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Josh Houtz joins The Sports Animals on ESPN Honolulu to talk Tua Tagovailoa, Dalvin Cook, and the 2023 Miami Dolphins

Don’t call it a comeback!

Miami Dolphins Offseason Workout Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to join my friends, Gary Dickman and Tanner Haworth, over at "The Sports Animals" on ESPN Honolulu to discuss QB1 Tua Tagovailoa, Dalvin Cook's release, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and the 2023 Miami Dolphins.

Here's a transcript of my radio interview from my June 8th appearance on "The Sports Animals" on ESPN Honolulu! #FinsUp

(Note: I transcribed this entire interview. Please forgive me for any grammatical errors that may or may not have occurred. Thank you!)

Gary Dickman: "Joining us now via the Aloha Kia hotline, I haven't got to talk to him in a while, but he's with The Phinsider, covering Miami Dolphins football; Josh Houtz joins us via the Aloha Kia hotline. Josh, great to have you on. I know we want to talk a little bit about Dalvin Cook in just a minute. But Tanner and I, a little while ago, were talking about Tua Tagovailoa and the Polaroid camera on his helmet. You got a cool picture of that on your Twitter page, @Houtz. What is your nickname for Tua? We'll let you pronounce it."

Me: Yeah, I called him Tua Polaroidovaiola; I guess that's how you'd pronounce it. He was kind of trolling a little bit. He's been wearing a camera on the side of his helmet so that the coaching staff can see what he sees on the field, some of those mannerisms in the huddle. And he was asked a lot of questions yesterday during his presser about that camera, so today he came out and strapped a Polaroid camera on his helmet."

Gary Dickman: "So, I think again, we heard about the camera. We heard about jiu-jitsu in the offseason, so maybe he can learn how to take a hit a little bit better. I know you're not going to really be able to tell a lot about his improvement in OTAs for a guy like Tua, but what do you expect out of him this season? I mean, hoping he stays healthy would be first and foremost, but up until the injuries and the concussions last year, he seemed like he was having a very good season."

Me: "Yeah, he absolutely was. He was playing the best football that we've seen since he's been a Dolphin. I just see him getting ready to build on that. This is the first time he's had the same coaching staff since dating back to, I think his days in High School on the offensive side of the football. So, he's more comfortable in that offense. I know everyone saw the pictures of him; I think he's up to 225- pounds. He looks a lot bigger. Like you mentioned taking Jiu Jitsu, so hopefully, he doesn't suffer some of those head injuries. But I do think Tua Tagovailoa, in year two of this offense with Mike McDaniel — all of those weapons surrounding him — I think we're going to see that player that hopefully, at times last year, was in the running for MVP candidate. So, I think he's building on that this year, and I'm excited about where the Dolphins are headed.

Gary Dickman: "Now, here in Hawaii, some people might say we're biased because he's one of our own. He was great in high school and great in college; we love the guy for everything he is on and off the field. But it bothered me, and it was a little surprising, to say the least, last year when he was still under scrutiny. Some people said it was a make-it-or-break-it year for Tua. I imagine some people are saying it again this year. As far as the Dolphins are concerned, do you think there's much to that?

Me: "I don't. They did pick up his 5th-year option this offseason, so he will be around again next year. And I do think everything Mike McDaniel continues to say is that this is his quarterback. This is the perfect quarterback for what he's trying to run offensively. And to your point, there are a lot of people that are still critics of Tua. And I don't know if it's because the fanbase wanted to Tank for Tua. I don't know if it's because there are fans battling tooth and nail to defend this guy, but whatever it is, the national media has something against Tua Tagovailoa. So, he still needs to prove some of those doubters wrong, But I do believe those in Miami. Chris Grier, and Mike McDaniel, they are pretty happy with what he's doing. And again, as long as he can stay healthy, the sky is the limit.

Tanner Haworth: "You were talking a little bit before about the scrutiny that Tua Tagovailoa is under. You were talking about how the practice has been, strapping a Polaroid on top of his helmet, and all that stuff. All the light-heartedness kinda going on. How much do you see this as much more of Tua kind of blossoming under the culture of Mike McDaniel?

Me: "Yeah, that's everything right there. I know I was a pretty big fan of Brian Flores and what he brought to the Miami Dolphins, especially defensively. But once you start peeling back those layers, you could tell he wasn't confident in Tua Tagovailoa and their relationship was cancerous. So, the fact that Mike McDaniel's here, the first thing he did was put together a 700-play cut-up to prove that Tua Tagovailoa can be that guy. He brings out the best in his players; you see that with Tua Tagovailoa and he's blossoming under this coaching staff. So, yeah, it has a lot to do with Mike McDaniel, his personality, and just the culture around this Miami Dolphins team compared to where we were a few years ago.

Tanner Haworth: "We talked about the insane talent on the offensive side, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle; I think that the initial talk about the Miami Dolphins a couple of years ago with Brian Flores was how great their defense is. What can you say about the Miami Dolphins' defense this year, headed by Vic Fangio and starred alongside Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard in your secondary?

