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Brian Flores discusses quarterback ‘it factor,’ mobility, and Tua Tagovailoa health

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NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores met with the media yesterday. In his annual press availability ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine, Flores talked about several topics, including changes to the coaching staff, updates on wide receiver Preston Williams and cornerback Xavien Howard, and, perhaps the most interesting for a team heading into the prospect evaluation period of the league calendar looking for a quarterback, he discussed exactly what the Dolphins may be thinking when it comes to that critical position.

“It’s hard to say one thing for the quarterback position or really any position,” Flores replied when asked what the top thing he looks for when he sits down to meet with a quarterback. “We’re looking for guys who are tough, who are smart, who are competitive, who love to play, put the team first. Obviously we’ve watched all of the film. We’re looking for talented players. There’s a lot of things we’re looking for in each player, but I would say tough, smart.”

There are concerns that Miami’s presumed top target, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, could be “injury prone” at the NFL level following ankle issues throughout college and a hip dislocation and fracture during last season, an injury from which Tagovailoa seems to be rehabbing well but is not yet medically cleared. With the multitude of injuries, is Tagovailoa going to be the same quarterback he was at Alabama? Will he be able to move and provide the mobility in and out of the pocket that he had before the hip injury? Is mobility a trait the Dolphins need in their quarterback?

“I think at any level you’ve got to have mobility,” Flores explained. “Pee Wee, college, high school. You’ve got to be able to step up in the pocket or slide in the pocket or if you get a free runner, try to avoid that guy. I think mobility at that position at any level is a good thing. I would say just from a talent standpoint, yeah, that’s something we’re looking at as well.”

When asked about the “it” factor for a quarterback, and how he evaluates that intangible trait, Flores responded, “I think that’s something everyone talks about. Does he have that factor? Do guys rally around him? I think that’s something you see watching the film, but you get to know the player, the people around him, his coaches, his high school coaches or anybody who’s had an effect on (him). You want to get to know him and have those conversations. It’s a feel. You may feel like your guy has it. (Someone) may not. As a group, myself, (General Manager) Chris (Grier), we spend a lot of time talking about a lot of different things. If we feel like a player has that, that’s something that I think every organization is looking for. It’s an important piece, but it’s different. Everyone’s got a different kind of thought process and opinion on that.

“I mean, the good ones have it, so yeah,” Flores added when asked if the “it” factor is a requirement for a player.

Flores was asked a question specifically about Tagovailoa and what the coach needs to see from the quarterback’s medical evaluation. He explained, “There’s a lot to know about a lot of players. Specific to him, it’s all the things we just talked about – his love of the game, his intelligence. But that’s for any player, and medical’s obviously a part of that; but again, we’re very, very early in the process. There’s medical, there’s tests. This is very early. We haven’t even met him yet. I’m looking forward to meeting him and a lot of players. (There are) a lot of talented players here at the Combine.”

As for Tua being a left-handed quarterback, Flores was asked if that is a strength, to which he replied, “I wouldn’t sit here and say I’m a quarterback guru. I think I look at it from a defensive perspective and that is a little bit – not unusual but it’s different. There aren’t a lot of lefties out there. He is a good player. He’s done a good job and I think everyone, their talents, strengths and weaknesses are different. He’s good player. (Joe) Burrow is a good player, (Justin) Herbert is a good player. (Jordan) Love is a good player. There are good players here. We will evaluate them all. He should think it’s a strength of his. If he thinks it’s a weakness, that’s probably not a good thing.”

The Dolphins are expected to conduct private meetings with several of the top quarterbacks while they are at the Combine as they work through their assessments of each player. Miami holds three first-round picks in this year’s NFL Draft, likely giving them the ability to move around the draft board as needed to pick the player they want.