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Lifting Tua Tagovailoa in Year 2 essential for Dolphins' next coordinator

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Should the Dolphins stick with Tua as their starting QB? (1:14)

Marcus Spears and Jeff Saturday make a case for why the Dolphins should fully invest in Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback. (1:14)

The Miami Dolphins are in the thick of interviews this week to find their third offensive coordinator in as many years. The priority is to find someone who can get the most out of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, improve a mediocre 2020 offense and hopefully become a long-term answer.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores spoke to ESPN Thursday, reaffirming his support in Tagovailoa.

"I want them to build together. Learn who he is as a person first and what he does well as a player," Flores said of his next coordinator. "But I don't want a coach who can only coach the QB -- we've got to coach the whole offense, the line, backs, tight ends, receivers.

"We need someone who is aligned with my vision with the team. Someone who is going to accentuate the strengths of the players we have on the team."

The Dolphins have interviewed five candidates to replace Chan Gailey, who resigned as offensive coordinator last week. Running backs coach Eric Studesville, quarterbacks coach George Godsey, Los Angeles Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, San Francisco 49ers run game coordinator Mike McDaniel and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach Matt Canada. A sixth candidate, Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, told the team Thursday he plans to stay with the Tigers.

McDaniel, Canada and Studesville are considered the favorites, a source said.

The Dolphins aren't planning to rush a decision and it's possible they expand their list, but let's take a closer look at those who have interviewed:

Eric Studesville (age 53), Dolphins RB coach

Studesville is a proven leader with a history of maximizing young players shown by the production of seventh-round pick Myles Gaskin and undrafted free agent Salvon Ahmed. Studesville hasn't been a full-time playcaller, but he has 24 years of NFL coaching experience. He has a plan to utilize Tagovailoa and the offense that would feature balance, run-pass options, play-action passes and a tough, physical mentality. He would add continuity with a new identity.

Take Flores' thoughts on Studesville from November seriously: "He's been someone that I've been able to lean on. I think he's a great coach. I think he's got a coordinator and head-coaching future. I think the players gravitate to him."

George Godsey (42), Dolphins QBs coach

Godsey took on extra responsibility in the second half of the season and Tagovailoa seemed comfortable working with him. A former college QB, Godsey has experience as a QB coach, tight end coach and offensive coordinator. He wasn't successful as the Houston Texans OC (2014-15 under Bill O'Brien), but Flores trusts him. They spent three years working together in New England, and Godsey said last year that they've talked everyday since they met. Miami could get younger at coordinator while maintaining some comfort for Tagovailoa here.

Pep Hamilton (46), Chargers QBs coach

Hamilton, a college QB at Howard, is known as a QB developer. He has been an offensive coordinator in college (Stanford, 2011-12) and the NFL (Indianapolis 2013-2015) working with Andrew Luck. His most recent work helping Chargers QB' Justin Herbert put together one of the best statistical rookie seasons in recent memory should be of particular interest to the Dolphins. Hamilton also could have interest from Seattle.

Mike McDaniel (37), 49ers run game coordinator

McDaniel comes from the Mike and Kyle Shanahan coaching tree -- and just like those two he specializes in sparking a run game through motion, misdirection and deception. He'd likely be creative in those same ways with Tagovailoa, particularly using play-action throws. He hasn't been a playcaller, but is a candidate in Seattle and possibly more places, including the staff of Rams' Brandon Staley if he lands a head-coaching job.

Matt Canada (48), Steelers QB coach

Canada is the most experienced playcaller of the group, spending time as OC and QBs coach for eight (!) different colleges including N.C. State (where he coached quarterback Jacoby Brissett) and most recently LSU and Maryland. He's known for having an adjustable scheme that often features motion and jet sweeps. He was a consultant for the Dolphins in 2019. The Steelers fired OC Randy Fichtner, so Canada might be a candidate to be promoted in Pittsburgh.