Dolphins Coach Mike McDaniel Trying for Tua Tagovailoa What He Did for Brett Favre and Russell Wilson

Dolphins Coach Mike McDaniel Trying for Tua Tagovailoa What He Did for Brett Favre and Russell Wilson

Dolphins Coach Mike McDaniel Trying for Tua Tagovailoa What He Did for Brett Favre and Russell Wilson

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA — Tua Tagovailoa turned around as the voice blasted into the quarterbacks meeting. “A voice from the heavens,” Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill told Yahoo Sports. “Like,’Who spoke?'”

This was not a message from the football gods to Tagovailoa (though the parties would have enough to talk about after last season). This was quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell’s voice coming over from Zoom audio during the first week of August, while Bevell laid face down for more than 90% of each day for seven days in a row.

That’s what the former offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, and Detroit Lions was told by his doctor. Tagovailoa’s coach, whom he credits for helping him relax and open up to teammates, was told to close down for a week of training camp.

Bevell discovered his vision was affected while viewing a movie at 11 p.m. on July 30. He covered his right eye, so he couldn’t see the tape or the ceiling.

He covered his left eye because his right eye didn’t provide him with the same clarity. It was also very dry. Within 36 hours, Bevell was in surgery, with needles puncturing his eyeball and a specialist using a laser to repair his retina.

A gas bubble quickly held his reattached retina in place, along with a strict face-down policy to prevent the bubble from spreading to the wrong portions of the eye.

So Bevell observed practises and Zoomed into meetings from home, alternately laying on his bed with his head dangling off and utilising a U-shaped massage table headrest once he no longer required an eye patch.

The Bevells eventually ordered a face cushion with a raised stand. “Air was flowing,” Bevell explained, “so that helped.”

Tagovailoa watched a YouTube video of the surgery and described it as “pretty cool.” He believes Bevell is cool as well.

Because, despite working on an offensive staff led by head coach Mike McDaniel and offensive coordinator Frank Smith, Bevell brings a wealth of experience from coordinating offences for Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, and first-round draft pick Matthew Stafford.

McDaniel sees Bevell’s extensive passing game knowledge as a valuable complement to his own run-heavy coaching background.

“His reputation preceded him,” McDaniel said, according to media. “I knew I needed someone who had been through the journey with at least one, but preferably multiple, quarterbacks at a high level, [who] understood the amount of demands that are placed on the player, and then was a human being who connected with him.”

McDaniel was sold after hearing Bevell’s play-calling resume and two interim head coaching positions. In February 2022, he hired Bevell as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator.

The end result: The Dolphins didn’t just jump from 22nd to 11th in points scored in the staff’s first year. They also improved from 17th to fourth in passing, with Tagovailoa posting a league-best 105.5 passer rating in 13 games.

Smith claims he cannot adequately summarise Bevell’s impact. “He adds value in all areas,” Smith remarked. Bevell’s talents include soundbites and situational football.

Bevell’s coaching style incorporates lessons learned from his now 23-year NFL career, ranging from advice from Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll — “celebrate the uniqueness of each player” — to the complexities of how his previous quarterbacks executed iterations of the Dolphins’ current concepts.

Tagovailoa is reminded by Bevell that he is allowed to drift between his uber-competitive, locked-in moments and his looser, freer locker room appearance.

And Bevell sees the personalised handshake taught to him by seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill as a suitable prelude to a chat about routes. “You ran with speed,” Hill recalled Bevell’s recent dagger route suggestion. “However, you could have sold the go a little bit more.” You could have had another revolution.”

Bevell is deliberate in putting his advise within the framework of what Smith and McDaniel foresee, their backgrounds complementary rather than competing.

The quarterbacks coach appreciates how McDaniel plans to target defences in the run game in the same manner that many coaches aim to attack defences in the passing game; how his run-game focus on spacing spurred the Dolphins’ desire to accumulate a rare collection of quick weapons who now stretch and stress defences.

Bevell applies such techniques to situational football, particularly third downs, where Tagovailoa trails only San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy’s 130.1 passing rating last season. Tagovailoa led all quarterbacks with at least nine attempts with a red-zone passer rating of 112.2.

“Bev has been great from that standpoint of knowing what the quarterback is capable of doing, what variations or evolutions might fit, and then working through it,” Smith said to Yahoo Sports.

