(CBSMiami)- It’s safe to say that the 2020 season has already been a success for the Dolphins and head coach Brian Flores. They have improved their record from a year ago, are in the thick of the playoff race and are bringing along rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa while still winning games.
With four games left, sitting 8-4 and in sixth place in the AFC playoff standings, the Dolphins have impressed. For NFL on CBS reporter Jay Feely, the job that Flores has done this season is a continuation of what he saw from the Dolphins coach last year.
“I was a big Brian Flores guy last year and I talked about the job he was doing last year. Very difficult circumstances. You go in, you’re trading, getting rid of all of your talent,” said Feely. “It was just the worst circumstances you could think of for an NFL team and I thought Brian Flores kept that team together throughout the year. They continued to fight, give great effort and they didn’t always get the wins you thought they would get but I thought they had great effort on the field.”
“Then you take that and move forward to this year. They did a great job in the offseason of bringing in talent, bringing in guys like Van Noy and understanding the scheme they want to do defensively,” continued Feely. “Then they come out this year and Brian Flores has done a great job with this team. They continue to get better throughout the season.”
The progression has been clear. After a 1-3 start, the team has won seven of its last eight. The loss to the Broncos was troubling for sure, but not many teams in the league run off a stretch like the Dolphins have over the last two months. Feely points to Flores’ willingness to make tough decisions like starting Tua over Fitz, then pulling the rookie when he was struggling against Denver and going back to him when healthy as evidence that he’s always going to put the team in the best spot he can.
“He’s just going to do what is best for this team. And I think because of the person that he is and the way that he interacts with his team, they’re responding to that and they’re going out there and playing good football,” said Feely.
Of course, the quarterback situation doesn’t necessarily work with just any guys. Feely says it’s the personalities of Fitz and Tagovailoa and the respect they have for each other that has made things work.
“Everything I have heard from Miami is that he’s (Tua) a joy to be around. Fitzpatrick loves him. From Day 1, he talked about how great this young man is and how much you want to help him. That galvanizes the locker room. I don’t think if you don’t have two guys like Fitzpatrick and Tua, who are so great as people, that Brian Flores would be able to flip them out like that and start guys at different times and go back and forth,” said Feely. “But because both of those guys are such great men and the locker room loves both of them, it allows Brian Flores to do that. That’s probably the biggest attribute Tua has. He comes in and he has the humility, he works hard, and he galvanizes everyone around him.”
That relationship has helped the team in this stretch. Now, a few big tests remain, namely this Sunday when the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs come to town for a 1:00 p.m. EST matchup on CBS. For Tagovailoa, Feely says it’s going to be a game where the young quarterback needs to be prepared to put the team on his shoulders, matching scores with the Chiefs.
“The tough thing this week is going up against a Chiefs team where there is no room for error. You can’t throw for 150 yards and beat the Kansas City Chiefs. You have to move the ball, you have to score points when you’re in the red zone you have to score touchdowns. I would think going in that they’re going to have this mentality of we’re going to go for it on fourth down, we’re not going to set up for field goals,” said Feely. “For Tua, it’s a game where he’s going to have to put it on his shoulders. He’s going to have to perform. I would think he relishes that going up against a guy like Patrick Mahomes and his first chance to test himself against the best in the NFL.”