after the Dolphins turned in their poorest performance of the season.

On the surface the season-ending shellacking goes down as another in a long line of Dolphins dreams that have died at Buffalo. But the circumstance are different this time.

These Dolphins came farther and faster than was reasonable to expect in the second season of a complete roster reconstruction.

Next season expectations will be higher and the offseason will be about putting talent in place to meet them and avoid bitter endings like this one.

My gut feeling is Tagovailoa will be back as the starter and he will have more weapons at his disposal and a different OC calling the plays.

But as Tua said after the game, “I don’t think I have control over any of those things. I think all I can do is to continue to grow, continue to get better.”

Right, Grier and Flores will make those calls. Their jobs depend on it. They can’t afford not to get it right.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

College Football Playoffs relegated bowls to consolation status

I love bowl season.

I love the matchups and getting to spend a full month watching games I wished I could have in September.

I can’t remember a year in which I hadn’t been to a bowl game since I got into sports media in 2011.

The bowl games used to mean something, but not anymore.

There used to be a handful of bowl games that were a big deal. The Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl represented the sport’s promise land.

Now only two of them at a time get the designation of playoff site and the rest have been practically relegated to consolation status. A clear sign of that is growing trend of college players with pro potential opting out of the bowl games to focus on the NFL Draft.

The North Carolina is playing in the Orange Bowl in Mack Brown’s second season as head coach. The Tar Heels haven’t played in a bowl game of this magnitude since the Peach Bowl in 2001.

Yet two of their running backs and one of their  leaders on defense opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft. It was one thing when Christian McCaffery was skipping the Sun Bowl. To make a New Years Six bowl game and decide it’s not worth playing speaks volumes.

Then again, the Tar Heels were at the site of the Orange Bowl a couple weeks ago and Michael Carter and Javonte Williams both eclipsed the 1000 yard mark after becoming the first combo to each rush for over 200 yards in a game. Carter amassed 308 yards during that game against Miami. Apparently that the two upperclassmen realized that the sequels are never better than the original.

At least there is no hard feelings in the locker room.

“The goal of this game is to play,” UNC receiver Emery Simmons said, “and then if you’re blessed with the opportunity to go and further your career, then take it.”

Quarterback Sam Howell threw for 3,352 yards and 27 touchdowns in his second season as a starter. In short, UNC is where they are largely because of him.

Being a sophomore, Howell is not yet eligible for the NFL Draft so opting out isn’t an option for him but playing in the Orange Bowl still means something to him.

“The Orange Bowl definitely means a lot to me. It’s a game I grew up watching,” Howell said. “It’s a game I always wanted to play in down there in Miami. Obviously it being a New Year’s Six bowl, we know how prestigious the game is.”

2020 has been a weird week for bowl games. Due to the chaos caused by the pandemic, every team is bowl eligible. It’s why four sub .500 SEC teams were slated for bowl games.

The main perk of playing in a bowl is the week leading up to it. It becomes one big team bonding trip. The nice hotels, the fun little events leading up to the big game. The bigger the bowl, the bigger the fun. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has robbed the players of that week.

“To be honest with you, I hate it,” Howell said. “I love bowl week. I loved our time in D.C. last year for the Military Bowl. That was one of the funnest weeks I’ve had in my entire life just being there with the team.”

So what’s the solution? It’s okay if the Cheez-it Bowl and Duke’s Mayo Bowl or Tony the Tiger Bowl are looked at as a consolation prize. It’s perfectly fine that Group of Five teams finish their season in Boca Raton or one of Alabama’s three bowl games (why?). But the New Years Six bowls have to still mean something and that’s where expanding the playoff comes in.

If two more teams get in, which this year would include No. 5 Texas A&M, the top two teams could get a bye. Now the playoffs can incorporate two more bowl games prior to the national championship game. If that game also ends up being a bowl, now there’s a pool consisting of the Fiesta, Rose, Orange, Peach and Cotton Bowl representing playoff sites.

“I feel like you’re still going to have the same issues you have now, no matter how many teams you have,” Howell said. “But I’m definitely all for expanding it. I think only good could come out of that.”

The constant argument against having a playoff and expanding it is it would lead to the delegitimization of the bowl games. That turned out to be true but adding 20 more games because ESPN could use more content also played a role in that.

The college football playoff is here to stay so the only way to bring back legitimacy to the bowl games is to expand the playoffs and include those bowls in the mix.

The Miami Hurricanes’ Déjà Vu And Breaking the Cycle

Let’s start with some multiple choice.

“The numbers are so astonishingly bad as to stress the bounds of reality.”

The following quote can be used to accurately describe which of the following?

  • Miami’s bowl record.
  • The routine, record setting performances of Canes’ opponents.
  • Miami’s preparation to start games.
  • The ability of the Canes’ WRs to catch.
  • Miami’s inability to finish seasons.
  • All of the Above.

If you answered “All of the Above,” you are correct.

The shocking thing about the blowout loss to North Carolina and the subsequent bowl loss to Oklahoma State is that none of it is particularly shocking. We’ve seen this movie before.