“Just being able to attack the coverage and having answers, he can paint a picture on why we’re doing what we’re doing, the intent for the quarterback and the intent that they wanted to use.”

Bevell assists his quarterbacks in distilling a more verbose system than most are used to, with the Dolphins’ moves and compact formations increasing play-call complexity.

“He’ll say something like, ‘Hey, what’s the sound bite?'” So we’ll say progression, drop in progression,” said third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson to media.

“Like a three-step to the high-low backside or the high-low China or whatever the case may be for that play.” He’s simplified the game to the point where when we hear a play, we think, ‘Oh, I simply know I’m down-up-backside here.’

“It helps to slow the game down.” What’s next for Tua and the Dolphins’ quarterbacks?

Bevell and his colleagues on McDaniel’s coaching staff are excited about their second year in Miami. Will the Dolphins’ raw speed and deep targets shine again when they open the regular season against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday? Likely. However, presentations and applications are likely to change.

“Mike is ever evolving in our core principles,” Smith explained. “What we do one year will not be the same as what we do the next.”

McDaniel believes “it’s hilarious when people talk about the Dolphins offence as one stagnant entity.” Defences will approach the Dolphins differently now that they have a year’s worth of footage to work with. The Dolphins’ chess moves will be unique.

“Trying to attack defences where they’re vulnerable,” McDaniel explained. “They have a hand in it because of the hand they play.” As a result, you must be able to exploit their overplay to one phase or the other. As a result, I’ll always be changing.”

Bevell’s vast experience contributes to the adaptation process.

AFC East QB update: Who are the backup quarterbacks in MIA and NE? Return to the default view by scrolling back up.

Take his front-row seat to Favre’s progress, first with the Green Bay Packers for six years and then for two years while Bevell coordinated Favre’s Vikings offence.

On the one hand, Bevell isn’t afraid to play video of a gun-slinging Favre modelling dropbacks and progressions, as he did during their joint season when Favre led the league with 32 touchdown passes.

Bevell worked with Favre twice when he led the league in interceptions, and again in a third year when no quarterback threw picks at a lower rate than Favre’s 1.3%.

Bevell told his current Dolphins teammates about Favre justifying an interception by referencing a game from a decade ago in which the Pittsburgh Steelers showed an identical coverage. Favre’s diagnosis from the 1990s no longer applied. Bevell’s takeaway: Each play stands on its own.

“It doesn’t matter what happened last time on this play or if we had protection issues two plays in a row,” Bevell reminds his quarterbacks. “You have to assume you’re going to be safe on this one.”

Bevell, in particular, grounds Tagovailoa with the statement, “Be where your feet are.”

It’s an appropriate rallying cry after a year in which Tagovailoa’s potential was on display, but so was the fragility of his execution. Tagovailoa’s availability is the biggest uncertainty confronting the 2023 Dolphins after he suffered three head collisions, including two diagnosed concussions, last season.

The Dolphins are hoping that his offseason weight gain and jiu-jitsu training will be the answer. Rather than being overly concerned, Tagovailoa reminds himself: “Be where your feet are.”

And what about when Tagovailoa is healthy? Bevell feels Tagovailoa’s 15.4-point passer rating increase last season demonstrates his starter quarterback’s accuracy, anticipation, and superior vision to analyse a whole field.

The Dolphins will need it even more as they fight in a crowded AFC East with the Buffalo Bills, the NFL champion New York Jets and Aaron Rodgers, and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.

“That’s the quarterback position: trying to simplify things within chaos,” Tagovailoa explained.

Tagovailoa’s perspective is becoming clearer thanks to various people, including Bevell, who is also regaining clarity.

On August 8, Bevell returned to practise and vertical statures. After 17-hour trips to and from Houston for the Dolphins-Texans joint practises and preseason game, he is finally eligible to fly with the club again.

Bevell’s voice is no longer disembodied in meetings, however McDaniel did display the entire squad a photo of his position coach, head hanging off the bed above a sideways laptop.

The message from the head coach?

“First and foremost, I wanted him to wake up,” McDaniel stated deadpan. “This is a meeting, and he shouldn’t be laying down.”

More importantly, McDaniel wanted his guys to make encouraging footage while Bevell could only watch. And to recognise Bevell’s dedication to their development.

“We all get caught up in our own stories and circumstances, and just another glimmer of another person’s scope who is just happy to be able to watch practise and cannot wait to get another work day in,” McDaniel explained. “I think that’s a very powerful message.”

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