The public displays backing Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa have been made.
The team put the word out that it is not pursuing another quarterback, hired a coach who formed an offensive staff that will build around Tagovailoa, a Saint Louis alum, and even promoted video of that first interaction between Tagovailoa and first-time head coach Mike McDaniel.
Now, it’s time for McDaniel, offensive coordinator Frank Smith and quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell to base their offense around what they have in Tagovailoa, while offering him as much support as possible in a revamped offensive line, improved running game and ample pass-catching targets.
Bevell, who will be tasked with taking Tagovailoa’s game to the next level in a critical third season for the former Alabama quarterback, has had a conversation with him, but the two can’t work together on the field yet per NFL rules.
“The first thing is to get him ingrained in this system,” said Bevell, whose title also includes passing-game coordinator, on Wednesday. “Once we are able to do that, then I think the system is going to be built and tailored to him and to be able to bring out all the positives in his game.”
Bevell, who has 15 years of offensive coordinator experience and was an interim head coach at the end of the past two seasons with the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars, has already found some of the traits he likes most about his new quarterback.
“I think he’s a really accurate passer,” Bevell said. “That’s the thing that jumped out at me right away as I was looking at him. I haven’t done like a complete deep dive yet, but I’ve looked at enough tape that I like the accuracy that he has.
“I like his ability to be able to make some off-schedule plays. He can get outside the pocket. He’s not going to be a major runner, but he can run and make plays with his feet. I really like those kinds of things.”
Those are the positives. Now, what about Tagovailoa’s much-maligned arm strength? Could that create limitations in his ability to make all the throws required of him in the revamped offense?
“I think it’s important for me to be able to see the ball coming out of his hand in person,” said Bevell. “I can see it on tape. I can see him making some of the throws. There are questions that I have, but I want to see the ball come out of his hand in person. That’s the one thing for me, always, on tape, is it’s hard to really tell the true velocity, so I want to get him out here on the grass and see exactly what it looks like.
“From what I’ve seen, we’ll definitely be able to have high success from him being able to throw the football. He can make many of the throws that we’re going to ask him to do, and the ones that he can’t, then we’re going to do something different.”
Bevell brings ample experience working with great quarterbacks. Early the 2000s, he got his start in the NFL coaching Brett Favre with the Green Bay Packers once Favre was already established and a three-time MVP. He had Aaron Rodgers as a rookie in 2005 that was backing up Favre.
Bevell developed Russell Wilson in Seattle from a third-round draft pick to a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback and Super Bowl champion. He also worked with Matthew Stafford at the end of his tenure with the Lions before Stafford joined the Los Angeles Rams, who won the Super Bowl two weeks ago. Bevell also had 2021 top draft pick Trevor Lawrence last season as a rookie with the Jaguars.
“I’ve coached old guys, coached young guys, and all those kind of guys in between,” Bevell said. “Different levels of knowledge, different levels of skill sets, and just trying to tailor the games to them.”
Some compared Tagovailoa to Wilson coming into the league — similar size, accuracy and ability to extend plays. Is there a path for Tagovailoa to find Wilson’s level of success?
“Russell is a very driven player,” said Bevell, who was the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator from 2011 to 2017, with Wilson there starting in 2012. “He wants to be great in every way, and he’s a tireless worker to be able to get that done.
“That’s the first thing, just the preparation, the dogged determination that ‘I am going to be great, and I don’t care what anybody else says.’ I think that’s a great starting point. Because then, when you have that belief in yourself, then that’s when you start acting in accordance with that. You put in the time, you work, and you do all those things you need to get your game to meeting expectations.”
Bevell is not coming to Miami to make drastic mechanical changes with Tagovailoa and his throwing motion.
“A lot of it starts with their base and their feet,” Bevell said. “Your motion is your motion. It’s going to be that way for a long time. It’s like, ‘Hey walk over there, pick up a rock and throw it.’ That’s your motion. And so, I’m not going to mess with that. It’s the footwork, the timing, the seeing things, the pre-snap reads, the post-snap reads, those kinds of things. He throws the ball fine. I’m not going to tinker with that too much.”
And Bevell hopes that the expected emphasis on the running game that McDaniel and Smith’s offense should bring to the Dolphins will aid Tagovailoa’s development.
“Any time you run the football, that’s a quarterback’s best friend,” he said.