This exact movie.

How does this keep happening across multiple coaches?

Agendas over Excellence

Let’s be realistic about human nature. Yes, the ultimate goal of any football program is to win games and championships.

But people are people, and everyone has personal agendas as well. If you work really hard on something at work and the team you’re a part of succeeds, but everyone but you gets promoted, you’re going to be upset even if the team succeeded.

And this is no different. Careerists ultimately are going to protect their careers. And often, that means the safe move, the risk averse move, the prioritization of status quo over substantive change. That’s how you end up in the same place over and over again.

To put things into context, since Dennis Erickson left Miami, every single coach Miami has hired but Al Golden has had previous Miami experience. This is perfectly fine when the program is at the top of the pyramid. And when you think about it, all the hires can make sense in a vacuum:

  • Promoting Larry Coker to replace Butch Davis makes sense. Team was at the top of college football.
  • Promoting Randy Shannon to replace Larry Coker makes sense. He was one of the top Defensive Coordinators in the country and had ties to Miami.
  • Replacing Randy Shannon with Al Golden makes sense. We’ve double-downed on Miami guys and taken a chance on a coach with no head coaching experience, so let’s bring in a coach with head coaching experience and no ties to Miami.
  • Replacing Al Golden with Mark Richt makes sense. He had won everything but the National Championship at Georgia, had Miami ties, and could at least run a professional outfit in contrast to the rank incompetence and inability to manage anything that Al Golden displayed.
  • Replacing Mark Richt with Manny Diaz…okay, this one is pretty indefensible. Temple hired him because that was his logical career progression. He was essentially starting his Al Golden journey. We somehow managed to combine 2 previous failed hires (Defensive Coordinator off previous staff and Head Coach at Temple) into 1. And we did so without even conducting a proper coaching search. With that said, if you want to defend it, you could say that Richt was certainly safe to coach here another year if he chose to do so, and so you are promoting an assistant off of an overall successful staff.

In a vacuum, you can justify any of these hires. But here’s the problem.

At no point with any of the 5 hires I mentioned, with the possible exception of Mark Richt, did Miami actually hire the best person they could for the job. 

And, more importantly, at no point was hiring the overall best coach for the job the primary concern. It was always finding the guy they wanted to hire for political, financial, or stability reasons, and then reverse engineering the logic from there, hoping the football would work out.

When I am managing people, I often urge them to follow an approach of “Think, Plan, Implement”:

  • Think about the problem you’re actually trying to solve.
  • Plan to solve it.
  • Implement the plan.

Spoiler Alert: the plan never works exactly right. But since you went through the process of really thinking about the problem you were trying to solve, you can reinvent and modify the plan as you go to continue to solve the original problem as it evolves over time.

My question to this administration is what problem are you trying to solve minutely, hourly, weekly, monthly, and yearly? They can keep saying they’re “Building Champions” but it lacks any credibility at this point:

The school has not won a conference since the 2003 season. What champions are they building?

It’s not that they don’t want to win. Don’t get me wrong, when Miami goes out there against North Carolina and get embarrassed on national TV, their phones are also blowing up with texts from people they haven’t talked to in 5 years who think it’s hilarious. They want to win.

The problem is they are trying to win against programs whose entire existence is built around winning in the cutthroat world of college football where the margins are basically non-existent while trying to placate agendas that are either counter to or at the very least not supportive of on field winning. 

You can’t win with one hand tied behind your back. Too often, the focus is on “message control” or protecting people, whether it be coaches, staffers, or players. We have, over time, seen the standards erode to the point that last year the team lost to FIU and then followed that up with 2 more losses, and there was never a thought that the head coach was in jeopardy. Whether or not he should have been fired is not the point, the fact is there was no realistic chance of a reaction to those performances because believe it or not, this program does not have championship standards.

We all publicly acknowledge it. We could all see Al Golden was a disaster, yet we needed Clemson to win 58-0 to get him out?

And if you’ve think that’s changed, look at how many of you were rooting for the D to meltdown against Oklahoma State just hoping that this would be enough to convince Manny Diaz to fire Blake Baker. Had we not seen enough? We needed to run it back again to convince him? If we’re at that point where the worst defensive performance in school history after 2 years of defensive ineptitude “needs more evidence” for substantive change, then we’re all acknowledging we are not “Building Champions” but “Placating Mediocrity.”

Is all hope lost? No.

Water Under The Bridge

However we arrived at this moment, we’re here now. The truth is, there is never going to be championship pressure from the administration. If a coach consistently wins between 8-10 games here, everyone will be fine with it in the Athletic Department. They’ve proven it over time, excusing seasons at or near .500 and puffing their chests out when the team moderately ticks up. If you want proof of this attitude, look at this:

Contrast that with the amount of times that publicly the AD has represented that everything is going great and according to plan. At no point in the last SEVENTEEN YEARS has Miami lost less than 3 games. Any program that routinely defends progress to a high-water mark of 3 losses thinks it’s acceptable.

With that said, we have one piece of hope. Our program lies in the hands of Manuel Alberto Diaz II.

