The Miami Dolphins continued their hotly debated march toward 0-16, but it was not without at least trying to tilt against the windmills.
And that, as much as anything, may have earned coach Brian Flores some much-needed respect from his players. On Sunday, Flores went against the script the Dolphins have been living this season by trying to win. The fact the Dolphins fell to 0-5 with a 17-16 loss to previously winless Washington is just a footnote.
But the fact is most of the country had been mocking Flores every time he said that he was playing to win games. Flores is a nice enough man, so no one openly called him a liar. Rather, he was something of a rube in the not-so-grand plan the Dolphins developed to get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft and, presumably, the rights to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagavailoa.
The bigger issue for Flores was whether he would ever have a chance to survive this process. One of the unspoken issues in the NFL is that players tune out coaches who they don’t believe can help them. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s reality.
Flores can flash all the Super Bowl rings he won during his time in New England. That only lasts so long when your team is winless.
Eventually, players stop listening. They think about ways to preserve their jobs by trying to make a play or do something that will “flash” for either the next coach of the team or will impress some other team. Sure, most of the players from this season will be gone by the time the team becomes good (if it becomes good).
Still, losing like this can linger. Some people, such as Jimmy Johnson, survive it.
Some, like Rod Marinelli or Hue Jackson, don’t. Even the excuse that the team is trying to rebuild is not enough to convince players to stay with the program when they don’t believe in the program.
But Sunday was a chance to Flores to prove he was doing something more than just picking up a check until the team is ready to get serious again. Down 17-3, Flores benched the ineffective Josh Rosen for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In the “Tank For Tua” playbook, going with Fitzpatrick and trying to win isn’t really a high priority. Flores did it and Fitzpatrick responded with a great quarter, rallying the Dolphins to two touchdowns and getting them within one point on a touchdown pass to Davante Parker with six seconds remaining.
From a strategic standpoint, the next move is debatable. Most people believe you play for the tie at home and hope for the best in overtime, assuming that being home is an advantage. But for the Dolphins, playing the odds sort of misses the point.
This is a terrible team with no real future. Just winning a game and avoiding football’s version of the scarlet letter of 0-16 will be a major accomplishment for this group.
So Flores went for it with a pass from Fitzpatrick to Kenyan Drake that fell incomplete. As play designs go this was questionable. Drake was running directly into the pass, speeding up the short throw as if he was trying to hit a fastball from 55 feet instead of 60.
Drake was also coming back into traffic in the middle of the field and probably wouldn’t have scored even if he caught it.
But that misses the point. Instead of laying down in a moment when the Dolphins had a chance and continuing the theory of tanking, Flores looked for a chance to win.
No longer can players on the Dolphins – and, more importantly, around the league – look at Flores and think, “This dude was OK with losing.”
That may not ultimately be enough for Flores to survive what he’s up against in going through this process.
But, it’s at least something.
Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa present to start NFL combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is getting underway in Indianapolis this week and on Monday morning, one of the prized quarterbacks that will be available early in the first round of the draft was there for official measurements and to meet with teams.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, whose season ended with a fractured hip last November, is on the road to recovery and he was officially measured and also, met with numerous teams that are looking at the possibility of drafting him:
Tua Tagovailoa measured at 6-0, 217 pounds at the NFL combine today. Left throwing hand at 10”
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) February 24, 2020
In addition to not only the injured hip, but also a history of high ankle sprain problems, Tagovailoa has got to answer critics on his size. At just 6 – 0 feet there will be concerns about his ability to clearly see downfield through the massive bodies on NFL Sundays.
However, this can be combated by moving him around out of the pocket and that’s something that Alabama was successful at doing over his three years as well.
As we wrote recently, Tagovailoa was injured in Alabama’s 10th game of the season suffering a fractured hip on a sack late in the first half at Mississippi State. He missed the Tide’s final two regular-season games and then, their Citrus Bowl win January 1st, over Michigan
He came to Alabama from Hawaii and the same high school as Marcus Mariota, having thrown for over 8,000 yards which at that time was a Hawaii High School record. And, he had a career of 84 passing and 27 rushing touchdowns in three seasons.
Tua burst onto the scene nationally, when he relieved Jalen Hurts in the second half and overtime of Alabama’s thrilling title game win over Georgia in the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game. Tagovailoa threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the first overtime possession, as Alabama celebrated their fifth National Title in nine seasons under Saban.
In his second season at the helm in the 2018 regular season, Tagovailoa was named second-team AP All-American and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, as the Tide reached the National Title game, again, before being beaten soundly by Clemson 12 months ago.
As this junior season unfolded, Tagovailoa was named almost became synonymous with the Dolphins, who started the season horribly at 0 – 7 and the moniker “Tank for Tua” began to gain momentum in South Florida.
Tagovailoa is obviously on the Dolphins list to look at strongly to select in the top five in the draft and currently, Miami is slated to pick fifth.
It is expected that Tagovailoa will work out for teams probably later in March or maybe even, early April at the Tide’s facility in Tuscaloosa, prior to the NFL draft coming to Las Vegas.
Colorado announced hire of Dolphins assistant Dorrel Sunday
Former UCLA coach and recently promoted Dolphins assistant Karl Dorrell is headed back to college, as the new head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
The school confirmed Dorrell’s hire on Sunday evening with a five-year contract to take over their Big 12 program:
We'd like to officially introduce you to our new HC, Karl Dorrell.
— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) February 23, 2020
The Buffaloes have been seeking a head coach since there coach Mel Tucker abruptly left to take the Michigan State job earlier this month.
Dorrell came to the dolphins with Brian Flores this past season, as wide receiver coach and earlier last week was promoted to assistant head coach for the upcoming season. Miami’s top receiver, DeVante Parker, blossomed under Dorrell’s tutelage as the year went on. He finished the season with 72 catches for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns becoming the favorite target of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Dorrel is the latest Dolphins assistant on the move. Flores fired the offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea he brought with him from New England. And, his defensive coordinator Patrick Graham left to take the same job with the Giants.
Dorrell had also been the Dolphins receivers coach, previously from 2008 – 10 and then, their quarterbacks coach in 2011 under the late Tony Sparano.
“I am excited that Karl Dorrell has agreed to become our head football coach,” George said. “Karl has had great success as a college coach, both as a head coach and an assistant, and he knows the Pac-12 Conference and West Coast well. It was important that our next coach have CU ties, and Karl has those ties having worked at CU twice previously. Karl shares my passion for Colorado and our vision for winning championships. He will be a tremendous mentor and role model for our student-athletes, and he will provide great leadership for our program going forward.”
The CU Board of Regents still have to approve Dorrell’s contract, which will be $18 million for five seasons.
Dorrell had previously been on Colorado staffs two other times in his career, including most recently as offensive coordinator under Rick Neuheisel from 1995- 98.
Dorrell was named head coach of his alma mater UCLA in 2003, where he lasted five seasons and went to a bowl game every year finishing with a career 35 – 27 record before being fired after the 2007 season.
Dorrell had previously been receivers coach for the New York Jets 2015 – 18 under Todd Bowles (above) and two of his receivers had made the Pro Bowl during his time there.
Colorado picked Dorrell from an interview process that also included former Buffaloes player and Kansas City Super Bowl offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, who interviewed and was under strong consideration.