As the NFL draws closer to Tuesday’s trade deadline, the collective football world is watching to see what happens with embattled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and whether he will be dealt to the Dolphins.
With the continued reports of Miami’s interest in trading for Watson, the future of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has also come under the microscope.
The Dolphins, whether it be owner Stephen Ross, general manager Chris Grier or head coach Brian Flores, haven’t publicly or privately extinguished reports that the team is engaged with Houston on a trade for Watson.
On Wednesday, Tagovailoa was asked if he felt wanted by the organization amid the continued Watson reports.
The 23-year-old offered a double negative: “I don’t not feel wanted,” Tagovailoa said with a laugh. “That’s what I can say.”
It was one of just several one-liners and introspective answers given by Tagovailoa in a roughly 10-minute news conference ahead of the Dolphins’ road game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday and his third consecutive start since returning from fractured ribs.
Tagovailoa repeated that he doesn’t pay attention to the continuing reports of the Dolphins’ pursuit of Watson, unless one of his agents contacts him to discuss it. NFL Network reported early Wednesday that the Carolina Panthers are not expected to pursue a trade for Watson — and that Watson has only waived his no-trade clause for Miami.
Watson, 26, has not played this season as the Houston Police Department, FBI and NFL investigate 22 civil suits and 10 criminal complaints by women alleging sexual harassment or misconduct during massage appointments. Watson has denied any wrongdoing. He hasn’t been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, a form of administrative leave for players charged with a felony crime or crime of violence, or when an NFL investigation leads commissioner Roger Goodell to believe a player might have violated the league’s personal conduct policy.
At the league’s owners meeting in New York City on Tuesday, Goodell said Watson hasn’t been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list because the NFL has not gathered the necessary information to do so.
Asked if he would like the Dolphins to outright deny an interest in Watson, Tagovailoa said: “For me, I don’t have control over any of that. For me, I’m just focused on the guys in the building, my teammates. We don’t really have time as professionals, I would say, to be thinking of a lot of the outside noise while we’re preparing day in and day out for opponents like we have right now, the Bills.”
Days after coach Brian Flores revealed he had a discussion with Tagovailoa amid the latest reports, he was asked how he’s handling such conversations with the trade deadline days away.
“I mean I don’t really get into rumors,” Flores responded. “I don’t really pay attention to rumors and hypotheticals and this and that. Tua is our quarterback. I’ve said that multiple times and I’ve said that to him and that’s about as — I try to be honest and transparent with our players and that’s what I’ve been.”
Through it all, Tagovailoa has still just started 13 games. Last week, former front-office executive and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick criticized the Dolphins for their handling of Tagovailoa, the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and questioned whether they’ve provided him the proper support to be a successful quarterback.
This, and other criticisms of the organization balancing nurturing the young quarterback while pursuing another, brought forth a question of whether Tagovailoa thinks his first two seasons in the NFL have been “fair.”
“I don’t know if I’d ever use the word fair,” Tagovailoa said, “because nothing’s fair, especially in the life that we live. For you guys, media, it’s not fair that you guys only get however many minutes with a player. For players, it’s not fair that we only get praise when we’re doing good. Nothing’s fair in life, that’s what I can say to that.”
On the field, Tagovailoa is coming off a game in which he threw a career-high four touchdowns and gave the Dolphins a one-point lead with 2:27 left before Atlanta kicked a game-winning field goal. Despite a strong two-game stretch against the Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars, he said it’s hard to look at the positives from his performance because of his two interceptions last Sunday, both of which came in the Falcons’ territory.
“You never know which play is going to be the play that wins you the game,” Tagovailoa said. “So, by eliminating those mistakes, I felt I could have put our team in a better position.”
Tagovailoa, asked if he had thought about what next week could hold for him, said he wouldn’t be considering whether Sunday could be his last game as the starter and that he wasn’t monitoring the countdown to the trade deadline — he even said he doesn’t know when it is — although it may bring forth a bit of clarity on the Watson situation and his future with the team.
“All I can do is my job and do it to the best of my capability,” Tagovailoa said. “Everything is, it’s out of my control. But, I have the utmost confidence and trust that I am the quarterback of this team and just off of conversations I’ve had with ‘Flo’ [Flores] and whatnot — it obviously stays between us — but yeah, I feel very confident that I’m the person.”