Just because his bosses are okay with 8-3 does not mean he has to be. If he really wants to win championships at Miami, he can zig where his predecessors have zagged.

Those are the 3 previous head coaches at Miami. Notice a pattern? They all had uptick seasons very similar to the one Diaz just experienced. It was a good record, a lot of fun, and ultimately misleading. In 2009, 2013, and 2017, you could see the rot. Things went the teams’ way to get to that record, whether it be close wins against bad teams, miraculous plays, luck…they got some bounces. It’s only natural that the ball also bounces the other way down the road if that is what you’re relying on to win.

And as we eulogize the 2020 Canes, certainly those things apply to them as well. The Canes finished the year 1-3 against teams with winning records from major conferences, with the 1-win being NC State where D’Eriq King put up this stat line to lead the Canes to a comeback, 3-point win:

That is what it took to beat a P5 team with a winning record this year. Not to mention the number of bad teams that King single-handedly won the game against. Is this sustainable or repeatable?

Of course not, and pretending the record was representative of onfield play will only lead to a reversion to the mean, as it did with Diaz’ predecessors.

Truth is the Canes could get much better and still lose 3-4 games next year. Records can lie to you, breed complacency, and ultimately lead to failure.

But what if Diaz isn’t complacent? What if he actually takes a “Think, Plan, Implement” approach?

  • Think: How do I win a National Championship here?
  • Plan: What changes do I need to make to point this program in that direction? This includes looking at improving things we already do well, a critical thing we seem to routinely miss.
  • Implement: Execute the plan this offseason, because if it doesn’t go well, his clock that is already ticking will hasten towards inevitably running out.

And this starts with embracing his role as a head coach. As I was moving up in my career, my manager once gave me a sage piece of advice that I would impart on to Manny Diaz. She told me:

You have to be able to let go of your previous role. It’s no longer your job. Hire people you believe can accomplish the goal of that job. They won’t perform the role the way you would, and you’ll have the urge to dive in and “fix” things so they look the way you think is right, but that’s no longer your job. And if you’re doing that job, who is doing your job? Invest in the right person and trust them. 

It’s a tough lesson to learn, but one he needs to learn quickly. Does he want to be Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator, or Manny Diaz, Head Coach? If it’s Manny Diaz, Head Coach, then hire the best person he can to run the defense, and focus on running the program, instilling discipline, raising standards, managing games…areas that the team is sorely lacking in at this point.

Being a head coach is really hard. Most of them fail. Which is why it’s farcical to think that a first time head coach can step into a challenging role in a program that has spent 2 decades flailing and also multi-task as a defensive assistant. Autonomous offensive and defensive coaches with Diaz actually running the overall program is the best path forward, regardless of the name in those roles (even if he concludes Blake Baker is the best DC for Miami, then let him run the D autonomously. If he feels the need to coach the defense in any capacity, he is acknowledging he has an inadequate defensive staff).

Back to the history of Canes’ failures past…there was a time where they were not complacent.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at this, but Butch Davis fired his Defensive Coordinator after the 9-3 season in 1998. Why? It wasn’t good enough. Beating UCLA 49-45 was magical, but it wasn’t the road to a championship.

He had to make a move, even after winning the bowl game, if he wanted to actually “Build Champions.” And the team was significantly better in 1999, even if the record didn’t show it, just like the 2021 season could have a better team with a similar or worse record. That 1999 team lost to (at the time) the #1, #2, and #3 teams in the country, including both participants in the National Championship game, ended the year dominating a ranked team in a bowl game, and was clearly better than their record.

Diaz has a similar opportunity. He can strive for perfection to attain excellence, push the boundaries of this program, and try to elevate the standards…or he can be happy with where we’re at, go with a version of “trending up,” and see what staying the course brings him.

There is no guarantee of success or failure, and ultimately, everyone in every walk of life is judged on results.

But Diaz, fresh off a strong record, with a strong recruiting class coming in, is uniquely poised to raise the standards of this program. Opportunities are rare and fleeting.

The question must be asked…is this football program prepared to do the difficult work of competing for championships, including being ruthless, uncompromising, and non-negotiable? Only Manny Diaz can answer, because he alone can elevate this program. No one else in an authority position can be bothered to.

Vishnu Parasuraman is a contributor for @FiveReasonsSports and generally covers the Miami Hurricanes. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003

Tua Tagovailoa

Fresh Perspective: Patience is mandatory with Tua Tagovailoa

There’s no denying that the NFL suffers from a severe case of recency bias. Fans and analysts alike always choose to focus on the players putting on the greatest show, regardless of previous performance or reputation. When Jakeem Grant returns a punt for 80 yards and scores a touchdown, everyone loves him. When he drops a key pass, fans call for him to be cut. The same, unfortunately, applies to Tua Tagovailoa.

Thrust into the starting role after the Week 7 bye, Tagovailoa has gone through plenty of ups and downs. His stats don’t inspire awe, nor has he found a way to keep comparisons to Justin Herbert at bay. On top of that, Tagovailoa has now been benched for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick twice. In Week 11 against the Denver Broncos, Fitzpatrick came in and provided a spark to the offense after Tagovailoa failed to get the team driving. Fitzpatrick got the team within one score, but threw an interception in the endzone which allowed the Broncos to  win.

