Here’s how the manager who helped Brett Favre and Russell Wilson try to do the same for Tua Tagovailoa

Darrell Bevell (left) has coached Brett Favre, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford, among others. Is he the voice Tua Tagovailoa needs to reach his full potential? (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — As the voice boomed into the quarterbacks meeting, Tua Tagovailoa looked around.

“A voice from heaven,” the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback told Yahoo Sports. “Like, ‘Who was speaking?'”

It wasn’t the football gods who spoke to Tagovailoa (although the parties would have plenty to talk about after last season). That was the voice of quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell, coming from Zoom Audio in the first week of August — as Bevell lay face down, which he did more than 90% of every day for seven days.

The doctor ordered the former offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions. The coach, whom Tagovailoa sees as crucial to his relaxation and openness with his teammates, has been ordered to sit out training camp for a week.

Bevell was watching a film around 11pm on July 30 when he realized his eyesight was impaired. He covered his right eye: no problem seeing tape or the ceiling. He covered his left eye: his right eye did not offer him the same clarity. It was dry too.

Bevell was operated on within 36 hours. Needles punctured his eyeball so a doctor could laser reattach his retina. A bubble of gas soon held his reattached retina in place – accompanied by a strict “face down” rule to ensure the bubble didn’t spread to the wrong parts of the eye. So Bevell watched exercises from home and attended meetings, alternating between lying head down on the bed and using a U-shaped headrest on the massage table after he no longer needed an eye patch.

Eventually, the Bevells ordered a face pillow with a raised stand.

“The air flowed,” said Bevell, “that helped.”

Tagovailoa watched a YouTube video of the surgery online and described the procedure as “pretty cool.” He also thinks Bevell is pretty cool.

Because while Bevell works on an offensive staff led by head coach Mike McDaniel and offensive coordinator Frank Smith, the quarterbacks coach brings a wealth of offensive coordinating knowledge to Hall-of-Famer quarterback Brett Favre, the Super Bowl Winner quarterback Russell Wilson and first overall draft with pick Matthew Stafford. McDaniel values ​​Bevell’s extensive passing experience as a complement to his own running-heavy coaching education.

“His reputation preceded him,” McDaniel told Yahoo Sports. “I knew I needed someone who had the journey with at least one, preferably several, high-level quarterbacks, who understood the amount of demands that are placed on the player, and then was a person who could relate to could identify him.”

Add in Bevell’s playful resume and two interim head coaching positions, and McDaniel was sold. In February 2022, he hired Bevell as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator.

The result: The Dolphins not only improved from 22nd to 11th place in their team’s first year. They also jumped from 17th to fourth in passing, while Tagovailoa, who played in 13 games, posted a league-best passing rating of 105.5.

Smith says he cannot adequately summarize Bevell’s impact.

“He adds value,” Smith said, “in every area.”

Sound bites, situation football are among Bevell’s strengths

Bevell’s coaching style incorporates lessons from his 23 years in the NFL, ranging from tips he received from Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll – “Celebrate the uniqueness of each player” – to the subtleties of his past Quarterbacks iterations of the Dolphins implemented ‘current concepts.

Bevell reminds Tagovailoa that he’s allowed to float between his hyper-competitive, locked-down moments and his looser, freer presence in the dressing room. And Bevell salutes the personal handshake taught to him by seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill as a natural precursor to a conversation about routes. “You ran fast,” Hill recalled of Bevell’s recent advice on the dagger route. “But you could have sold the lot at least a little bit more. You could have had another revolution.”

Darrell Bevell, the Dolphins passing coordinator and quarterbacks coach, had to watch movies and attend team meetings this summer after undergoing eye surgery. (Courtesy of Darrell Bevell)

Darrell Bevell, the Dolphins passing coordinator and quarterbacks coach, had to watch movies and attend team meetings this summer after undergoing eye surgery. (Courtesy of Darrell Bevell)

Bevell strives to position his advice within what Smith and McDaniel envision, with their backgrounds agreeing rather than contradicting. The quarterbacks coach appreciates McDaniel’s strategy of attacking defense in the running game, just as many coaches plan to attack in the passing game; how his run-game lens at standoffs fueled the Dolphins’ commitment to amassing a rare collection of fast-moving weapons that now stretch and strain defenses. Bevell applies these concepts to situational football, particularly third downs — where Tagovailoa trailed only San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy with 130.1 passes last season. Tagovailoa’s passer rating in the red zone is 112.2 ranked first among quarterbacks with at least nine tries.

