MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores says it was a difficult decision to bench veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and switch to rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa but it had to be made.

“Fitz has done a great job,” Flores said Wednesday. “He has been productive. His leadership has been great. But we felt like for the team now, moving forward, this is a move we need to make.”

Tagovailoa will make his first NFL start on Nov. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams after the Dolphins’ bye this week.

Flores also says he regrets that his players found out about the QB switch through social media rather than from him.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins looks on after making his first career complete pass during the second half of their game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium on October 18, 2020. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

“The one thing in this situation that’s unfortunate is that I didn’t get a chance to address the team before this was out in the media,” Flores said. “It’s not the way I or we want to do business. Unfortunately, it’s kind of the way of the world right now.”

“I’m not happy about that at all. I’ll address that to the team, and really apologize to them that they had to find out through social media. I don’t think that’s fair to them.”

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The timing of Tagovailoa’s promotion was surprising because the Dolphins (3-3) have won their past two games by a combined score of 67-17.

The 37-year-old Fitzpatrick, who is in his second season with his eighth NFL team, has been characteristically inconsistent. He is fifth in the league in completion percentage but third in interceptions with seven.

He is also beloved by teammates and coaches.

“Fitz has been great for the last year and a half,” Flores said. “I don’t know if there has been anybody more instrumental in trying to instill the culture that we’re looking for. He has made an impact on Tua and a lot of other players on this team. I have a great respect for him, and that made this decision very tough.”

Even so, it was a decision anticipated since the day Miami drafted Tagovailoa as a potential franchise quarterback.

The rookie played during mop-up time last week, his first action since suffering a serious hip injury last November that ended his Alabama career. The cancellation of offseason drills and exhibition games because of the coronavirus slowed his NFL development, and two weeks ago, Flores said Tagovailoa wasn’t ready to start.

Now he is.

“He has gotten more comfortable,” Flores said. “Accuracy, decision-making, all those things have been good in practice. Practice is very different from games, but we’re comfortable and confident he’ll be able to be competitive.” Flores added, “We feel like through practice and meetings and walkthroughs, that he’s ready. And that’s how we’re going to go moving forward.”

So how different will the offense be with Tagovailoa at quarterback?

“That’s hard to say,” said Flores. “I think every week is a little bit different based on the opponent – what they do well, where their weaknesses are, where their strengths are – so I think the offense is different every week. The defense is different every week, so it’s kind of hard to say. But ‘Fitz’ did a lot for us offensively as far as communication, getting guys lined up. Tua’s going to have to do a good job of that as well and we going to need everyone to step up.”

Flores said he is confident Tagovailoa is going to be successful.

“I’m confident in all our players, to include Tua. I think he’s practiced well. He works hard in meetings and walkthroughs and he’s got a good rapport with his teammates. Every week we go out to win, so yeah, I’m confident that if we prepare the right way, if he prepares the way he’s been preparing, I’m confident we’ll go out there and have good results. But it’s not a one-man game. I think that’s the one thing that – it’s football, so you need 11 guys on each play to go out there and play together and play as a team. I’m confident that we’ll be able to do that – go out and play as a team and play with great energy and hopefully good execution.”

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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