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Miami Dolphins 5 Worst Free Agency Signings

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have had their fair share of mistakes throughout the years, and with free agency set to begin this week, I’m here to remind you about all the bad times we had together before you get excited for the “hope” that lies ahead (see what I did there….)

Maybe it’s a coincidence that all of the players listed are relatively current. Only one of these players played for the team in the 2000s, with some of them being on the team as recently as 2017.

Recent memory serves us best, but with player contracts annually increasing, you’re going to find plenty more-recent Dolphins bust.

Not a single person is going to say Brian Hartline‘s 5-year, $31m ($12.5m guaranteed) contract was more detrimental to the team’s cap space than any of the players listed below. Not even Daunte Culpepper‘s $8m contract was that bad (even though he’s technically a trade acquisition, not a free agent) – even if his production was far worse than Ryan Tannehill‘s.

The Miami Dolphins have had plenty of underwhelming players throughout the 21st century, below are the five free agent contracts that were abysmally worse than all the rest:

Note: this list does not include extensions – this list strictly looks at players that came from another team. Which means players like Ryan Tannehill, Reshad Jones, Mike Pouncey and Bobby McCain will not show up here)

5) Philip Wheeler: 5-yr, $25m ($13m guaranteed)

The perfect example of a player performing in a contract year and happily walking off into the sunset; Philip Wheeler was a head-scratching free agency signing and an even worse linebacker.

Paired with the #3 player on our list, Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe were an atrocious duo for the Dolphins. Brought on to replace Kevin Burrnett and Karlos Dansby respectively, both players were role players rewarded with starting contracts. They were anomalies that the Dolphins fell in love with (just like Andre Branch).

In his first season with Miami, Wheeler started all 16 games and recorded 118 tackles – mostly because opposing teams realized they could be productive running/passing at Wheeler. Wheeler did record 5 tackles for a loss and 5 QB hits, but that average comes out to less than 1 every 3 games, which is pathetic for a linebacker meant to stop the run and close gaps.

I wasn’t able to find the clip, but there was one play of Wheeler’s that will always stick out at me. He was turning around to call out a play to his fellow defenders and then turned back towards the opposing offense to get into his stance – ready to attack the play. Except the play already started and the opponent was tackled right by his feet. It took until the player was tackled for Wheeler to diagnose that the play had actually started.

This play perfectly sums up Wheeler’s career in Miami and perfectly sums up what every fan feels about him. Confused and unmotivated.

4) Jake Grove: 5-yr, $29m ($14.5m guaranteed)

This signing may have swayed us because of how poorly the Miami Dolphins misdiagnosed everything involved in this “prized” free agency signing.

After an Oakland Raiders career marred by injuries, the Dolphins thought they were lucky to find their future center and signed Jake Grove to a ridiculous $29m offer (half of which was guaranteed).

Sure enough, Grove got injured in his first season with the team and started only 10 games. He didn’t even make it to his second season with Miami, and was released during the 2010 preseason.

Grove hasn’t played another snap in the NFL since.

A few things play into this monstrosity:

  1. No one else was interested in Jake Grove – which made the length and price of the contract completely unnecessary.
  2. Jake Grove played 1 full season in the NFL (2006). He was active for 54/80 games with Oakland (67.5%) and started just 46 of those 80 games (57.5%)
  3. The Miami Dolphins already had Samson Satele on the roster and subsequently traded him to Oakland to fill the void left by Grove. Satele would go on to start 42/48 games with Oakland over the next 3 seasons before becoming the Indianapolis Colts starting center for 3 seasons after that.

Eventually, Miami moved on from Grove and started Joe Berger in his place. Berger was alright for Miami, though the team let him go and Berger eventually wound up with the Minnesota Vikings where he would go on to have an adequate career as both a backup and a starter.

Miami eventually settled the position by drafting a makeshift center from Florida, Mike Pouncey, in the 1st-round of the 2011 draft. Ironically enough, Miami has still yet to solve the center position after almost a decade of allocating valuable resources towards it.

3) Dannell Ellerbe: 5-yr, $35m ($14m guaranteed)

Brought on to replace Karlos Dansby as the starting middle linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe took millions from the Dolphins and left them with the same problem they started with – a void at linebacker.

Ellerbe started 15 games for the Dolphins in 2013 and put up some gaudy numbers:  2 interceptions, 5 passes defended, 1 sack, 101 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and 4 QB hits. Though, like Wheeler, statistics are a bit misleading.

Ellerbe was a liability in coverage and against the run. Between Wheeler and Ellerbe, it was open season for opposing offenses – with an invitation to attack the middle of the field. It didn’t matter what kind of pass rush Cameron Wake was putting up or if Randy Starks was holding the middle of the defensive line just fine, the offense was still going to be productive.

To this day the team is still searching for an adequate replacement for (future Hall of Famer) Zach Thomas.

2) Mike Wallace: 5-yr, $60m ($30m guaranteed)

When you would rather have Davone Bess and Brian Hartline receiving the ball, you know something went wrong. Originally signed to a 5-year contract to be the kind of deep threat Desean Jackson actually is for the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Wallace was neither motivated nor all that good.

Wallace clashed with head coaches, quit on the team years before Reshad Jones made it “a thing”, and required fellow wide receiver Brandon Gibson to talk for him at his locker  because he was too much of a diva to face the heat.

