Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel firmly defended the team’s decision to play quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the 27-15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night that resulted in Tagovailoa getting carted away on a stretcher due to a concussion, among his head and neck injuries.
McDaniel was asked postgame if he would’ve done anything differently given what transpired with Tagovailoa, who officially entered Thursday questionable with back and ankle injuries.
“Absolutely not,” he replied swiftly and adamantly. “If I would have, that would be irresponsible in the first place, and I shouldn’t be in this position.
“I don’t believe an injury last week made him fall the same way this week. I do not have any, like absolutely zero patience for — or will ever — put a player in a position for them to be in harm’s way. That is not what I’m about at all, and no outcome of a game would ever influence me being irresponsible as the head coach of a football team.”
McDaniel reasserted that Tagovailoa did not suffer a concussion or head injury when he exited Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills, four days prior to the Thursday loss at Paycor Stadium.
“Yeah, otherwise we would’ve reported him having a head injury,” McDaniel said. “That’s why the NFL has these protocols. Every single NFL game that is played, there’s an independent specialist that specializes in the specialty of brain matter.
“For me, as long as I’m coaching here, I’m not going to fudge that whole situation. If there is any sort of inclination that someone has a concussion, they go into concussion protocol, and it’s very strict. People don’t vary or stray. We don’t mess with that. We never have. And as long as I’m the head coach, that will never be an issue that you guys have to worry about.”
McDaniel also reaffirmed his belief that the team received the correct diagnosis.
There has been an onslaught of outside skepticism based on the way Tagovailoa appeared woozy and stumbled last Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium as he got up from a roughing-the-passer penalty when Bills linebacker Matt Milano shoved him on his back. Tagovailoa hit the back of the head against the ground from the whiplash.
Initially said by the team to be a head injury, Tagovailoa cleared concussion protocol to return for the second half. Tagovailoa and McDaniel said after the Bills game that it was actually a back injury he suffered, one that originated from an earlier quarterback sneak and was intensified by the backward fall.
On Thursday in Cincinnati, Tagovailoa was spun down and driven to the turf on a sack by Bengals nose tackle Josh Tupou. He landed on his already-ailing back on the takedown, and the back of his head hit the ground violently from the whiplash effect.
Tagovailoa appeared to lie motionless as he was attended to on the field for several minutes before being taken away on the stretcher. He was on the ground with his hands up and his left index finger stuck in an awkward inward-pointing position.
Following the loss to the Bengals, McDaniel scoffed at questioning over what went into clearing Tagovailoa to play on Thursday night.
“What goes into every one of those decisions — that it starts with your medical staff but then there’s independent specialists that look into it, too,” he said as to the process. “There’s an entire protocol, and you’re talking to the player, as well. Probably, I don’t know, five or six, different layers in a process in decision-making, like you do with all players.”
He was asked what specifically gave the Dolphins belief Tagovailoa should play on Thursday.
“Him getting cleared by people,” he replied. “Your standard operating procedure with all players in every single game.”
The Dolphins, after the short week to play Cincinnati, have the weekend off before facing the New York Jets in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Oct. 9.