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Miami Dolphins 2010 All-Decade Team: Defense

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Associated Press

The Miami Dolphins crawl to the end of a futile decade with some abysmal performances, plenty of false hope, and lots of room for improvement. Who knew you could waste an entire decade and only make the playoffs (or sport a winning record) once, but the Dolphins certainly proved it was possible.

Though much hasn’t gone right for the Dolphins this decade, there are some players that deserve to be praised and rewarded for their productive performance; even though they were surrounded by ineptitude.

See which legends(?) made the 2010 All-Decade team on defense:

For our 2010-All-Decade Offensive Team, click here.

Note: only stats that apply to the 2010-2019 seasons – as well as the player’s respective position – apply. For example, Bobby McCain’s stats at safety and Cameron Wake’s stats in 2009 are not included.

Defensive End: Cameron Wake
Games Active: 132
Sacks: 92.5

Tackles-For-Loss: 91
QB Hits: 204

There’s no debating Cameron Wake‘s place on this list, in the Dolphins Ring of Honor or even in the Hall of Fame. A locker room leader who spoke as professionally as he played, Wake was a phenomenal pass rusher for the Dolphins.

Playing on a bunch of mediocre Miami teams kept him out of the national spotlight, but Wake’s stats are both gaudy and productive:

  • 2nd most sacks in Dolphins history (98)
  • 3rd-most tackles among defensive ends in Dolphins history (278)
  • 2nd-most tackles for a loss (97)
  • 1st with 213 QB hits

If you were to build a Mount Rushmore of 21st-century Miami Dolphins, the only debate is where Cameron Wake deserves to be in that pantheon. Chances are, he’s #1.

Defensive End: Olivier Vernon
Games Active: 64
Sacks: 29

Tackles-For-Loss: 43
QB Hits: 74

Originally drafted in the 3rd-round of the 2012 draft as a player with potential, Olivier Vernon proved your college resume doesn’t dictate future success.

After three seasons with the University of Miami, Vernon was plucked from the Dolphins’ backyard and blossomed into a top-tier pass rusher; earning him a $85m contract with the New York Giants in free agency.

Vernon could have formed a fearsome duo with Cameron Wake, had the Dolphins’ front office had any foresight to extend Vernon while he was still “cheap”. Instead, the Dolphins let Vernon walk and used the money originally intended for him on Andre Branch.

Vernon may have only averaged 7.25 sacks a season while with the Dolphins, but his 10.75 tackles for a loss and 18.5 quarterback hits per year were extremely impressive, and show how forceful he was at defensive end.

Defensive Tackle: Ndamukong Suh
Games Active: 48
Sacks: 15.5

Tackles-For-Loss: 37
QB Hits: 49

Some of you may be surprised to see Ndamukong Suh on this list and not Paul Soliai. Truth is, even if you include Soliai’s first two seasons (2008-2009), it doesn’t compare to what Suh was able to accomplish during his 3-year stint in Miami.

Just to show you how wide the gap is between them, Soliai accumulated 4.5 sacks, 160 tackles, 25 tackles-for-a-loss (TFL) and 18 quarterback hits during his 7-year tenure. Suh accumulated 15.5 sacks, 181 tackles, 37 TFL and 49 QB hits in just 3 years.

Soliai’s job was different than Suh’s – he was asked to absorb offensive linemen and open up lanes for the linebackers, but these numbers are too much to excuse.

Similar to players like Mike Wallace and Brandon Marshall, it’s not wrong of you to have expected more out of Suh. His hefty contract meant he was as valuable as a starting quarterback, and though he was productive, he did not dictate games the way other players on the field do.

But if we were to look at this objectively, and remove our expectations from the equation, Suh was one of the best defensive tackles the Dolphins have ever had. It’s just too bad his contract asked him to be the entire football team.

Defensive Tackle: Randy Starks
Games Active: 79
Sacks: 20.5

Tackles-For-Loss: 32
QB Hits: 42

Paul Soliai was busy absorbing double teams and opening up lanes that Randy Starks was able to cash in on.

