GM Chris Grier says Tua Tagovailoa is Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback for 2021

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami general manager Chris Grier made it clear Tuesday that Tua Tagovailoa is the Dolphins' 2021 starting quarterback, and they're happy with his progress amid speculation they could be a candidate to draft another first-round quarterback.

"Tua, we're very happy with. He's our starting quarterback," Grier said. "He did a nice job this year coming in as a rookie with no offseason and the challenge in dealing with all that. Very happy with him and looking forward to watching him progress here over a [full] offseason going into next year. For us, not really talking about draft strategy, anything right now."

Grier, alongside coach Brian Flores for the Dolphins' season-ending address, said a few minutes later that they value competition at every position, but he reiterated that Tagovailoa is their guy at QB.

"We want to be clear that Tua is our starter, and we're very happy with his development so far," Grier said.

Tagovailoa went 6-3 as a starter and threw 11 touchdown passes and five interceptions. Questions about the team's quarterback situation arose because of a rocky late-season finish that saw Tagovailoa twice replaced in the fourth quarter by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Tagovailoa also threw three interceptions in Sunday's season-finale loss to the Buffalo Bills.

But the Dolphins believe a full offseason will help Tagovailoa improve some of his rookie struggles and that roster improvement, particularly at receiver and running back, can help his overall effectiveness.

The Dolphins hold the Nos. 3 and 18 picks in the 2021 NFL draft. Neither Grier nor Flores wanted to discuss much draft strategy in January, but it seems their top priorities will be building around Tagovailoa and improving their roster to close the gap between them and the AFC East champion Bills.

Tagovailoa, who spoke after Sunday's loss, said he learned a lot during his rookie season and is hopeful a full offseason will lead to him taking the next step as a player. He put a cap on his 2020 season with an Instagram post Tuesday thanking Dolphins fans, expressing his joy playing with his teammates and offering a message that "roses will bloom again."

Flores also announced that he expects to have all of his assistant coaches back in 2021, barring any sudden changes like one being hired by another team. That includes a return for offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who came under some criticism for having a conservative offense when Tagovailoa was the QB.

Flores said he believes the offense dynamic between Gailey and Tagovailoa will improve with more communication and comfort over time.

As for Fitzpatrick, it's unclear whether the 38-year-old veteran wants to return for a 17th NFL season. He'll be an unrestricted free agent in March, and Flores said the Dolphins need to go through a full evaluation before determining if Fitzpatrick or any of their other pending free agents will be offered a contract to return in 2021.