Me: "I mean from top to bottom offensively, defensively, this is probably one of the best teams that I've ever had the chance to see, at least from a talent perspective, in my entire life. A lot of people talk about Jalen Ramsey coming to Miami. I think a lot of people are overlooking the fact that they did get Vic Fangio, one of the better defensive coordinators in football. They have the pieces there. Jaelan Phillips is starting to blossom and become a really good pass rusher. They traded for Bradley Chubb. They still need some help in the middle of that defense at linebacker. But you mentioned the secondary, Jevon Holland, Xavien Howard, and Jalen Ramsey. I think that last season the defense might've held the Dolphins back a little bit. They had a, what, top-6 offense last season? I think that security is going to be right there alongside them. And I really see this team being one of the best teams I've ever been able to experience. So, I think that defense is really going to step up this year under Vic Fangio, all those pieces they have, and I really think it's going to match what the offense is bringing.

Gary Dickman: "I know we want to get to Dalvin Cook and the rumors in just a second, Josh. But I was wondering if you could expand or tell us a little bit more about how Tua Tagovailoa donated $10,000 to Miami Dolphins fan that lost his life in a tragic accident about a week ago. And then Chris Simms apparently kind of dissing him on what he did, and I just thought that was really wrong and surprising. But I thought it was a great gesture on Tua's part.

Me: "Yeah, last week, the Dolphins fanbase lost one of their own. Eric Carmona, who ran the TuAnon account on Twitter, always defended Tua Tagovailoa, one of the biggest fans. He passed away at the age of 30, and a lot of the players, Tyreek Hill, Andrew Van Ginkle, and Tua Tagovailoa, donated to his family. He left behind a wife and four children, so it's a tragic thing. But for Tua to step up, see what he meant to this community, and put his money out there. It was an awesome gesture. But with the whole Chris Simms thing, I really don't have words to describe how awful that was what he did. It was an awesome gesture by Tua Tagovailoa, an awesome gesture by the Miami Dolphins fanbase to really, you know, try to get some good out of this because it was a tragic thing that happened."

Taylor Haworth:" I do want to say good gesture by Mike Florio, after all of that. He was trying to stop Chris Simms the entire time when they were talking. I think Mike Florio, just about an hour ago donated $1,500 towards that Go-Fund Me going on right now. You can find that on the TuAnon Twitter page or wherever you find your Miami Dolphins content.

Houtz: "Absolutely, and every little bit counts. And again, it's a tragic thing that happened, and I just want to send thoughts and prayers again to his wife and four kids."

Gary Dickman: "Definitely. Again, we will get to Dalvin Cook, but one more question about Tua. What about the fans in Miami? How do they view Tua? I know they were really happy, some even ecstatic when they drafted him; what about now?

Me: "Yeah, at first, it seemed like, I don't want to say there was a civil war, but there were still some doubters. Some fans may have wanted Justin Herbert or one of those other quarterbacks. I think with what we've seen Tua develop into under Mike McDaniel and become that quarterback that we all saw last year when healthy. Then seeing the way he came in this year and really stepped it up as a leader on the field. And then when he went out there, donating and retweeting the Go-Fund Me, I think that really won some of those naysayers over. So, I think this Miami Dolphins fanbase, like me, is ecstatic about Tua Tagovailoa and what the future entails for this team. Because, again, a lot of us have been fans for 20 or 30 years, and on paper, at least, this is probably the most talented team.

Gary Dickman: "Yeah, they are looking good. Okay, so Dalvin Cook, we heard rumors that Miami might get him via trade, or he might get released from the Vikings. Now we're hearing the Vikings are going to release Dalvin Cook, and Miami seems like the most likely destination. First of all, why is Miami the most likely destination, and what do you think the chances are of that actually taking place?

Me: "Yeah, Tua's trainer, actually, Nick Hicks, runs Per4orm down there in Florida. He's actually close to Dalvin Cook. So Dalvin Cook not only works out down there in the offseason, but he's a South Florida boy. So I think that's why they're trying to connect the dots with that. And it does sound like Dalvin Cook wants to play in Miami. I guess the biggest thing is, will the Dolphins pay him what he's going to seek? I think he was making close to $11 million with the Vikings. He probably won't get that on the open market, but when you look at Miami's backfield. Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Myles Gaskin, they just drafted De'Von Achane with a third-round pick...when you total up their salaries, they're making under $5-$6 million, and that's probably the floor for where you're going to have to pay Dalvin Cook. I think there's definitely some mutual interest there. I think we can all agree if you bring Dalvin Cook into that offense, and oh my gosh. We're sitting here touting how great it looks right now. If you add Dalvin Cook to the mix, that takes things up an entire notch. I do think there will be other suitors involved. But I do think it has a lot to do with him being a South Florida guy and the breadcrumbs that his trainer has left behind. We'll see what Miami does; I do know they have a little bit of cap space to play with. I also heard Denver could be interested. So, we should know in the next few days. But hopefully, if they could add Dalvin Cook, that offense could go straight to the moon."

Gary Dickman: "Yeah, they look good already, and that would make them even better. Josh, always great to talk to you. It's been a while; I hope we can do it again from time to time and talk Dolphins football. A lot of fans here, obviously because of Tua, and it looks like it's going to be a great season for them coming up ahead.

Me: "Yeah, thank you so much for having me, and I hope, as you said, we can do it again soon!"