Signed as a free agent after spending the first four years of his career with the Tennessese Titans, Starks became a reliable and fearsome player for the Dolphins. He was active for all but one game throughout his Dolphins tenure, and seemingly never missed a tackle. His aggressive playing style turned him into a fan-favorite, while his versatility meant the coaches loved him.

Starks was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2012, though you can argue 2009 and 2011 were his best years with Miami.

Ironically, Starks was released after the Dolphins’ deal with Suh became official.

Linebacker: Kiko Alonso
Games Active: 46
Tackles: 354

Tackles-For-Loss: 14
Forced Fumbles: 6

Kiko Alonso‘s Dolphins’ career was as tumultuous as Ryan Tannehill‘s.

Both admired and loathed by many, Alonso was a smart and determined football player, but he was also grossly overpaid. Still, his bloated contract shouldn’t take away from the production he provided this team.

Statistically, Alonso was an average linebacker. He amassed plenty of tackles, but they were typically beyond the line of scrimmage or after an opposing receiver achieved a first down.

That being said, Kiko is the only Dolphins player to have annually accumulated over 1000 snaps each year he was on the team:

  • 2016: 1,049
  • 2017: 1,008
  • 2018: 1,004

Though you can knock him for taking valuable cap space away from other potential players, the Dolphins don’t get to the playoffs in 2016 without Alonso on defense.

Overall, I think Dolphins fans are happy with the Alonso for Vince Biegel trade that occurred this prior offseason, but we can’t forget that Alonso was one of Miami’s better linebackers this past decade.

Linebacker: Karlos Dansby
Games Active: 46
Tackles: 332

Tackles-For-Loss: 26
Forced Fumbles: 5

At the time, Karlos Dansby signed the richest contract for an inside linebacker in NFL history at $43m. Such an honorable designation comes with hefty expectations, and though Dansby was a very good linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, he was unable to change the game the way you expect the richest player in NFL history to do.

From his first year to his final year, the Dolphins went from being the 7th-best rushing defense to the 13th-best rushing defense. Statistically, Dansby was performing well, but Miami’s inability to cover opposing tight ends was as prominent as ever, and teams feasted on the middle of the field throughout his tenure.

Expectations aside, Dansby was a solid contributor and reliable performer for this team. His legacy is tarnished by his bloated contract, but his overall performance should be commended, especially when you look at the other results this decade.

Linebacker: Koa Misi
Games Active: 84
Tackles: 352

Tackles-For-Loss: 37
Forced Fumbles: 2

His final years in a Dolphins’ uniform cloud what was otherwise a productive career for Koa Misi.

Originally drafted in the 2nd-round of the 2010 NFL draft, Misi was a very good linebacker throughout his rookie contract. After completing three successful seasons with the team, he was extended for 4 years and $17m right before the start of the 2013 season.

Though he was never dominant, Misi performed well for three more seasons before injuries began to derail his career. 2015 was the first of three successive years in which Misi would land on injured-reserve (IR), with each season costing more time than the one before it.

  • 2015: active for 15 games before landing on IR with a back injury
  • 2016: active for 3 games before landing on IR with a neck injury
  • 2017: didn’t make it to the regular season before landing on IR with the SAME neck injury

It was evident during training camp prior to 2017 that Misi’s neck wasn’t entirely healed, and the chances of him playing that year were very slim to begin with. Still, this didn’t stop the Dolphins from renegotiating his contract and dedicating $2.8m of salary cap space to Misi, even though he wasn’t going to play another down in the NFL ever again.

Injuries aside, Misi was very productive as a starting linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. He may not have made a ton of highlight-reel plays, but he was always where he needed to be, and given Miami’s production at linebacker this past decade, we couldn’t be more thrilled with that kind of “generic” performance.

Cornerback: Xavien Howard
Games Active: 40
Passes Defended: 35
Interceptions: 12

The recent domestic battery accusation puts a stain on Xavien Howard‘s character, but his performance as a player can’t be debated.

After trading up in the 2nd-round of the 2016 draft to select the Baylor cornerback 38th-overall, the Dolphins coached and blossomed Howard into the elite cornerback he is today.

Originally being deemed a bust, Howard made a name for himself towards the end of his sophomore season when he intercepted Tom Brady twice in the same game. It was that game that made Dolphins fans realize they had something special with Howard.

