Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores defends decision to stick with Tua Tagovailoa as starting QB

DAVIE, Fla. -- Despite Ryan Fitzpatrick's miracle heave that led the Miami Dolphins to a 26-25 win over the Las Vegas Raiders Saturday night, coach Brian Flores once again made it clear Sunday that Tua Tagovailoa remains his starting quarterback.

Flores expressed adamant disagreement with those outside the team building who believe starting the veteran gives the Dolphins the best chances to win.

"Tua has brought us a spark in a lot of other games. I think people will just forget that because we just remember the last thing," Flores said. "Speculation on whatever people want to speculate about as far as what we should or shouldn't do based on last night, I wouldn't do that and forget the body of work over the course of the season to include the last however many games Tua has been starting [eight]. I think he's played fairly well.

"People may disagree, but I think we would have to agree to disagree in that instance. That's my take on that. It's not based off one game or one quarter -- there's a lot of practices that people don't see, walk-throughs that no one sees. But everyone wants to make a judgment and try to make a decision for us on what we should do without all that information."

Flores' defense of Tagovailoa comes one day after he benched the rookie quarterback in the fourth quarter of Saturday's comeback win. He compared Fitzpatrick's role as a ninth-inning reliever coming in to close a game, and he didn't rule out calling his number again if the Dolphins are in a similar scenario. By the same token, Flores didn't hesitate in naming Tagovailoa the starter next Sunday vs. Buffalo Bills in a very important "win and you're in" game for the playoff hopeful Dolphins.

It's rare for a modern NFL team to have a two-quarterback system, but it seems the 10-5 Dolphins are comfortable with some version of it as they attempt to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. It's the second time Flores made the move to bench Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter of a close game (Week 11 at Denver), and both times he went back to Tagovailoa as the starter.

Tagovailoa has been very efficient with a better touchdown-to-interception ratio (10-to-2 compared to 13-to-8 for Fitzpatrick) of the two quarterbacks, but Fitzpatrick has provided more downfield plays (7.8 yards per attempt and 232.3 passing yards per game compared to Tagovailoa (6.3 yards/attempt and 161.4 passing yards per game) due to his willingness to take chances on 50-50 balls.

With questions about his QB situation after a big win, Flores made it clear that winning is the only thing that matters to him, regardless of what people want to call their unusual rotation.

"I don't want to put any labels on it. The label is we are going to do what we've got to do to win. I owe that to the Dolphins' fans, to the players in that locker room, to the people in the organization, that's what we're always going to do," Flores said. "So two-person, three-person QB, five-person QB, whatever we need to do to win, that's what we're going to do to win."

After the game, Fitzpatrick and Tagovailoa both said they believe in Flores to make the best decision for the team, while strongly supporting the other when they aren't playing. There hasn't been any hints of Dolphins locker room issues throughout the QB switches this season, showing Flores has a good pulse of his team, and he made clear that he believes in Tagovailoa now and going forward.

"Tua has played well. He's made a lot of improvement over the course of the season. He's developing," Flores said. "I don't make judgments and decisions based on one instance. There's a lot that goes into the decisions we make -- conversations and not just one game or one quarter. Tua has done a lot of good things for this team. He knows that. The team knows that."