FOX play-by-play announcer Chris Myers has seen the nadir of the Dolphins’ season up close, a heartbreaking 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons that dropped the team to 1-6 a week before the trade deadline with Deshaun Watson reports swirling.
He has also seen the team at its best as the Dolphins thoroughly beat the Carolina Panthers last Sunday to win their fourth game in a row and creep back into the AFC playoff picture.
Myers, a Miami native and Florida International University graduate, will call his fourth Dolphins game this season when the team hosts the New York Giants on Sunday. He spoke to the Miami Herald about what he thinks has led to the Dolphins’ recent surge, the play of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and more.
You saw one of the final games of the losing streak and then you saw the start of the win streak [Myers also called the Dolphins’ win over the Houston Texans]. What do you think has been the key for them turning around a 1-7 start to seemingly being back in the playoff hunt?
Two things jumped out to me. One was having Tua in the lineup and knowing he’s the guy. Maybe he knew that all the time, but the team or the other people had to know that and be healthier. He’s always been an accurate quarterback. His development for a guy in his second year has really stood out. I know he hasn’t had all his receivers healthy and the run game — they try but it’s not one of the top run games in the league. And the offensive line’s been reshuffled. But Tua himself, how he’s handled things in this stretch run and what he’s been able to do, I think it’s been outstanding.
He had some problems with interceptions but even that lately, he’s had under control. He really seems to know presnap where to go with the ball and he gets it there. So, his connection with [Jaylen] Waddle, which has kind of always been there, but that’s coming more to the surface.
And the other thing is just the blitzing defense, to simplify it. They’ve always blitzed but I don’t know if they’ve ever blitzed this much with this much effectiveness. And with that has come the batted balls, which they lead the league in, and specifically [Emmanuel] Ogbah with his string of batted passes. So, forcing quarterbacks obviously to throw before they’re ready and then the blitz has also been effective against the run.
Tua just had his 16th career start. What do you think his ceiling can be? There were reports about the team being interested in Watson. Do you feel like this second half of the season has been kind of an audition for him? Is he starting to show he can be the team’s franchise QB and dissuade the team from engaging in those trade talks again?
Yes, without a doubt I think he’s shown he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL and successful, whether that’s for the Dolphins or somewhere else. I like, having talked to him in our production meetings, both [Fox analyst] Daryl Johnston and I were really impressed with the professionalism of how he handled all the other discussions, all the other factors going on. He was very focused. He was very candid and honest with us. And then he showed it on Sunday. The biggest question I even had when he was taken by the Dolphins as high as he was coming out of the draft was his health. Can he stay healthy? And that’s still I think the bigger question rather than can he be a successful starting NFL quarterback.
No one knows whether the Dolphins will pursue Deshaun Watson. My personal feeling is, there’ll be some kind of trade by the time the draft comes around. Houston wants to unload him. They don’t want any part of him. But there’s still too many uncertainties. And, for me, what the Dolphins can make certain is, as they see this stretch run, if Tua stays healthy and he gets the other supporting factors, that he’s their guy going forward. And why not? He’s mobile. He’s accurate. I think he’s shown leadership. So, to me, I had some doubts like a lot of people. The closer I’ve looked, I’m further convinced he can be the guy.
This is the third season of the Chris Grier-Brian Flores partnership. To many, it seemed like a playoffs-or-bust season. Did you ever think through the 1-7 start, their job security was in jeopardy and if so, has this winning streak calmed down concerns?
I would say only Stephen Ross knows for sure. But I think around the league, the feeling was during the losing streak that they were on thin ice. And I don’t think they’re off the hook yet. But what I do find encouraging is the 10-3 record in November in the Brian Flores Era. You always want to start out great but that says to me, especially with all the draft picks and the younger players, that at least you’re getting better in the latter part of the season when you need to play your best ball to hopefully get into the playoffs. That 10-win season before says a lot about Brian Flores.
I do think they’re going to have to draft better and make better trades. Some of their young players are stepping up and coming through. My question would be going forward here, you can’t always be building for the future. You need to win right away. It’s not good to collect a lot of draft picks if they’re not really good draft picks that can produce and play right away. That will affect the future of probably the general manager, people in the front office, ultimately Brian Flores. But in my mind, there isn’t any question that he would be back as the Dolphins’ head coach.
At 5-7, 11/2 games back of the seventh seed, are playoffs a real possibility for this team. And if so, what has to happen during the final five games?
Yes, they’re in the playoff conversation. They could make the playoffs. There’s a lot of teams ahead of them, but there’s a lot of other teams beating up on other teams. I look at their schedule and first, they have to play the way they’re playing and still play better. They already beat New England once. Why can’t they beat them again? Yes, I think especially now that we have a 17-game schedule that that is a realistic possibility. They have the attention of the rest of the NFL, not just because of the winning streak but how they’re doing it with the defense and the emergence of the Tua-Waddle connection.
The first month of the season, the AFC East seemed like a division the Buffalo Bills were going to run away with but now it’s a lot closer. The Bills and Patriots play Monday night but right now, who do you think is the best team in the division?
I still think Buffalo is the best team in the division, and I think Josh Allen will ultimately prove that. It doesn’t mean at some point the Patriots can’t surpass them. I do think Mac Jones and what Bill Belichick has done with him and the rest of the team has surprised a lot of people. You’re right, the expectations were the Bills were going to run away with this division as everybody else kind of rebuilds and reshapes. And that should be encouraging for Dolphins fans, too, with the emergence of Tua that with the right quarterback, a healthy quarterback in the right situation and support around him, you can change things dynamically, as Josh Allen did for Buffalo going back historically and is still doing what, what Mac Jones is doing with New England and where the Dolphins are.
The expectations were high this year for the Dolphins. They weren’t as high as for New England, at least outwardly, and they obviously weren’t as high for the Jets. When you start 1-7 and have that losing streak when you’re a team that you’d thought would get double-digit wins, you become frustrated, deflated and upset as a Dolphins fan. But as Brian Flores learned from his time in New England with Bill Belichick, they’ve always been a very consistent team and a stronger team in the second half of the season. And I think that’s what ultimately will decide the AFC East.
No matter who wins in the latest head-to-head Buffalo-New England game, that doesn’t necessarily mean that team is winning the division because of the games remaining and how difficult the games can be, how much desperateness there is in the AFC wild-card picture. That will have an effect on who wins the East.