His 2018 season was dominant, ending the year as the league-leader in interceptions and earning a nod to the Pro Bowl.

A knee injury ended his 2019 prematurely, but Dolphins fans are excited to see what Howard can do with this coaching staff when he’s finally healthy.

That’s if he’s still around next year…

Cornerback: Brent Grimes
Games Active: 47
Passes Defended: 43
Interceptions: 13

The curious case of Brent Grimes gets weirder and more-convoluted by the year.

Signed as a “project” player with upside after tearing his achilles tendon with the Atlanta Falcons, Grimes came to Miami with a chance to prove that he was still the #1 cornerback he portrayed at the beginning of his career.

Consistently overlooked and notably undersized, Grimes regained his form and excelled as an elite, #1 cornerback for this team.

His one-handed interception off Matthew Stafford is the most-beautiful interception you’ll witness in Dolphins history. If you weren’t sure how much of a fan-favorite Grimes was, just look at his place as one of the top-50 Miami Dolphins of all time – that should tell you all you need to know about his place in Miami lore.

Then, his wife was tackled outside of Hard Rock Stadium after becoming belligerent. She decided the team was at fault for who knows what, and went on a crusade against them, which included:

  • Bashing the team’s starting quarterback
  • Attacking the fans
  • Threatening members of the media

It was clear she (and by obvious extension, Brent) wanted out of Miami, and successfully made such a scene that the team was all-but-forced to release him.

Grimes was revered, ostracized and despised by Dolphins fans everywhere. He was seen as malcontent and a reason for the organization’s overall failure.

His wife couldn’t stop the hate-fueled rants as she attacked Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross with anti-semetic slurs (not realizing….or not caring….that her husband’s new bosses in Tampa Bay were also Jewish), declared she was thankful her husband was with Jameis Winston and not Ryan Tannehill (how’d that work out), and became so unhinged that she was suspended from social media on multiple occasions.

Since then, plenty has come out about the toxic locker room culture that was brewing in Davie, and, to be honest, we can’t blame Brent for wanting out. The thing is, he took the most-public and, at times, immoral route to make it happen – and fans took his departure personally.

It’s one thing to have a family member make comments about an organization; Eli Apple and Kevin Durant‘s moms are two notorious examples of this. It’s another thing to have a family member vehemently burn a bridge to an organization that simply rooted for their success.

Today, you can still find Brent Grimes at Hard Rock Stadium, just in a much more subtle manner than he was in the past.

Stories aside, Brent Grimes was an elite player for the Miami Dolphins. With 3 Pro Bowl nods in 3 seasons, Grimes was recognized locally and nationally as a feared #1 cornerback. It’s just too bad his Dolphins’ tenure ended the way it did.

Slot Cornerback: Bobby McCain
Games Active: 48
Passes Defended: 17
Interceptions: 3

I’m not even sure if you can put Bobby McCain here anymore, but if you look back this decade, there aren’t many other players that can supplant McCain from this position.

Drafted as an outside cornerback and exposed early in his career, McCain found a niche in the slot and excelled towards the end of his sophomore season and throughout his third year in the league. McCain’s inclining performance, charismatic personality and leadership qualities earned him a 4-year, $27m contract extension to go along with the honor of being elected a team captain by Adam Gase.

Since then, both Matt Burke and Patrick Graham have continued to experiment with McCain in an attempt to evolve him into a versatile, Swiss army knife-type of defender. This constant shuffling has hindered McCain’s progress, and at the moment, the Dolphins have neither a versatile defender nor an excellent slot cornerback.

With all of that said, McCain has been the team’s best slot cornerback in recent history, and all of these “what ifs” further frustrate Dolphins fans looking for some kind of sustained success.

Free Safety: Michael Thomas
Games Active: 56
Passes Defended: 6
Interceptions: 1

Most of you are going to put Reshad Jones here, but contrary to where Jones has lined up the majority of his career, he is predominantly a strong safety. Which means we have to find a free safety to add to this list. And that’s why you see Michael Thomas.

Often confused for his counterpart in New Orleans, Thomas was a stellar special teams player who was also a reliable safety (when needed) on defense.