Then last week against the Las Vegas Raiders, Tagovailoa went 17 of 22 for only 94 yards and a touchdown. The entire game, Tagovailoa was not able to find a way to consistently drive down the field, leading to his benching. Fitzpatrick immediately came in, and the offense started moving the chains and scoring points, almost as if a fire had been lit under them. It’s hard to deny the difference in how the offense looks depending on who is throwing the football. It becomes even harder to ignore when Chargers rookie QB Justin Herbert regularly puts together 300+ passing yard games.

Tua Tagovailoa

As of now, betting odds have Herbert on the fast track to offensive rookie of the year. Tagovailoa, on the other hand, isn’t likely to win that honor. The one thing that sets the two apart in Tagovailoa’s favor, is that Tagovailoa has a 6-2 record as a starter. Herbert, in spite of his huge numbers, is only 5-9. It’s hard to argue with end results, but wins are rarely a relevant tool in evaluating quarterbacks. So what kind of an argument can be made to suggest the Dolphins didn’t make a mistake drafting Tua Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert?

As a matter of fact, it’s fairly simple.

Tagovailoa and Herbert are two completely different quarterbacks.

When you look at Justin Herbert, you see a quarterback who is a gunslinger. He has a cannon for an arm and takes risky shots that result in big rewards if it works out. For Herbert, he’s been lucky so far. He has 28 touchdowns and only ten interceptions on the season. The offense he’s in has been adapted to allow for plenty of opportunity for him to shine. Plus, as a gunslinger, it was always a strong possibility he would find early success. Big plays make or break games, and Herbert’s arm and throwing style make for several opportunities for big plays. He also has several playmakers to get the ball to. Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, it’s an impressive list.

Tua Tagovailoa, on the other hand, is a completely different quarterback. While Tagovailoa had several big plays of his own while at Alabama, he is not a gunslinger. Tagovailoa is a cerebral quarterback, someone who looks for the open receiver and takes whatever the defense is willing to give. His comparison coming out of college was Drew Brees. Accurate, discerning, able to read defenses quickly. But he does not appreciate throwing into tight windows.

“Sometimes you’ve got to just take the shots.” Tagovailoa said after the Raiders game. “You’ve got to give guys an opportunity and you got to just get the ball down the field because time is running out and we don’t have all day to just think here, think there and try to move the ball that way … I’m going to continue to take what the defense gives me. If I feel like that’s not open, I’m not going to throw it. And so it’s I got to get better at that. That’s it.”

This is where the problem lies. Tagovailoa wants players to be open. He wants them to get separation from the defenders. In Alabama, that happened on a regular basis. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle, they were able to get themselves open and Tagovailoa would find them and get the ball to them. Easily.

In Miami, the talent level at the skill positions is vastly different. DeVante Parker’s claim to fame is making difficult, contested catches. Tight end Mike Gesicki is the same way. Jakeem Grant is the fastest receiver on the roster, and not only does he have struggles with drops, he’s now injured. Lynn Bowden has potential, but he’s a rookie. Malcolm Perry is a former Navy QB being converted into an offensive weapon. Preston Williams has not played since Week 9 and is on injured reserve with a foot injury.

What is left for Tagovailoa to reach out to?

To add to the pile of factors working against the former Alabama superstar, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey clearly prefers to call plays for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Their shared history with the New York Jets added to Fitzpatrick’s gunslinger mentality, it’s not an exaggeration to state there are two different playbooks depending on who is at quarterback.

Fair or not, this is what Tua Tagovailoa is dealing with. In essence, his offensive coordinator does not trust him to run the same type of plays that Fitzpatrick does. It’s a mystery as to why Gailey feels that way about the rookie. Tagovailoa’s best performances are when he has an empty backfield and a no-huddle offense. So why is Gailey forcing Tagovailoa to function in a heavy playaction offense with lots of read-option plays?

Gailey insists that it’s about the gameplan, not the players involved in said gameplan.

“You have the game plan set up that you go into it with, and you’re in a different mode when you get to the end there,” Gailey said on Tuesday. “You’re in a totally different mode. It is different because of the situations, not because of the players.”

Yet the evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

With all this in mind, there’s no denying that Tua Tagovailoa is being handicapped somewhat. His lack of reliable weapons along with an offensive coordinator who prefers to call plays for a gunslinger QB gives him few opportunities to prove himself. But there have been opportunities that Tagovailoa simply hasn’t taken advantage of, and it has everything to do with his struggle to make the adjustment to the NFL.

At Alabama, he had wide receivers running open on a regular basis. In the NFL, the windows are much tighter. Fitzpatrick finds success (or failure) because he’s willing to test those windows without hesitation. Tagovailoa isn’t willing to do that yet. It will take some time for him to grow into the role, plus get some weapons he can feel more comfortable throwing to.

