Empowered Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was an interesting mix of honesty, insight, and “screw you” on the podium Wednesday.
And it was freakin’ great.
More importantly, he seems to be having fun on and off the field, which is good to see.
Tagovailoa addressed the Super Bowl talk head on, and took an entertaining shot at critics (yes, I was among them) who doubted whether he could effectively throw the deep ball.
In between he talked about the Chicago Bears (3-5), who happen to be the Dolphins (5-3) opponent Sunday, and how different their defense looks without linebacker Roquan Smith and edge rusher Robert Quinn, both of whom were traded recently (Quinn to Philadelphia and Smith to Baltimore).
But that’s the boring stuff.
The good stuff was Tua being Tua.
Asked whether Tuesday’s trades to acquire pass rusher Bradley Chubb and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. made the Dolphins Super Bowl contenders, Tagovailoa gave a clear answer — yes.
“We’re not afraid to talk about Super Bowls here,” he said, later adding, he has “full belief that we are capable.”
This is what you want to hear from your quarterback.
More importantly, this is what you want to hear from Tagovailoa, the Dolphins’ (almost) officially-anointed franchise quarterback.
General manager Chris Grier, who is always guarded on such topics, didn’t directly address whether the trades he orchestrated made the Dolphins a Super Bowl contender.
“I’m not into predictions and everything,” Grier said, “but I do think we have a good team that has a chance to compete and win some games in the future.”
That’s about as far as Grier will go on such a topic.
Tagovailoa, who has been sizzling hot this season among pinpoint accuracy, 12 touchdowns, three interceptions and a league-leading 112.7 passer rating, offered no ambiguity.
He said the players have known what they’ve had with this squad all year.
“I think throughout OTAs (organized team activities) and throughout training camp we could see the potential that we had as a team offensively and defensively,” he said.
And now the organization has offered Tagovailoa its vote of confidence in a couple of ways.
Acquiring Chubb and Wilson in an eye-popping deal was only part of the story.
The other part of the story was Tagovailoa being given a huge vote of confidence by the Dolphins’ front office with the trades.
The Dolphins sent their 2023 first-round pick to Denver in the trade to acquire Chubb. Combine that with the first-round pick they lost in the Steve Ross tampering ruling and they don’t have a first-round pick to potentially use on a quarterback next year.
But that’s OK because the Dolphins believe they have their franchise quarterback in Tagovailoa.
Coach Mike McDaniel was asked about Tagovailoa being the “guy”.
“I would say you’re right on all fronts, that from the get go, I’ve fully seen Tua as our quarterback for this team and this franchise,” McDaniel said. “I think he’s an unbelievable talent. So I guess in a roundabout way, I think that implication, I think that’s fair.”
So, here they are, a complete team, equipped with a franchise quarterback and ready to make a Super Bowl run.
Tagovailoa, you can tell, loves this situation.
Normally guarded, but always courteous in his media comments, he was ebullient after Sunday’s 31-27 victory at Detroit.
The good vibes continued Wednesday.
Tagovailoa was asked where he’s grown most recently.
“Well, I think I’ve grown a lot with the deep balls, huh? Don’t we think?” he asked with a smile. “That was probably a subtle jab, but it was a jab.”
It’s a fair jab.
And it’s welcomed.
It’s good to see Tagovailoa have fun, especially after all the criticism he’s taken.
Tagovailoa said he’s felt support from the organization since they acquired wide receiver Tyreek Hill and running back Raheem Mostert in the offseason.
That’s probably a different feeling than he’s had in the previous two seasons when he faced things ranging from an unlikely benching to a reported halftime argument with former coach Brian Flores.
Tagovailoa hasn’t answered all the questions from critics yet. He still must win. But he’s doing the best he can. He might even be taking names, and that’d be OK. The best thing is he appears to be having fun.