“Bev was great at knowing what the quarterback is capable of, what variations or developments might fit, and then working through them,” Smith told Yahoo Sports. “Just by being able to attack the coverage and have responses, he can paint a picture of why we’re doing what we’re doing, what the quarterback’s intentions are, and what intentions he wanted to pursue.”

Bevell helps his quarterbacks distill a more detailed system than most are used to, the movements and condensed formations of the dolphins deepen the complexity of the game call.

“He’ll say, ‘Hey, what’s the tone?’ Then we say “progression,” “descent in progression,” third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson told Yahoo Sports. “So like a three-step to high-low backside or high-low china or whatever the case for that play. He helped simplify the game so much that when we hear a play we’re like, “Oh, I just know I’m on the other side here.”

“It helps slow down the game.”

What’s next for Tua, Dolphins QBs?

Bevell and his fellow McDaniel coaching staff begin their second year in Miami and are excited about their potential. Will raw speed and high goals flash again when the Dolphins start the regular season with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday? Probably. However, expect postponements in presentations and applications.

“Mike is always evolving in relation to our core principles,” said Smith. “What we do one year will not be what we do the next.”

McDaniel says he finds it “hilarious when people talk about the Dolphins’ offense as a stagnant entity.” Defense will make their game plans different for the Dolphins as they now have a year of hedging to think about. The Dolphins will use their own moves.

“I try to attack defenses where they’re vulnerable,” McDaniel said. “By the hand they play, they kind of have an impact on it. That’s why you have to be able to exploit their dubbing at one stage or another. That’s why I will always change.”

Bevell’s extensive experience feeds into the fitting process.

Take his front row seat to accompany Favre’s development, first in six years alongside the Green Bay Packers and later for two years when Bevell coordinated Favre’s Vikings offense. On the one hand, Bevell doesn’t shy away from clipping clips of gun-wielding Favre modeling dropbacks and progressions, like in their year together when Favre led the league with 32 touchdown passes. Bevell worked with Favre twice as he led the league in interceptions and a third year in which no quarterback threw fewer interceptions than Favre’s 1.3% rate. Bevell told his current Dolphins players that Favre justified an interception with a quote from the game ten years earlier when the Pittsburgh Steelers had identical coverage. The diagnosis that Favre made in the 1990s was no longer valid. Bevell’s lesson: Each piece has its own value.

“It doesn’t matter what happened the last time that play, or it doesn’t matter if we had problems on defense two games in a row,” Bevell tells his quarterbacks. “You must assume that you are protected in this matter.”

Bevell specifically justifies Tagovailoa with the phrase, “Be where your feet are.”

It’s a fitting rallying cry after a year that has seen Tagovailoa’s full potential but also the fragility of its execution. After suffering three head collisions last season, including two diagnosed concussions, Tagovailoa’s availability is the biggest question facing the Dolphins in 2023. The Dolphins are hoping his off-season weight gain and jiu-jitsu training are the answer. Rather than worry unduly, Tagovailoa reminds himself: stay where your feet are.

And if Tagovailoa Is healthy? Bevell believes his starting quarterback’s 15.4-point jump in passer rating last season reflects Tagovailoa’s accuracy, anticipation and elite vision to cover an entire field. The Dolphins will need that all the more when they face perennial favorites Buffalo Bills, offseason champions New York Jets and Aaron Rodgers, and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots in a heavily-packed AFC East.

“That’s the quarterback position: trying to simplify things in the chaos,” Tagovailoa said.

The situation clears up for Tagovailoa thanks to several people, including Bevell, who is also pleased with his regained clarity.

Bevell returned to training and vertical statures on August 8. After 17 hours of commuting to and from Houston for the Dolphins and Texans training session and the pre-season game, he is now able to fly with the team again. Bevell’s voice is no longer disembodied in meetings — although McDaniel showed the entire team a picture of his position coach, his head lolling over a laptop lying on his side from the bed.

The head coach’s message?

“First and foremost, I wanted him to wake up,” McDaniel said in his trademark deadpan tone. “This is a meeting and he shouldn’t be lying down.”

Seriously, McDaniel wanted his players to produce encouraging films, while Bevell could do little more than watch. And to recognize Bevell’s commitment to their growth.

“We’re all so wrapped up in our own stories and circumstances and just another glimpse of the possibilities of another person who’s just happy to watch the practice and can’t wait to start another day at work,” McDaniel said . “I think that’s a strong message.”

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