New Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel has much to address this offseason where the club's offense is concerned, from a porous offensive line to the development of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to the pending free agency of standout tight end Mike Gesicki.
As such, McDaniel took a broader viewpoint Thursday at his introductory news conference when asked about his belief in Tagovailoa.
"I'm not sitting here concerned with how good Tua can be; I'm concerned with, as a collective unit, what we can grow together because that's what wins football games. I haven't seen a quarterback win a football game by himself ever, really," McDaniel said. "He has to have somebody to throw to, he better not be getting tackled before he throws so somebody better block, and the defense had better not allow them to score but the biggest thing for me with Tua is that I want him to come in and work every day, and I'm very confident that he will."
How much belief the club has in the second-year pro came into question last season when the Dolphins engaged in trade discussions with the Houston Texans for star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who did not play in 2021 due to an ongoing investigation regarding alleged sexual misconduct. It was anything but a vote of confidence for Tagovailoa, in whom the team invested a No. 5 overall draft pick in 2020.
After the trade deadline passed, Tagovailoa came off the bench despite a fractured finger to lead a 22-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens, then won five consecutive starts to help put the team back in playoff contention. The Dolphins ultimately missed the playoffs with a 9-8 record, with one of Tagovailoa's worst outings serving as the crushing blow, a 34-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 17.
Now, it's a new day for both coach and quarterback.
McDaniel confirmed Thursday that he will call the plays on offense. His reputation as a clever offensive mind stems largely from his work as the San Francisco 49ers' run game coordinator, a role he held for four years until becoming the 49ers' offensive coordinator in 2021. The 49ers' rushing attack ranked among the NFL's best under McDaniel, including a finish as the league's No.2-ranked run game in 2019 at 144.1 yards per game. A revitalized running game -- Miami ranked 30th in the NFL last year at just 92.2 yards per game -- would provide Tagovailoa with some much-needed support. McDaniel told Tagovailoa upon taking the job that he's excited to work with the second-year pro.
McDaniel inherits one of the NFL's worst offensive lines, which has been a key reason for Tagovailoa's struggles over the last two years. Club owner Stephen Ross voiced his confidence in the future and in McDaniel, telling reporters he received unsolicited endorsements from opposing coaches regarding his ability.
"I had coaches from his former division calling me and telling me how great he was," said Ross. "And I said 'Why are you calling?' and (they) said 'Really, to get him out of the division'."