What went so wrong for the NFL, the Dolphins in Tua
Safid Deen and Andy Nesbitt discuss what’s wrong with the NFL and the Dolphins’ handling of Tua’s head injuries and what the league can learn from it.
We’re about a quarter of the way through the regular season. The Philadelphia Eagles (4-0) went into the week unscathed, the Houston Texans (0-3-1) are still the only team without a win and a new era began in the fourth quarter in Pittsburgh.
But Week 4 was marred by Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion, days after a head injury and an active investigation by the NFL and NFLPA into his return after the first incident. Week 4 ended with every team in the NFC West locked at .500.
How much of an influence did the coaches have on the Week 4 results? USA TODAY Sports looked at the performances of several team coaching staffs.
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Here are their grades for Week 4:
Dallas Cowboys coaching staff: A
When Dak Prescott went down in Week 1, many thought the Cowboys’ season was over. Cooper Rush had other ideas.
Rush is 4-0 as a career starter (3-0 this season) and is the first quarterback in NFL history to win each of his first four career starts and have a passer rating of 90 or higher in each game .
Rush passed for 223 yards and a season-high two touchdowns in a 25-10 victory over the Commanders on Sunday.
Rush knows the Cowboys offense well and plays with a lot of confidence. This 45-yard deep pass to wide receiver Noah Brown is a good illustration of that.
Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore hasn’t adjusted the playbook much because Rush has shown the ability to make all the necessary throws and doesn’t play sloppy. Prescott’s career yards gained per pass attempt is 7.6. Rush averaged 7.2 yards per pass attempt this season.
It helps that the line held up, allowing a total of two sacks in the three games Rush started.
Additionally, Rush is capable of extending plays similar to Prescott.
Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff: B
Zac Taylor and the Bengals have adjusted their plays in the last two games and contributed to two straight wins. Instead of calling passing plays that take a while to develop, Taylor has called quick transition plays and the receivers run simpler routes. He also helped quarterback Joe Barrow avoid sacks. has been sacked three times in the last two games (one Sunday) after 13 in the first two games.
Barrow has been more decisive in his reads and has accurately delivered the football to receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
On that drive, Barrow stood in the shotgun and had a quick 3-yard drop before throwing to Higgins, who beat Dolphins CB Xavien Howard in one-on-one coverage.
Atlanta Falcons coaching staff: C+
Marcus Mariota was largely ineffective on Sunday. The Falcons quarterback completed 7 of 19 passes against Cleveland. When Mariota was intercepted in the third quarter, Arthur Smith and the Falcons’ coaching staff went on 14 straight drives. The 14 straight drives led to a touchdown and another that resulted in a field goal.
Falcons RB Caleb Huntley had eight carries for 54 yards and a touchdown on the drive after Mariota’s interception.
The decision to play football with surprise turned out to be a winning strategy. Atlanta beat the Browns 23-20.
Baltimore Ravens coaching staff: D
On fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line with just over four minutes remaining in a 20-20 game, coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens elected to go for the touchdown instead of opting for a short field goal by Justin Tucker.
The choice turned out to be a disaster.
Lamar Jackson’s pass intended for wide receiver Devin Duvernay was intercepted by Bills safety Jordan Poyer. Buffalo then marched down the field on a 12-play, 77-yard drive and converted a game-winning 21-yard field goal as time expired.
Harbaugh should have made an easy field goal and given his defense a chance to close out the game. However, it’s hard to completely admonish Harbaugh for his decision because the Ravens had the worst defense in the NFL entering Week 3.
Another worrisome issue for the Ravens (2-2): both of their losses came when they held second-half leads of at least 10 points.
Miami Dolphins coaching staff: F
The Dolphins failed in Tagovailoa. No player should return to a football game after hitting his head and showing obvious signs of injury. Then Thursday night’s game featured a scary scene as Tagovailoa was pulled after a sack left him in the fencing position. For the second time in four days, Tagovailoa suffered a head injury.
Tagovailoa should not have been allowed to return for the Week 3 game against the Buffalo Bills when he was ruled questionable to return with a head injury following a hit. After that game, coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa had back and ankle injuries. The NFLPA then announced it would launch an investigation into the handling of the concussion evaluation. Tagovailoa entered Week 4 questionable with back and ankle injuries.
Thursday’s disturbing incident could have been avoided. Player health and safety is far more important than wins and losses. Tagovailoa will not play Sunday and McDaniel said he is improving.
This incident was the impetus for the mutual decision of the NFL and the NFLPA to modify the evaluation of the concussion protocol. The specifics have not yet been made known.
Follow USA TODAY Sports Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.