Though there aren’t too many highlight-reel plays to bolster Thomas’ standing as a safety, he never allowed a big play to happen on his watch – which is essentially what a safety is there to do.

He is the definition of reliable.

Both smart and professional, Thomas was a well-deserved team captain for the Miami Dolphins.

The way he engaged with the fans, the organization and the community all deserve to be commended, and his recent contract with the New York Giants is a well-deserved reward for one of the most underrated Miami Dolphins in the history of the organization.

Strong Safety: Reshad Jones
Games Active: 128
Tackles: 766

Sacks: 10.5
Turnovers: 23

Reshad Jones has been in the process of quietly establishing a Hall of Fame-worthy career while being mightily overlooked in South Florida.

Calling Jones a two-time Pro Bowler is an insult to his entire career.

Annually snubbed the deserving reward, Jones inexplicably remained out of the spotlight for the majority of his career because he played on such mediocre teams. Place Jones in the conversation with other elite safeties, and casual NFL fans would look at you with a perplexed glare.

To an extent, I can’t help but feel bad for Jones as he watched less-deserving individuals make the Pro Bowl based on name or team recognition alone. However, down in Miami, you would have a hard time finding a Dolphins fan that didn’t know who Reshad Jones was.

He was elite. He was fierce. He was ferocious. And most importantly, he was all ours.

But of course, the longest-tenured Miami Dolphin of the 2010s is marred with drama.

Jones infamously quit in the middle of a game because he wasn’t happy with the way defensive coordinator Matt Burke was rotating him in and out of the game. He followed that up by purposely avoiding this year’s voluntary mini camp, even though it would have helped Brian Flores integrate his coaching philosophy and defensive style as a rookie head coach.

These may be some of the lasting impressions we have of Jones, but this shouldn’t negate the fact that he was a game-changing safety for an entire decade.

When Jones’ career is finally over, and we’re able to properly reflect on what he meant to our organization, fans will forget these minor incidents and realize that they were able to witness one of the greatest safeties in Dolphins’ history.

Honorable Mentions

Jimmy Wilson:
Games Active: 45
Passes Defended: 11
Interceptions: 3

Jimmy Wilson‘s road to Miami also tells a bit of an interesting story.

Originally expected to be drafted much higher in the 2011 NFL Draft, Wilson faced character concerns after being acquitted in 2009 of murdering his Aunt’s boyfriend. After nearly falling out of the draft entirely, the Dolphins selected him in the 7th-round, 235th-overall.

Wilson was shuffled all around the secondary. Acting as an earlier version of Bobby McCain, Wilson shifted from cornerback, to slot corner to safety throughout his tenure. He didn’t assume a full-time starting role until his forth (and final) season in Miami, in which he started 13 of the 14 games he was active for.

His performance that year earned him a 2-year, $4.85m contract with his hometown team, the San Diego Chargers, in 2015. He was released before the season ended.

Truth be told, it’s pretty difficult to pinpoint Wilson’s stats because he moved around so much. Though he was ultimately reliable in coverage, fans still felt a bit queasy when the ball was thrown in his direction.

Still, it’s hard to ask for much more out of your 7th-round draft pick, and fans felt a tad disappointed when he left in free agency because they had grown to like him so much.

Isa Abdul-Quddus:
Games Active: 15
Passes Defended: 5

Interceptions: 2

If Isa Abdul-Quddus hadn’t suffered a career-ending neck injury in Week 16 of the 2016 season, he would most likely still be a Miami Dolphin.

Instead, Miami has attempted to solve the position by drafting Minkah Fitzpatrick, rotating Bobby McCain, and signing Eric Rowe in free agency.

Originally signed to a 3-year, $12.75m contract, Abdul-Quddus was a reliable performer and a playmaker for the Miami Dolphins. As we approached the end of the 2016 season, it was evident the Dolphins found themselves a “steal”.

Then suddenly, one random play that resulted in a freak injury cut his entire NFL career short.

If he had played more than 15 games for Miami, he’d most likely be on this list. Instead, I hope Abdul-Quddus is doing well in his life after football. It’s yet another reason to enjoy every day and to not take life (or your health) for granted.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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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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