What started out as an offseason that was set to change the course of this team’s future quickly turned into another regrettable signing for the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins did end up with the last laugh. After signing with the Dolphins, Wallace admitted that he turned down more money with the Minnesota Vikings to head down to Miami. With the Dolphins finally fed up with the receiver, the team traded Wallace to the Vikings after the 2014 season. They didn’t receive much compensation, but Wallace was forced to play in an environment he wanted nothing to be apart of. He was released from the Vikings following the 2015 season and has since been relegated to a #2 or #3 receiver on an NFL team.

The only thing that saves Wallace’s time in Miami are the pedestrian numbers he put up. Even with erratic quarterback play from a young Ryan Tannehill, in two years, Wallace was able to haul in 140 receptions for 1792 yards and 15 TDs. Think that’s alright? What do you think of Brandon Marshall? Because at least Marshall eclipsed 1000 yards each year, he just couldn’t catch touchdowns to save his job.

Honorable Mentions

Below we have (quite) a few more players that didn’t work out, they just worked out slightly more than the others. Or, their contract just wasn’t as bad:

Nate Allen: 1-yr, $3.4m

You really can’t have a bad one year contract – especially one that costs this little. But sub-par play mixed with a season-ending injury halfway through the season leads to an unproductive signing for Miami.

He came one year after Isa Abdul-Quddus was one of the best free agency signings in Dolphins history.

Gibril Wilson: 5-yr, $27.5m ($8m guaranteed)

The only thing saving Gibril Wilson from being on the list is the guaranteed money he signed for.

Brought in to be the free safety compliment to Yeremiah Bell, Miami realized their mistake one year into the five-year contract and released Wilson during the 2010 offseason. His stat line was adequate (7 passes defended, 93 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss and 3 QB hits), but he was susceptible to giving up the big play at the wrong time.

Don’t get me wrong, Wilson was terrible for the Dolphins, and deserves to be on this list – his contract just wasn’t quite bad enough to warrant a top-5 spot.

Mario Williams: 2-yr, $17m ($11.9m guaranteed)

After years of tormenting the Dolphins, Miami thought they won one over on their division rivals by signing Mario Williams to a 2-yr, $17m contract ($11.9m guaranteed). Williams was happy with the paycheck and played with minimal effort – making it obvious he was just trying to end his NFL career without injury.

The Dolphins couldn’t be happier to release him following the 2016 season. Williams started 15 games in 2016 and accumulated 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks during his time with Miami. Or in other words, slightly more than literally nothing.

Ernest Wilford: 4-yr, $13m ($6m guaranteed)

The failed wide receiver couldn’t make it as a tight end in Miami and was released from the team after just one season.

Ernest Wilford was active for 7 games in 2008 and accumulated 3 catches for 25 yards and 0 touchdowns. Prior to coming to Miami, Wilford averaged almost 500 receiving yards per season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although an injury ended his 2008 season prematurely, 25 yards from your tight end is worse than Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron; which makes this signing much worse than either of those two.

Lawrence Timmons: 2-yr, $20m ($11m guaranteed)

Saved by insanity, the Miami Dolphins dodged a really bad contract when Lawrence Timmons abandoned the team and attempted to return home to his family. While I should be careful with the jokes (who knows if that was a result of early CTE or a side effect of drugs he might be taking), in the business world we live and operate in, the airport trip that never happened was the best thing to happen to Miami.

1) Ndamukong Suh: 6-yr, $114m ($60m guaranteed)

This is one of those outliers where the player was not only extremely successful, they were borderline dominant at the position.

So how could a player who was annually top-3 at his position be considered a terrible contract for a team?

When Mike Tannenbaum is your general manager and has that glisten in his eye when a generational player is available, that’s how.

Lets not sugarcoat or undermine Ndamukong Suh‘s career because he made out like a bandit in Miami; he is most definitely one of the best players of this generation. Even if his career is slightly stained by the “dirty” play he exhibited back with the Detroit Lions, everyone will remember the name Ndamukong Suh when you say it 10 years from now. Just say “Suh” and people will know exactly who you’re talking about.

That’s dominance.

What didn’t dominate was Miami’s rushing defense, their overall defense, or the team’s record. In Suh’s 3 seasons with Miami, the teams’ stats looked like:

  • Rushing Defense:
    • 2015: 28th (126.2 yards per game)
    • 2016: 30th (140.4)
    • 2017: 14th (110.4)
  • Overall Defense:
    • 2015: 25th (376.2 yards per game)
    • 2016: 29th (382.6)
    • 2017: 16th (335.7)
  • Dolphins’ Record:
    • 2015: 6-10
    • 2016: 10-6 (0-1 playoffs)
    • 2017: 6-10

Ndamukong Suh is on this list not only because he proved paying money to a generational talent at one of the “non-premier” positions (cornerback, quarterback, left tackle) translates into nothing for the team, but he still counts towards Miami’s cap hit in 2019!

Suh’s dead cap hits in 2018 ($9.1m) and 2019 ($13.1m) were/are more than most Dolphins will cost in 2018 and 2019.

All the tackles, sacks, highlight-reel plays and accolades can’t diminish the impact Suh’s contract had on this team. The inability to build elsewhere hamstrung the organization from retaining valuable players like Jarvis Landry or even valuable role players like Michael Thomas.

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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