After a bit of a hiccup, the Dolphins are back on track, living up to the high expectations set by their offseason changes.
As such, the preparation for Week 10 was a bit of a love-fest between some prominent members of the organization. Coach Mike McDaniel and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa spent Wednesday gushing about each other, presenting a united front of mutual appreciation and optimism that their partnership can lead the franchise to heights unseen in decades.
Tagovailoa, for one, is playing at a level unexpected by most anyone in NFL circles. After wading through the waters of uncertainty and lingering doubt in his first two seasons, Tagovailoa is thriving, leading the league in passer rating (115.9) and yards per attempt (9.2) and ranking third in touchdown-to-interception ratio (15-3).
"Anything that's happening with him isn't a surprise to me," McDaniel said Wednesday. "It would have been a surprise if it hadn't, just because the day-in day-out work that I'm witnessing and the work that his teammates do and how his rapport is with them and all of that. But it doesn't surprise me how he's handled having some success because literally it has no distinction from when we first started working before game one in training camp and OTAs. And that's awesome.
"That's what I would have guessed, but it's been really cool to see. But it's case in point, he knows exactly who he is, he knows exactly what he needs to do to do his portion of his job well, and he's not deviating from that at all. (It is) very, very cool and good to see but not surprising in the least."
McDaniel's confidence in Tagovailoa and enjoyment of his quarterback's success doesn't come without the work the rookie head coach has put in since arriving in Miami. The Dolphins hired him with the hopes he'd transform their offense into something similar to what Kyle Shanahan assembled in San Francisco. Then, Miami general manager Chris Grier went out and acquired a rare weapon for Tagovailoa in Tyreek Hill.
Since then, it's just been about executing. With McDaniel overseeing the entire operation, the Dolphins (6-3) are soaring for the first time in what likely feels like ages to those in Miami and beyond.
McDaniel is still new to his role, but he already has the confidence of his players. It helps when you win, of course, but how McDaniel conducts himself in times of adversity is even more important.
"You kind of see people's true colors of really who they are (in trying times)," Tagovailoa said. "And the guy has been the same person and he's never changed, never gotten mad. Just always what can we work on? Things that we can fix. And then you look at two more times we ended up losing. Same dude. So I would say he's won the trust of me, of the guys in the locker room. And then also, I would say the organization."
With all of this in mind, the Dolphins firmly believe their success is not a fluke. Miami is in the toughest division in the AFC, if not the entire NFL, but the Dolphins like their chances, so much that Tagovailoa isn't shying from talking about Super Bowls.
"It's the confidence and the things that we've seen throughout OTAs and the build-up of that to training camp, being able to kind of build off of that towards the beginning of the season and kind of to where we're at at this point," Tagovailoa explained when asked why he wasn't afraid to aim high. "Like I said, we can always continue to get better with things. But yeah, I mean, why shy away from that? We're not afraid to talk about that here."