It took five years for Drew Brees to become the future Hall of Famer we know today. The San Diego Chargers gave up on him before he became a superstar. Will it take five years for Tua Tagovailoa? Hopefully not. But the fact of the matter is, when a quarterback’s bread and butter is picking apart defenses like a surgeon instead of testing them with a cannon, there’s a learning curve that must be considered during evaluation.

Miami did not make a mistake picking Tua Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert. They simply chose a quarterback with a higher ceiling, and a longer development time. It’s easy to feel frustrated watching Herbert make the highlight reel on a regular basis. However, Tagovailoa will soon reach his stride. He’ll learn to trust his receivers, he’ll get an offensive coordinator who will allow him to spread his wings, and soon enough his numbers will follow. Just have patience.

With a quarterback like Tagovailoa, it’s mandatory.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

Ryan Fitzpatrick somehow gets off the pass to set up the winning field goal against the Raiders.

Pressure Point: FitzMagic saves Dolphins, but don’t give up on Tua

Leave it to Miami Dolphins fans to turn a heart-stopping, season-saving win into a quarterback controversy.

If only in their minds.

Immediately after Ryan Fitzpatrick came off the bench Saturday night to lead an improbable comeback to a 26-25 victory over the Raiders, coach Brian Flores said rookie Tua Tagovailoa will remain the starter when the Dolphins roll the final dice for the playoffs next week at Buffalo.

Much to the consternation of a segment of the fan base that in rapid order went from longing for the Dolphins to draft Tua to already writing him off because:

  • He’s not lighting up the stat sheet like retired legend Dan Marino or fellow rookie Justin Herbert, who the Dolphins could drafted instead.
  • He doesn’t have the mastery of Chan Gailey’s offense like Fitzpatrick, who has run it in the past and has 16 years overall in the league.

Meanwhile, overlooking that the Dolphins are 6-2 in games Tagovailoa has started — though, obviously, Fitzpatrick gets credit for pulling off the Day After Christmas Miracle.

Fitzpatrick serves an instant classic

Fitzpatrick’s heave down the sideline to Mack Hollins while his head was being twisted in the opposite direction by a Raiders defender to set up the winning field goal immediately earned a prominent place in Dolphins lore.

Up there with the Duriel Harris-Tony Nathan hook-and-lateral, the Marino fake-spike “clock” TD toss against  the Jets and the 2018 Miami Miracle win over the Patriots.

“They call him ‘FitzMagic’ for a reason,” observed Tagovailoa, who was reduced to spectator in the fourth quarter as Fitzpatrick led three scoring drives (a touchdown and two field goals).

You’ve gotta love Fitz, for who he is and for what he’s done and meant to the rebuilding Dolphins the past two seasons.

He certainly is a luxury item at this point and a valuable ace in the hole to play in situations like the Dolphins were in needing a spark to keep their playoff chances alive.

Flores: ‘Whatever we need to do to win’

On Sunday, Flores was asked if he is utilizing a two-quarterback situation with Fitzpatrick as a closer.

“I don’t want to put any labels on it. The label is we’re going to do what we’ve got to do to win,” Flores said. “I owe that to Dolphins fans, to players in our locker room, to people in this organization, so that’s what we’re going to always do.

“Whatever we need to do to win, that’s what we’re going to do.”

There are plenty of voices out there shouting that the objective would be better served by starting Fitzpatrick next week at Buffalo. While others will continue grumbling that the Dolphins messed up by drafting Tagovailoa instead of Herbert, who is having a historic rookie season for the non-contending Los Angeles Chargers.

Even though Tagovailoa outplayed Herbert in the Dolphins’ 29-21 win over the Chargers in November.

Rap on Tua

And while overlooking that Tagovailoa’s struggle against the Raiders aren’t indicative of his season overall.

Tua did have a similar subpar performance against the Broncos, also on the road, which prompted another fourth-quarter relief appearance by Fitzpatrick. But he followed that up with back-to-back Rookie of the Week efforts.

“Tua has brought us a spark in a lot of other games. I think people just forget that. We just remember the last thing,” Flores said Sunday. ”I think Tua has played well.  I think he’s made a lot of improvement over the course of the season. I think he is developing.

“Tua has done a lot of good things for this team. He knows that, this team knows that.”

Dolphins fans have been fixated for so long on the quest for a franchise quarterback that some of them are having trouble appreciating one of the most remarkable seasons in franchise history.

A year ago, after tearing down the roster and starting 0-7, they were being called one of the worst teams in NFL history.

Now they are 10-5 and one win away from the playoffs.

NFL teams aren’t built in a single draft. Yet the Dolphins, under Flores and GM Chris Grier, have already constructed a playoff-caliber defense and improved the offensive line. They have four picks in the first two rounds of the next draft and one of them may again be in the top five.

Tua here to stay

The offense will look different next year. There will be more playmakers and Tagovailoa will already have the experience of playing in a playoff race — potentially of playing in the playoffs, depending on how next week goes.

The Should-Have-Drafted-Herbert crowd isn’t going away. Neither is Tua.

