3 Best Coaching Options for Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa
The Miami Dolphins have been forced to watch the playoffs unfold without them. While the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams remain alive, Miami has been out of the hunt since Week 17.
This led to the firing of head coach Brian Flores despite the Dolphins posting back-to-back winning seasons. Miami is looking to move in a different direction and, presumably, to continue building around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa showed plenty of growth in his second season, though he doesn't appear to have the full support of every teammate.
"He's only going to take us so far," an unnamed Dolphins defender said, per Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel. "I'm wasting my career here if that's what we're doing."
If the Dolphins hope to stick with Tagovailoa, they need to bring in the right head coach. Here we'll examine three options with supporting the young quarterback in mind.
The Dolphins have interviewed both Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Of the two, the latter should be the more enticing option.
Moore has brought some innovative ideas to the Dallas offense, but his unit too often underperformed this season despite a wealth of offensive talent. Quinn, meanwhile, helped elevate the Cowboys defense. The Cowboys ranked 25th in points allowed in 2020 and ranked seventh under Quinn this season.
Quinn also brings head-coaching experience to the table, having helped bring the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2018.
While following Flores with another defensive coach might not seem like the obvious move, it's not the wrong one. If Quinn can bring in the right offensive coordinator, he could be the coach to transform a good team into a playoff squad.
Miami's 15th-ranked defense was a strength down the stretch, but it struggled early, surrendering at least 30 points in four of the first eight games. If Quinn can get more consistency out of the defense, it would allow Tagovailoa to continue growing in the game-manager role.
While Quinn wouldn't work closely with Tagovailoa to unlock the quarterback's potential, there's more than one way to set up a young signal-caller for success.
If the Dolphins are adamant about hiring an offensive head coach, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel would make a ton of sense. McDaniel took over as coordinator this season after four years as the run game coordinator.
A creative ground game has been a San Francisco calling card during the Kyle Shanahan era. This season, the 49ers ranked seventh in rushing and seventh in total offense. McDaniel has played a huge role in the group's success.
"Shanahan handles the play-calling, but it's McDaniel who is most responsible for the ever-evolving, innovative and multi-dimensional ground game," Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote. "It's a system that's helped make a star this season out of sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell and has incorporated the unique skill set of Deebo Samuel."
McDaniel could help craft a creative offensive system that capitalizes on Tagovailoa's ability to distribute the football. Tagovailoa showed that he can make the occasional big play in 2021, but he was at his best when he wasn't asked to carry the offense. That's not ideal, but it can be part of a winning formula.
Jimmy Garoppolo has played a similar game-manager role in San Francisco, and the 49ers are one game away from appearing in Super Bowl LVI. McDaniel might just be able to work similar magic with the Dolphins if he's given the chance.
Let's be honest: Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll didn't exactly impress in earlier offensive coordinator stints with the Dolphins, Chiefs and Cleveland Browns. He never lasted more than two seasons in those jobs, and his offenses ranked 32nd, 29th, 22nd and 24th overall.
However, Daboll has become a hot name in the coaching market because of his work with Bills signal-caller Josh Allen. While Daboll has benefited from working with better talent than he had in earlier coordinator gigs, his ability to build a scheme around Allen's skill set has been impressive.
The Bills took Kansas City into overtime Sunday and finished the regular season ranked fifth in total offense and third in scoring.
Tagovailoa isn't Allen, but Daboll should know how to get the most out of him. Daboll was Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2017. In that season's College Football Playoff National Championship, the Crimson Tide benched Jalen Hurts for Tagovailoa at halftime and went on to win the title.
According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, Daboll's relationship with Tagovailoa is a "significant factor" in the head-coaching search.
If the Dolphins are looking to throw their support behind Tagovailoa, Daboll would be a smart hire. Now that Buffalo has been eliminated, Miami could move quickly to make it happen.