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Miami Dolphins

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright… Right?

Chris Kowalewski

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Owner Stephen Ross attempted to give fans a pre-flight safety briefing back on 31st December 2018, informing them that for the Miami Dolphins – his 2.8 billion dollar baby – it’s going to be a difficult (but necessary) journey ahead.

Fast forward a little over 8 months and the NFL’s 100th season has taken off with Miami’s journey having already flown deep into significant turbulence. Despite Ross’ early warning, fans and media alike are split as to whether they should fasten their seatbelts and ride it out, destined for smooth sailing ahead; or whether the Dolphins are already tanking spiralling out of control towards inevitable doom.

Whatever their fate, the 2019 Miami Dolphins are 0-2 following a second deflating defeat at home.

After being outscored 102-10 through 2 games, you can tune into any NFL related media content and you’ll hear the endlessly repeated stats, the open mocking and a rising uncertainty as to whether the Dolphins have a plan of any kind to transform themselves into a future contender. 

Many had assumed that the correct approach for Miami’s rebuild would be to grow around a core group of young players who were already present within the building – including Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick – but grumbles and rumours quickly began to grow and circulate. GM Chris Grier and HC Brian Flores have claimed since Day 1 together that their vision for the team is aligned and Stephen Ross has openly supported the plan for the years ahead. Not weeks or even months ahead. For years ahead.

By now, everyone should be aware that there will be no quick fix.

The trade of Laremy Tunsil, widely considered to be among the NFL’s top left tackles, proved that the franchise currently considers every player to have a price – a value by which the team must consider whether the future years of the Dolphins can be made brighter through trade or release, despite darkening the days and months ahead.

The plan also includes a fundamental requirement for players to buy into the teaching and coaching systems which Brian Flores and his staff have begun to put in place. Key word being ‘begun’. Whatever development of the coaching staff itself is needed will continue to take place behind closed doors. For so many years, the Dolphins have talked both publicly and privately about the need for an ever-elusive culture change – to one which establishes commitment, discipline and a ‘team above all’ mentality.

In today’s NFL, establishing that culture change is likely harder than it ever has been.

Yes, for many players, Miami is Distraction City. Rookies have burnt out amidst the glitz and glamor, whilst experienced veterans have taken advantage of the weighty paycheck – their primary goal having been achieved – happy to relax on the sandy shores of South Beach among the young, rich and beautiful. It almost seems that running an NFL franchise in a city such as Miami would be an impossible task.

For some players, the focus is on personal fame and money. To them, football isn’t so much about achieving team success, but about gaining single status as the ‘highest paid’ at their respective position, to the extent that fans and front offices increasingly see players hold-out from their contracts and on-field work.

For others, social media remains king. Building a brand, however socially toxic, is of utmost importance to them as a way of brainwashing supporters into believing that the player is always right. They can burn their feet, abandon practice, complain about helmets and continue to receive the vocal support of their coaches, yet still social media can be used to break from their previous contractual and promise-filled bonds. Make no mistake about it, those players hold a significant level of power over the franchise and cause nothing but team distraction and division.

So how does a team find success in this ever-changing world? 

It all comes back to culture. A team must establish a culture to which it adheres for the longterm. It might not be an easy one to embrace, but it must also be one built upon the principal of working as a team. 

One which doesn’t give full control and advantage to over-priced free agents. 

One which might run practices hard, is demanding, but in which players know that the its sole purpose is to achieve team success.

We all know which franchise is constantly praised for its continuity at Head Coach, the discipline its system requires and the interchangeability of the roster pieces. 

Hint: The Dolphins just lost to them 43-0. 

And when players leave that team, you will hear about the difficult practices. It wasn’t fun, it was demanding. But that’s what it takes to find sustained success. 

Back in Miami, one of 2018’s brightest acquisitions was Alabama star safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Praised coming out of college for his unparalleled work ethic, he was considered to be a versatile defensive piece and after the hire of ‘defensive mastermind’ Brian Flores, one which could be shaped into an NFL superstar. 

Minkah’s unhappiness quickly came to light earlier this offseason. Granted, he had complained of former Dolphins’ DC Matt Burke’s scheme and the lateness with which he would know his role on a weekly basis. Last season, he had also confirmed directly to LockedOn Dolphins’ very own Travis Wingfield post-game that he embraced learning multiple positions, which helped him to understand the defense as a whole and to react instinctively. Despite his displeasure with the 2018 scheme, Minkah played well and was forecast to grow into one of the brightest shining stars on the roster.

Coaching changes of 2019 took place and Minkah’s mother soon enough took to Twitter to voice complaints on her son’s behalf that he didn’t feel he was in the ‘right position’ to be successful. Behind the scenes, experienced coaches requested that Minkah continued to learn multiple positions to ensure scheme flexibility – not to dilute his talents, but to enhance them. It requires a special talent to be able to absorb such a responsibility and the coaches believe he’s capable of doing it. They believe it will help the team.

But perhaps the task is too difficult for him. Perhaps arriving in the NFL on a rebuilding franchise from a National Champion college program is too tough to swallow.

And so Minkah becomes the latest Dolphin to bring added drama to the table, requesting and obtaining permission from the team to seek a trade. Although he stated that his usage in Week 2 was ‘more fun’, the extent to which Minkah’s relationship with the front office can now be repaired is debatable and several teams have already reportedly enquired about his availability and the potential cost of a trade. 

