The Deshaun Watson-to-Miami Dolphins rumor mill and reports have surfaced again, and Brian Flores followed the same tune that he has used when these discussions have popped up before.
“I don’t want to get into rumors. Tua [Tagovailoa] is our quarterback,” the Dolphins coach said Friday, his first media appearance since the reports surfaced Wednesday afternoon. “I’m happy with our quarterback situation. I’ll leave it at that.”
But multiple reports surfaced this week saying the Dolphins and Houston Texans continue to be engaged in a potential trade involving Watson.
The NFL trade deadline is Nov. 2.
Whether the Dolphins end up trading for Watson or not, the situation creates a major task for Flores: Making sure the outside noise doesn’t become a distraction for a team trying to end a five-game losing streak when it hosts the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Our focus is on Atlanta,” Flores said. “That’s where it really should be.”
But Flores also noted that players should know how to deal with outside noise.
“I think it’s assumed,” he said. “I think it’s not just our team; it’s the world. For me, I think there’s always someone writing about something, positive or negative. All opinions — positive opinions, negative opinions — I think our players understand that that’s part of being a professional athlete. ... That kind of comes with the territory. I think we all understand that. But our focus is on the task right in front of us.”
To quickly recap the Watson situation: The Miami Herald reported before the regular season began that the Dolphins remained interested in trading for Watson. However, they were not going to make a deal at Houston’s asking price, which reportedly included multiple first-round picks and additional assets in return (more picks, players or a combination of both).
Watson, 26, has not played this season while the Houston Police Department and FBI continue investigating allegations against Watson of sexual misconduct. There are 10 criminal complaints against Watson, and 22 massage therapists have accused him of sexual misconduct, although no charges have been filed. The NFL also has yet to suspend Watson or place him on the commissioner’s exempt list.
Watson has a no-trade clause in his contract. This gives him leverage to facilitate a trade to the team of his choice. Miami is reportedly among the top franchises he’s interested in. It’s unclear if a deal would include any trade protections in case Watson is suspended but inquiring teams would likely seek such insurance.
As for Tagovailoa, he’s coming off his first game since fracturing ribs early in a Week 2 loss against the Buffalo Bills and missing three weeks. He completed 33-of-47 passes for 329 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in Miami’s 23-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
Through 13 career games, Tagovailoa has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,358 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“I think he’s developing,” Flores said. “I think he’s smart. I think he’s talented. I think he’s accurate. I think he definitely has the opportunity to be a very good player.”
But at that, there has been criticism about how the Dolphins have helped Tagovailoa get to that point. ESPN’s Louis Riddick on Thursday said the Dolphins trading for Watson would be “grossly irresponsible” while adding that he does not believe the Dolphins have done enough to help Tagovailoa reach his maximum potential.
“As far as Tua is concerned,” Riddick said, “he has not been set up for success to this point, and if you’re lucky to get a hold of this young man because Miami does what they want to do at the quarterback position and move [to Watson], I would definitely be looking into [acquiring him] and set the table for this young man because, I feel, the deck has been stacked against him. Some of it has been in Miami’s control and some of it has not.”
Flores on Friday said he’s “trying to help each player become the best version of themselves.”
“It’s no different than how we support any other player,” Flores said. “It’s trying to find out the best ways to teach, try to figure out strengths and weaknesses and build on the strengths and build on the weaknesses as well. I think we try to support every player.”
Dolphins players this week have said they are aware of the trade rumors but aren’t paying attention to them as they try to get their first win since the opening weekend of the season.
“Some of us have probably heard about it, but as of right now it’s just a distraction at the end of the day,” offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg said. “The most important thing this week is we’re playing the Falcons and we need a win. I think that’s everybody’s thought right now is to focus on the Falcons.”
Added rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle, who played with Tagovailoa in college at Alabama: “I think the days here go by just regular. Everybody is just focused on the game, to be honest — not rumors of some sort.”