He has a lot of improving to do. The same could have been said about plenty of Hall of Famers during their rookie year.

Look at Drew Brees, whose tools are similar to Tua’s. In his first season as starter, Brees threw 17 touchdown passes with 16 interceptions while completing 61 percent of his passes. The next season he had 11 TDs, 15 picks and a 57.6 completion percentage.

It wasn’t until his third season that Brees took off with 27 TDs, seven picks and 65.5 percent completions.

Josh Allen, who in his third season is putting up MVP-type numbers while leading the Bills in quest of the Super Bowl, as a rookie had 10 TDs and 12 interceptions while completing 52.8 percent.

Tagovailoa, coming off a career-threatening injury at Alabama and with no preseason, has completed 65 percent with 10 TDs and two interceptions. Yes, there have been a number of would-be picks dropped, including another Saturday.

His receivers have dropped quite a few on-target throws as well.

There are valid criticisms. Tua tends to hold the ball too long in the pocket and hasn’t had much success hitting longer routes.

Offensive coordinator Gailey’s play-calling often isn’t suited to what Tagovailoa does well — as if he’s keeping the training wheels on him.

Nonetheless, Tagovailoa’s rookie year has shown he can be a winning quarterback. Because, well, they’re winning with him now.

Flores looks at a broader picture than fans and media members, and he gets the last word on the matter:

“Speculation on whatever people want to speculate about as far as what we should or shouldn’t do, based on [Saturday] night, I think I wouldn’t do that and forget the body of work over the course of the season to include however many games Tua has been starting,” Flores said Sunday.

“I think he’s played fairly well. People may disagree, but we’ll just have to just agree to disagree in that instance.”

But if things aren’t going well at Buffalo, don’t be surprised if Flores resorts to another dose of FitzMagic  one more time.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Tua Tagovailoa celebrates with teammates after scoring one of his two touchdowns in a 22-12 win over the Patriots.

Pressure Point: Dolphins deliver joy to fans, so enjoy it

Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant out. Rookie quarterback vs. a Bill Belichick defense with extra time to prepare.

Big problem?

With his receiving corps decimated by injuries, veteran offensive coordinator Chan Gailey had the ideal remedy for a 22-12 victory the Miami Dolphins had to have Sunday to keep playoff hopes alive.

They ran the hell out of the ball.

A mediocre rushing offense averaging 95 yards a game stuck it to the New England Patriots for 250 yards on the ground to eliminate Belichick’s dynasty from the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Some Dolphins fans will lament that Tua Tagovailoa only threw for 145 yards and forced a pass for an interception on perhaps the most ill-advised decision of his rookie season.

Dolphins run wild in second half

Give it a rest. Tagovailoa did what he was asked to do in leading three second-half touchdown drives. The order of the day was to run, and Tua ran for two of those scores, including a nifty scramble for the touchdown that put Miami ahead to stay.

“Today we ran it effectively, so we just kept running it,” coach Brian Flores said.

You want stats? Rookie Salvon Ahmed became the first Dolphins 100-yard rusher in two seasons with 122 yards on 23 carries. Matt Breida wasn’t far behind with 86 yards on 12 carries.

A young offensive line with three rookie starters took control of the game and wore down the Patriots defense. When rookie Solomon Kindley left with an injury, second-year guard Micheal Deiter stepped in and they kept grinding.

But here’s the prime stat: The 9-5 Dolphins have clinched a winning record in Flores’ second season after beginning 0-7 in his first. They are 14-9 since then.

“I think we’ve got a mentally tough, physically tough, resilient group that knows how to deal with adversity, that doesn’t go in the tank, keeps fighting, keeps working,” Flores said. “Whatever the situation is these guys just work.”

Those qualities will be tested the next two weeks as the Dolphins continue to fight for a wild-card spot with remaining games at Las Vegas and Buffalo.

“We battle for each other. We’ll continue to do that,” Flores said. “That’s one thing I know that everyone is going to continue to work hard.”

As they did Sunday in a must-win situation with an injury-riddled offense that had six rookies starting.

One other thing of interest that Flores said after getting his second win against his former boss:

“For Dolphins fans — we’ve got great fans who are lifers and they love this team. So we’re happy to bring some joy to our fans. Because they deserve it.”

Even to those who are hung up on whether they drafted the right quarterback, drooling over the gaudy numbers amassed by Justin Herbert, taken one pick later than Tagovailoa by the Los Angeles Chargers.

So much for rookie QBs vs. Belichick factor

Much was made about of Belichick’s 21-7 record against teams starting a rookie quarterback.

The network analysts were all over it at halftime, with the Dolphins tailing 6-0 and Tagovailoa’s interception in the end zone standing out as the pivotal play of the half. Boomer Esiason talked about how Belichick’s scheme was making the rookie uncomfortable and received a knowing nod from Bill Cowher.

Safe to say that any quarterback will feel uncomfortable with all of his best receivers sidelined with injuries.

Funny how that storyline faded in the second half as the Dolphins ran the Patriots into oblivion while the defense performed as it has for the most of the season in limiting New England to four field goals.

