Flores: Decision to replace Fitzpatrick with Tua was tough

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

By STEVEN WINE AP Sports Writer

MIAMI (AP) — Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores says he regrets that his players found out about the team’s switch to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa through social media rather than from him.

And Flores says the decision to bench popular veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was difficult.

“Fitz has done a great job,” Flores said Wednesday. “He has been productive. His leadership has been great. But we felt like for the team now, moving forward, this is a move we need to make.”

Tagovailoa, the fifth pick in the April draft, will make his first NFL start on Nov. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams after the Dolphins’ bye this week.

News of the change leaked Tuesday.

“The one thing in this situation that’s unfortunate is that I didn’t get a chance to address the team before this was out in the media,” Flores said. “It’s not the way I or we want to do business. Unfortunately, it’s kind of the way of the world right now.

“I’m not happy about that at all. I’ll address that to the team, and really apologize to them that they had to find out through social media. I don’t think that’s fair to them.”

The timing of Tagovailoa’s promotion was surprising because the Dolphins (3-3) have won their past two games by a combined score of 67-17.

The 37-year-old Fitzpatrick, who is in his second season with his eighth NFL team, has been characteristically inconsistent. He is fifth in the the league in completion percentage but third in interceptions with seven.

He is also beloved by teammates and coaches.

“Fitz has been great for the last year and a half,” Flores said. “I don’t know if there has been anybody more instrumental in trying to instill the culture that we’re looking for. He has made an impact on Tua and a lot of other players on this team. I have a great respect for him, and that made this decision very tough.”

Even so, it was a decision anticipated since the day Miami drafted Tagovailoa as a potential franchise quarterback.

The rookie played during mop-up time last week, his first action since suffering a serious hip injury last November that ended his Alabama career. The cancellation of offseason drills and exhibition games because of the coronavirus slowed his NFL development, and two weeks ago, Flores said Tagovailoa wasn’t ready to start.

Now he is.

“He has gotten more comfortable,” Flores said. “Accuracy, decision-making, all those things have been good in practice. Practice is very different from games, but we’re comfortable and confident he’ll be able to be competitive.”


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