If Minkah wants out, there’s nothing any of us can do to change his mind. Highlighted as Nick Saban’s favourite player he’d ever coached, Minkah can be a special talent, but if his mindset cannot be compatible with the requests of the coaching staff, perhaps he is not a right fit for the culture which they wish to establish. The time of players having leverage over the heads of the franchise must end in Miami in order for there to be positive result out of this recent roster demolition. 

It seems that Stephen Ross finally acknowledges this. A man with notoriously deep pockets who has previously known little else other than success and is desperate for his team to be a perennial contender.

It seems that Chris Grier knows this, tasked with reducing the roster to its bare foundations and acquiring the draft capital and salary space needed to build it almost from scratch.

It seems that Brian Flores known this too. Let’s not forget where he’s come from, both professionally and personally as he has been brought in with a 5-year guaranteed contract to set the expectations, demands and work ethic to put this franchise on the right course.

Perhaps despite all the turbulence, their visions are indeed aligned and the Dolphins aren’t directionless as many others would have you believe.

Stephen Ross made it loud and clear that they would no longer be in ‘win now’ mode. That mentality had brought nothing but years of mediocrity and failure. For a franchise that has discarded, traded and sold the vast majority of its old foundation blocks, focus will shift to finding the pieces who fit the talent and mindset requirements of the Dolphins’ new regime. 

Speaking with the Sun Sentinel last week, Ross addressed the critics of the fans and the organization and reiterated his thoughts on the plan ahead:

When we hired Brian Flores, we were looking for someone who had certain qualities and one of them was handling challenges and adversity… The goal isn’t to patch some holes to go 9-7 and make the playoffs. I want to compete for and win Super Bowls. We took an objective look at our situation at the end of last year and realized that we were a long way away from where we need to be. Our roster, salary-cap situation, everything… We have to approach things differently and think outside the box… We are trying to win every game we play and grow and improve every day, but we also have to balance making decisions that help us build a championship organization.

We have some young players on this team that Chris and Brian and their staffs have been evaluating that we’re excited about being part of this team for a long time. Guys who are on board, talented, team-first and love the game of football. Those guys that put the team first and want to be a part of building something special together, we want them here for a long time and will want to reward them for that.

We have tremendous fans and to them I say thank you. We said it wouldn’t be easy, but it was something we are committed to and believe it’s the only way to build a team to win continually. Nothing great in life was ever achieved easily. There are no shortcuts or magic formulas. This is the NFL.”

So it’s confirmed that a ‘win now’ mentality isn’t the right approach at this stage for the Miami Dolphins. A lot of work is yet to be done to bring in players and establish a new upturn by finding players willing to grind through the difficult days, to win it all together as a team.

Some of those players may be on the team already, a lot of them won’t be.

2019 will be an evaluation period for everyone on the field.

But not all is lost. This team isn’t completely devoid of talent, nor is it absent of leaders who can see the larger scope and the light at the end of the tunnel.

Bobby McCain, another player who has bounced around in the defensive backfield realizes it. When asked whether Flores’ program is too mentally and physically difficult stated “It’s football; if it’s too hard for you, you can go play [elsewhere]. We want mentally, physically tough players.

Jerome Baker, a nominated a captain by his teammates at only 22 years old, instead of requesting a trade after the loss to Baltimore stated “I don’t want anybody to question that we’ll all stick together. It’s just one loss. We’ve got to bounce back and ultimately stick together. 

Even Jesse Davis – a player tasked with switching sides on an already jumbled offensive line – when questioned by beat-writer Joe Schad as to whether the Dolphins are positioning themselves to take over the AFC East in the future stated: “I think so. Especially when we get guys that want to get in here in the door, and we get those guys brought in. The faster everybody buys in, it’s going to be a lot smoother. I mean yeah, we have hell days. But you have to do that just to get that game feel. And the faster we quit b****in’ about it, the smoother it’s going to be”.

So fans, take some solace in the fact that beyond the superficial mess, complaints and lopsided on-field losses it’s clear that some guys get it. It’s likely that the majority of the locker room gets it too. They’ve already bought in to Brian Flores’ methods, but the roster is too thin, too inexperienced and too raw to realistically compete in 2019.

When Stephen Ross told that this would likely be the case, fans seemingly embraced the concept of a full rebuild. It brought the possibility of the first overall pick and the acquisition of multiple others over the next two drafts to reinforce this team with an influx of talented players, each equipped with the mindset that a Brian Flores led team requires.

Media and casual fans might continue to mock and moan as the season progresses, but the plan was always going to be clear. 

So in the end, is everything going to be alright? Will the plan work? No one can know for sure right now, but I applaud the Miami Dolphins for taking the difficult road and trying something different. It would have been too easy to maintain the course, sell the tickets, sell the jerseys and continue to fall flat at the end of the year.

Ross wants change. Grier wants change. And Flores has been brought in to ultimately deliver it – not now – but in the years ahead.

It’s going to be tough, but climbing down into the abyss may perhaps be the only way to save ourselves from perpetual disappointment.

You may as well try to embrace it.

Physically located across the pond, but mentally always in Miami. A qualified lawyer, NFL sponge, aspiring writer and self-proclaimed IKEA furniture construction expert, he’s looking ahead to a brighter future for the Dolphins after decades of wading in the depths of mediocrity. Always on the search for any excuse to talk all-things Dolphins.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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