With increasing questions about when rookie Tua Tagovailoa will be elevated to become the Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback, coach Brian Flores said he won't be pressured into playing Tagovailoa and noted that his past hip injury remains a factor in the decision.
"He's checked all the boxes from a medical standpoint. He has," Flores said. "Look, the honest thing for me is if it was my kid, and he had a serious injury like that, I wouldn't want his coach to throw him in there because of media pressure or anything like that. That's kind of how I approach this situation and really all situations. The players, essentially, they are my kids. So no one is going to pressure me into doing anything. When we feel like he's ready to go, we'll put him in."
Ryan Fitzpatrick has started the first four games of the Dolphins' season, leading the team to a 1-3 record, including Sunday's 31-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He's produced a 69% completion rate, six total touchdowns and five interceptions so far. Tagovailoa has been active for every game as the No. 2 QB but hasn't played a snap yet.
Flores, who had a notable pause when asked, fell short of officially naming the veteran quarterback his Week 5 starter for Sunday's game at San Francisco, but he said he would "presume it's going to be Fitzpatrick." He also noted the coaching staff typically meets Monday evening for day-after-game evaluation and potential starting lineup changes.
Fitzpatrick, 37, is a team favorite and captain, but his play has been up-and-down this season, and he's clearly not the long-term answer in Miami. He knows that, saying earlier this year that he's a "placeholder" for Tagovailoa.
After throwing two interceptions in Sunday's loss, Fitzpatrick said, "I walk out of this game feeling terrible in that I felt like there was a lot of guys on our team that played well enough to win, and I, unfortunately, was not one of them. And when that happens and your quarterback doesn't play up to his ability, then you're not going to win a whole lot of games in this league."
Flores said Fitzpatrick moved the ball "pretty efficiently" Sunday in totaling 362 yards and leading six scoring drives (five field goals, one touchdown). "Look, I understand where everybody's coming from with Tua," Flores said. "I get all that. At the same time, he's a young player. He's coming off the injury."
Tagovailoa has not been made available to speak with the media since Aug. 29. He hasn't been on the injury report with his hip injury since Week 1, and it has been 10½ months since Tagovailoa suffered his injury.
Of the rookie quarterbacks selected in the top 10 in this past April's NFL draft, Tagovailoa is the only one yet to play. Cincinnati's Joe Burrow and the Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert have played well in early action despite being on teams with losing records. Flores said their play doesn't affect how he handles the Tagovailoa situation.
"No, I think every player's different, every situation is different," Flores said. "No. I really don't look at other players. I don't play the comparison game. We're going to do what we feel is best for the Dolphins and for the individual players. ... It's all case by case. We don't look at other situations and make decisions off of what other people are doing."
Last season, Fitzpatrick started the first two games of the season before an abrupt midweek switch to Josh Rosen ahead of the Dolphins' Week 3 game at Dallas. After Rosen struggled in three starts, Fitzpatrick was put back in the starting lineup for the rest of the season and played well.
But unlike last year's situation, when the Dolphins hand the team over to Tagovailoa, it likely will be for good.