How a Head Coach Changes a QB

by Ralf Shockey ’25 on November 9, 2023


One of the hardest things to do in sports is draft a franchise quarterback. It seems that it should not be a difficult task to find and draft a franchise quarterback if they come in all shapes and sizes, and also since the worst teams in the league are the first teams in the NFL draft who are able to select these quarterbacks. However, what makes it difficult is the landing spot and destination these quarterbacks go to when they are selected by their respective team. The biggest determining factor for whether or not these quarterbacks go on to become franchise quarterbacks is their head coach.

Look no further than Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Selected by the Dolphins with the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Tagovailoa was labeled a bust by many after only his second season in the league. This was a season which consisted of a career high 10 interceptions, a 67.8 percent completion percentage, and only 16 touchdowns. It also didn’t help that a pick after Tagovailoa went off the board, when the Los Angeles Chargers selected Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert who proved to be a franchise quarterback after only his rookie season.

Enter Mike McDaniel, the offensive-minded head coach of the Dolphins whose appearance and way of talking would make you question why he is not a biologist. The same people who labeled Tagovailoa a bust also questioned the hire of McDaniel, but it turns out that all Tagovailoa needed to assert himself as Miami’s franchise quarterback was McDaniel, and that all McDaniel needed to prove that he is an elite head coach is Tagovailoa.

When the head coach and quarterback are in sync, the general manager and franchise have found the two most important positions in football. After he got hired as the Dolphins’ head coach, McDaniel produced a 700 play highlight reel to show Tagovailoa how good he is and to restore Tagovailoa’s confidence in himself. Additionally, during training camp before this season started, McDaniel installed a GoPro onto Tagovailoa’s helmet in order to see where Tagovailoa is looking both pre- and post-snap as well as how he is reading the field and defense during each play. McDaniel uniquely went out of his way twice on two occasions to help his young quarterback who he did not even decide to draft, as he was with the San Francisco 49ers as their run game coordinator when Tagovailoa was drafted in 2020.

Before McDaniel came in and saved Tagovailoa’s career from being a short one in the pros, Tagovailoa’s former head coach was Brian Flores, the current defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. When Flores and Tagovailoa were together for Tagovailoa’s first two seasons, they did not get along and Tagovailoa lost all of his self-confidence.

During his two seasons with offensive-minded head coach McDaniel, Tagovailoa has played the best football of his career thus far, has regained all of the confidence he lost with Flores, and is the perfect QB for McDaniel’s offense, as the two get along like longtime best friends.

Sometimes in life, all you need is someone to believe in you and to instill confidence in yourself, just like how McDaniel has done with Tagovailoa.