DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' quarterback situation has been at the center of the news cycle early in the offseason, but when asked about it Thursday, coach Brian Flores reaffirmed his support for Tua Tagovailoa and expressed excitement for his development going into Year 2.
"A lot of attention gets paid to Tua, but I thought he made a lot of improvement over the course of the season. I'm excited about the future with him," Flores told ESPN. "He's a young player, talented player, bounced back from the hip. I think this is a big offseason for him. That Year 1 to Year 2 jump will be important, like it is for all rookies."
Last week, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier made clear there wasn't any QB controversy, saying: "Tua, we're very happy with. He's our starting quarterback."
Still, Tagovailoa has been the subject of questions, criticism and speculation after an uneven rookie season.
As Dolphins coaches and executives go deeper into an offseason that includes an ongoing offensive coordinator search and an opportunity to coach the Senior Bowl later this month, they hope to move past the questions and toward a future that includes Tagovailoa.
"Criticism comes with the territory in the NFL across the board. Our team did a good job ignoring that stuff. Anyone who saw the Dolphins this year saw we were a tight-knit group and I think that's still the case," Flores said. "The idea that there is any kind of fracture is overblown. I thought there was a lot of support throughout the locker room.
"My message to the team has been to ignore the noise and the people inside the building are going to tell the truth to you. Without all the information, how do you make any determination about what's going on?"
The Dolphins' decision-makers still believe in Tagovailoa's talent. Throughout the season, players revealed to ESPN differing opinions on whether Tagovailoa or veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick gave them the best chance to win. But several teammates have expressed support and optimism about Tagovailoa's future publicly throughout the season.
Miami has interviewed five candidates for its offensive coordinator job, which was left vacant after Chan Gailey resigned last week, and a top priority for the hire will be guiding Tagovailoa's Year 2 development.
Dolphins running back coach Eric Studesville, Dolphins QB coach George Godsey, Los Angeles Chargers QB coach Pep Hamilton, Pittsburgh Steelers QB coach Matt Canada and San Francisco 49ers run game coordinator Mike McDaniel have all interviewed for the job.
Tagovailoa still has plenty to prove. He wasn't good enough in terms of trusting his eyes downfield and making plays outside of the scheme -- shown by one of the lowest completion percentages on 20-plus-yard passes this season.
But the Dolphins should and likely will be patient in allowing Tagovailoa to improve and develop with a full offseason, more explosive offensive weapons and a playcaller who builds an offense that best fits him. He played his best football when allowed to play more freely using tempo and spread packages.
The comparisons to fellow rookies Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow, who had better statistical seasons in different situations, help paint a doom-and-gloom situation about Tagovailoa, who completed 64% of his passes for 11 passing TDs and five interceptions with a pedestrian 6.3 yards per attempt. Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen had a 53% completion rate, 10 TDs, 12 interceptions and 6.5 yards per attempt as a rookie. Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill admitted on "Inside the NFL" in December that he thought Patrick Mahomes was "trash" as a rookie. Both are among the AFC's best QBs now.
The Dolphins clearly believe development takes time and Tagovailoa will be fine.
"We learned that he's healthy. He still has a lot of his mobility. He's accurate. In the Arizona game, he brings us back in the fourth quarter. He brought us back in the Kansas City game. He also didn't play as well in other games. He had some bright spots and not-so-bright spots. That's the life of a rookie," Flores said. "If he continues to learn, study, stay healthy, get stronger, work on his footwork and his eye progression and pick up where he left off, then I think we're going to be happy with his improvement."