Tagovailoa, for his part, executed the short-passing game, completing 20 of 26.

He also showed better wisdom when he scrambled out of pressure to score rather than forcing a pass as he had in the first half.

Tua exhibited his athleticism to get out of trouble and into the end zone with a juke on the last defender, prompting a question about whether he has been working on his moves.

“I tried to do everything I could to get in the end zone. I’ve just got to work a little bit more on some other dance moves I’ve got going,” he said with a laugh.

Dolphins winning with Tua

For those fixated on passing totals, Tua’s numbers will improve after the Dolphins add talent to the receiving corps through the draft and free agency.

For now, the vital number on Tua is the Dolphins are 5-2 with him as starter.

While Herbert has 27 touchdown passes, his Chargers are 5-9 and got crushed 45-0 by these Patriots a few weeks back.

Indications are both of these rookies are headed for stardom. The Dolphins are already winning with Tua, which is the objective.

As a rebuilding team, they have come farther, faster than was reasonable to expect. Flores has already built a quality defense that Dan Marino never had behind him as he tried in vain for a second shot at a Super Bowl.

The defense gave the coup de grace to New England’s playoff hopes with an exclamation point sack of Cam Newton by Emmanuel Ogbah.

With a developing offensive line, a running game like Miami put together Sunday would further serve its young quarterback. Look what having Derrick Henry has done for Ryan Tannehill with the Titans.

It figured to take at least two drafts for the Dolphins to address all the needs. So Flores and his team have brought some joy a year sooner than expected, especially considering those sorry first seven defeats of 2019.

However this season plays out, just enjoy it, Dolfans. Enjoy the joy.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Dolphins Chargers Win

Houtz Special: Five Things to dish about before Sunday’s matchup vs New England

I don’t know what to call this article.

After all, it is Saturday and I’m chasing two Rugrats around the house–a day after sucking up more snow than former offensive line coach Chris Foerester– after Mother Nature dropped a bunch of powder in central PA.

Yes, I live in PA.

(Note: And yes, I am thankful for what Ethan and the Miami Dolphins have allowed me to do in 2020. After all, I’ve been able to cover this team in a way I never could imagine. Most importantly, I’m thankful for all of you. Thank you, and Happy Holidays!)

Now back to the point. There’s a lot going on right now and instead of trying to pick and choose what to talk about, I’m just going to throw together a bunch of mirepoix, protein, herbs, spices, a little duck fat, a strand of saffron, and a drizzle of truffle oil and throw it all in a crockpot. Or, for those of you that aren’t classically trained chefs, I’m going to throw together a bunch of crap CHOPPED style, and somehow, someway, hope it turns out tres bien!

So without further ado: 5 Things I really want to talk about heading in to Sunday’s matchup vs New England.

***********************************************************************************************************************************

Justin Herbert vs Tua Tagovailoa

I will never understand why this has to be one or the other. Truth is, I liked both quarterbacks very much. But I will never, EVER, say I wanted Herbert more–because that simply is not true. Furthermore, what I don’t understand is why after six games of watching Tua winning games in Miami and Herbert lighting the world on fire in Los Angeles (with some, admittedly, coming in garbage time) we are ready to call this contest?

I know that’s not how this industry works. Hell, Colin Cowherd changes his takes about as much as he changes his under pantalones.

And let’s not pretend this was ever like comparing apples to oranges.

Herbert was always the guy that compared nicely to Josh Allen and that was BEFORE Allen turned juggernaut. Tagovailoa has always been compared to Drew Brees. A guy who despite his lack of a rocket arm (Jakeem Grant still should’ve caught that 55-yard dot.) makes up for it with his football IQ, ability to work the pocket, picture-perfect mechanics, and lettuce not forget, that gd accuracy. He’s also pretty mobile too.

Herbert is playing out of his mind, no one can argue that. But I’m not ready to call this thing, not even close. Tua continues to get better and I think we will have a much better idea of what these two teams are next season. But again, it’s never going to change for me.

The Dolphins have a very good rookie quarterback who has the potential to be a superstar.

Start Lynn Bowden in Fantasy Football this weekend?

I’ll give a shoutout to my dude David Friedman (@TacoBoutSports), because he did call his shot on Lynn Bowden last week on the Business YouTube Page (PLEASE SUBSCRIBE HERE). But truth is Bowden is a versatile player that most Dolphins fans probably already had stashed on their Dynasty and Devy rosters, or were keeping close tabs on in re-draft. He was also a hell of a play in FanDuel and Draft Kings. (Yes, I paired him with Tua in FanDuel and won some cash money) Nevertheless, he’s made an impact in the passing game and as you saw vs the Kansas City Chiefs, the Dolphins reminded the entire world that Lynn Bowden once played QB.

Bowden was targeted 13 times over the last two weeks, catching 11 targets for 123 yards. He’s also starting to earn trust in fellow rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa when others on the roster may not. I think he continues to prove he belongs over the next three weeks. But it’s not exactly a straight-forward decision.

