Of the 23 NFL teams that selected permanent team captains at the beginning of the 2021 season, all but two had the starting quarterback serving in that capacity.
The Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots were the exceptions.
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In New England, the identity of the Patriots’ starting quarterback wasn’t known until the cut to the 53 players on the regular-season roster, when incumbent QB Cam Newton, who had started every preseason game, too, was released, leaving rookie Mac Jones as the No. 1 signal-caller.
The Dolphins started their preparations for the 2021 season knowing that Tua Tagovailoa would be their quarterback after the former Alabama All-American had started nine games as a rookie in 2020.
But his teammates did not choose Tagovailoa as a team captain last season.
This season, they did.
For first-year Miami coach Mike McDaniel, the selection stamps Tagovailoa as the team leader he needs to be as QB1.
“The way we approach it here is that the players vote for who they want to represent them as captain,” McDaniel said on Thursday, “and seeing how it was, it was a point system, and the resounding highest point winner was Tua. I think it says everything. I think that’s incredibly important. When it’s done with the right reasons with the right intent, and that was the only thing that I gave the players was like, ‘Who do you want, representing you each and every game? Who do you want to wear the ‘C,’ and understand what that ‘C’ means on your jersey?’ And I think it speaks volumes on where he’s at with the team and their belief in him.
“Like all the captains that were voted, it’s a tremendous honor, especially in a situation where it’s 100 percent player-controlled, so all those captain award winners were bestowed that anointment by their peers, and I think that’s the greatest honor you can have in a team sport, especially the biggest team sport, which is professional football.”
The other captains for the Dolphins are offensive tackle Terron Armstead, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, safety Jevon Holland, cornerback Xavien Howard, linebacker Elandon Roberts and defensive lineman Christian Wilkins.
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Miami general manager Chris Grier said he had noted a difference in Tagovailoa since McDaniel came aboard as head coach from his post as the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator.
“The other day he was in visiting with Mike for, you know, just a couple hours on an off day — just coming in, spending time,” Grier said last week. “He was downstairs in the training room for like an hour just hanging out with the trainers, just talking, and it’s just seeing his personality come in, and it’s just how he is and with the team and stuff. I think his teammates all see it and feel it. Then you guys here talk to the guys, and he’s taken steps.
“And with the offense with Mike and the coaching staff, he’s very excited. He likes the offence. He thinks it fits him and the players we added, so it’s been good watching his growth and watching him enjoy himself playing football.”
The Dolphins kick off their 2022 season at noon CDT Sunday, when they square off against the New England Patriots in an AFC East game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.