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Dolphins Completely Mishandled Tua Tagovailoa and Deshaun Watson Rumors Up to Trade Deadline

Liam McKeone
Tua Tagovailoa
Tua Tagovailoa / Joshua Bessex/GettyImages
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As yesterday's 4 p.m. NFL trade deadline came and went, what was likely became clear: Deshaun Watson wasn't going anywhere. Multiple reports in the weeks leading up to November 2 suggested the Miami Dolphins were very close to landing the star quarterback but ultimately were not comfortable pulling the trigger with all of his legal issues still unsettled.

The damage was already done, though. Ian Rapoport got ahold of some insider information and reported Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was so set on Watson that he even convinced the Texans to let him get on the phone with him. Houston agreed to do that a little too late for Ross' liking, which is why the deal didn't get done. But the world now knows that Ross was and is extremely interested in the QB, even with the 22 sexual assault accusations publicly levied against him. Most relevantly, Tua Tagovailoa knows that, too.

The Dolphins badly mishandled how this all went down in the public eye. There is the whole "trading for a player who is in the midst of fighting two dozen women in court over sexual assault allegations" aspect to it, which is abhorrent and Miami should be criticized for it but it's not exactly out of the norm for a professional sports team. Not a lot of damage done there, even if there probably should be. On the Tua front, though... the damage may be irreparable.

The rumors started popping up at the beginning of the season and the Dolphins' front-facing men were pretty adamant about Tua's place as the starter. That changed when Miami began to lose games and the rumblings grew all the louder. It reached a crescendo two weeks ago, when a report emerged saying a Watson deal could be done within a week's time. Brian Flores, when asked about it, merely stated that Tua was the starting quarterback in the same tone Nick Caesiro said Watson was a member of the Houston Texans over the offseason. Matter-of-fact, with no additional comments to emphasize the point or going through any extra effort to publicly reassure the young QB. Nobody could accuse Flores of being wrong, at least.

Let's look at it from Tua's perspective. He had a tough rookie season that took place during a pandemic. He gets off to a rough start in 2021 but shows signs of improvement, albeit gradual. The team, though, keeps losing games. Then he starts hearing in the media that his team is ready to give up on him after less than two years... for a man who has been accused of being a serial sexual predator. The franchise thinks so little of his talents that they were strongly considering making that deal.

Chris Grier spoke to the media the day after the deadline to discuss it and insisted his team was merely doing its due diligence before finally offering up some kind of support for the QB currently on the roster.

Everybody understands that trades and rumors are part of the business in football. Tua is undoubtedly being a professional about it all because it's part of the gig. But this is obviously different than the Dolphins merely looking for an upgrade.

Maybe the franchise handled this better behind the scenes. Maybe Tua is telling the truth when he says to reporters that he is entirely unbothered by all this. But from the outside looking in, all the Dolphins did this year was emphasize to their sophomore quarterback that they really do not believe in him. Regardless of whether or not Tua is the answer, that is bad business.

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