I mean, obviously, if you’re playing in the fantasy playoffs, you may have better options. But I think as we saw over the last two weeks, he’s going to need to be a factor if the Dolphins want to knock the New England Patriots out of contention and continue on their improbable run.

Fire up Lynn Bowden this weekend, especially in DFS and full-point PPR leagues (FLEX).

Tua Tagovailoa named NFL Rookie of the Week

For the second consecutive week, Miami Dolphins’ fans did the lord’s work and voted quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as the Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Week –after his career day vs the Kansas City Chiefs. Tua set career bests in completions, (28) attempts, (48) yards, (316) and total touchdowns.(3).

Congrats, Tua Tagovailoa.

Want to see every dropback from Tua vs Kansas City? 

Dolphins vs New England Patriots

There’s a lot riding on this game. In fact, the Dolphins can eliminate New England from playoff contention with a win this week. And how awesome would that be after the twenty years of pure hell that franchise has put us through. Nevertheless, this is a big-time game and as we’ve seen before, there’s no one more capable of attacking rookie QBs than Brian Flores…well, maybe Bill Belichick 🙂

And according to a bunch of really smart people, Belichick hasn’t lost to a rookie quarterback in his last 9 tries.

So, last week we got to see Patrick Mahomes vs Tua Tagovailoa and now this week Bill Belichick vs Tua Tagovailoa. Let’s not forget Tagovailoa said before he was named starter he would watch film every week with Flores to get an understanding of NFL defenses from his point of view. We will see how well these film sessions pay off, as he faces arguably the greatest coach in NFL history. (It will always be Shula for me)

The Miami Dolphins currently hold the series lead with a 56-54 record.

Who: Miami Dolphins (8-5) vs New England Patriots (6-7)

What: BIG AFC EAST GAME!!!

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida. TV broadcast: CBS

When: December 19, 2020

Why: Football is good

Prediction: Dolphins 27 Patriots 10

I think the Dolphins stop the run much better than they did in week 1 with Zach Sieler and Raekwon Davis playing a larger role. I also think this team realizes that the Patriots are one-dimensional. And if you can stop the run and force Newton to beat you with his arm, that’s the recipe for success.

Nothing will come easy and we know Belichick takes great pride in his ability to confuse rookie QBs. But as we saw from Tua throughout his first six games, some of his best football comes when the defense is applying pressure. Sunday, Flores and the Dolphins have a chance to put the dagger in New England’s 2020 season. And in doing so, remind the Patriots that the next 10-15 years in the AFC East will be much different than the last.

What they said:

Brian Flores on his time in New England:

“I learned so much. I started in personnel. Scott Pioli hired me there as a scouting assistant. Those four years in personnel were very valuable. There are a lot of guys in that department who have gone on and done well for themselves – Jon Robinson, Thomas Dimitroff, Matt Russell, Marvin Allen was on the staff there when I was there. Lionel Vital. So I learned a lot from that group. Then going into coaching, working on special teams with Brad Seely who just recently retired and Scott O’Brien who retired a few years ago as well in the kicking game. Going over to offense, working with Bill O’Brien. When I went over to defense, obviously working with Bill (Belichick), Matt Patricia, obviously Josh Boyer, Pat Graham. A lot of really good coaches on both sides of the ball. I would say one of the guys who I learned as much about coaching as anyone is Dante Scarnecchia. I know he’s the o-line coach over there, but just the relationships he built with players and how demanding he was. I think I’ve tried to take a lot of what he did because he had a lot of success. Then just team building and being around a lot of very good players, very good coaches. I had some great experiences there.”

Dolphins team captain Kyle Van Noy on the differences between the two teams since Week 1:

“I think it’s better communication. Just playing better. I think we are comfortable with where we’re at and we’ve got to make strides to get better each time we take the field. I think as an older guy, just playing better and having everybody play better helps as well. I think it’s a lot of different things and I hope we do our best to slow it down. They are really, really good. I think they are third in rushing in the league. Their o-line is amazing. (Offensive Line Coach) Cole Popovich does a really good job getting those guys ready to go. That rookie (Michael Onwenu) is playing really well and (Jermaine) Eluemunor is playing well. The backs – Damien Harris is playing really well. Sony (Michel)’s still got juice, obviously James White is just all-around amazing. Then you’ve got Cam Newton who still runs the ball really well. He’s doing a lot of things well. They do a good job. You can splash in the receivers too. They all run the ball pretty well too when they get the ball on sweeps and different things like that. (Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) has them playing hard and he’s a really good coach and they are doing a really good job running the ball.”

Matt Breida on Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores:

“He treats every player the same, no matter how good you are or if you’re on the practice squad. He expects great things out of you. He’s a great coach. He’s going to be coaching for a very long time in this league. It’s rare that you’re around coaches like him who are fairly young, understand what it takes to win and just what goes into this game. Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen nothing but great things about him and I love that he’s my head coach. I think all the guys on the team feel the same way. We all want to play for him and go out there and players lay it on the line for him, and he does the same for us. He’s just a great head coach.”

This article was written by world-renowned Miami Dolphins’ beet writer Josh Houtz. Follow him on Twitter @houtz

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