Brian Flores' Miami Dolphins won 10 games in 2020, just the second time the club has hit double-digit victories in 12 seasons. Even that accomplishment, however, left the Dolphins out of the playoffs.
Flores doesn't want to fall short once again.
Thanks in part to wheeling-and-dealing general manager Chris Grier, the Dolphins added talent to a rising roster, selecting four potential impact players within the first 42 selections during the 2021 NFL Draft -- receiver Jaylen Waddle, pass rusher Jaelan Phillips, defensive back Jevon Holland and offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg.
The upgrades at receiver and on defense will raise expectations in Miami. After years of rebuilding, it's a roster ready to compete in the AFC.
There is one big "if" hovering over Miami: Tua Tagovailoa. After an up-and-down 2020, the expectations are building for the young signal-caller. If he doesn't play well, the entire operation could implode.
That's not the thinking within the building, however.
"I never like to put it on one player," Flores said. "I think we've got a lot of young players, and we're looking for all of those players as well as really everyone on our team to improve in a variety of ways. If they're putting all the work in, I expect them to improve, get better, and perform better. Tua is obviously at the top of that list. He's been working. All signs point to -- or I would say based on my experience -- he's doing everything necessary to make some improvements. That's really all we can ask for. My thing is if you put the work in, the results will take care of themselves."
Despite being 4-3 at the bye week last season, Flores moved to insert Tagovailoa into the starting lineup, benching the popular Ryan Fitzpatrick. After a solid start, the rookie QB stumbled mightily, getting benched twice in the fourth quarter down the stretch in favor of Fitzmagic.
Flores isn't worried about how those decisions to bench Tua will influence the young QB's psyche.
"Last year's situation is . . . we've talked about this numerous times," Flores told King. "If he had started the season, we wouldn't have pulled him. We put him in. We're in a playoff chase. At that point [second half in game 15, at Las Vegas, when Ryan Fitzpatrick entered in relief], it's hey, we've got to do whatever we've got to do to try to win. But no, my confidence wasn't shaken in him."
Without the Fitzmagic backstop this season, a promising roster is in Tua's hands. The Dolphins are betting big that the QB will smooth out the valleys that epitomized his rookie season and make a big leap in Year 2.
Tune in to the 2021 NFL Schedule release at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 12, on NFL Network, NFL.com and the NFL app.