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Miami Dolphins Top-5 Best Draft Picks of the 21st Century

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If selecting our bottom-5 Miami Dolphins draft picks of the 21st-century was tough because there were so many valid options to choose from, the top-5 draft picks were equally as difficult to conjure up for the exact opposite reason.

Though there may be plenty of options that you can plug into the list, the unfortunate realization you come to is that this list is so difficult to confidently put together because there are so few clear-cut answers.

At least the rest of the AFC East was able to draft players that would undoubtedly make a similar list:

  • Buffalo Bills: Kyle Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Stephon Gilmore
  • New England Patriots: (I refuse to name a specific quarterback from 2000), Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymoure, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty (and a plethora of others)
  • New York Jets: D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in the same draft, Darrelle Revis, Jonathan Vilma

Plenty of more-recent players happened to make (or just miss) this list, but the decisions were just as surprising to me as they may be to you.

There was one great Miami Dolphins receiver that should have instantly made the list, but after comparing and contrasting careers, you’ll see that the decision wasn’t as easy at you’d think. Our perceptions of certain players seem to change depending on how they ended their careers with the Dolphins; we view players that had unorthodox exits as less-impressive than earlier counterparts.

We took into account more than just statistics when deriving this list. How much value did the player provide from their respective draft slot? What is their lasting impression with the team? How expensive or inexpensive were they?

Take a look at the best and most-impactful Dolphins drafted this century and see how you may have listed the players yourself:

5) Laremy Tunsil – 1st-round (#13 overall)

The easiest and best risk the Miami Dolphins ever took in a draft this century, Laremy Tunsil is on his way to being one of the best players in the entire NFL.

Sure, we can crack an unlimited amount of jokes over his draft-day gas mask bong and how his 5th-year extension came just a few days before weed smokers everywhere celebrated their national holiday, but without that video, the Miami Dolphins offensive line is even more inept than it currently is. If his social media account isn’t “hacked”, the team is either still searching for a franchise left tackle or in the process of grossly overpaying for one.

Tunsil was collectively graded out as the best prospect coming out of the 2016 NFL draft, and the Miami Dolphins were in the right place at the wrong time (for Tunsil).

I’m not sure why a video of a player smoking weed in college is such a turn off to professional football clubs who deal with rapists, murderers, and felons of all types, but it caused multiple teams to skip over Tunsil when drafting their respective left tackle.

After a short public relations “nightmare” (I wouldn’t even call it a bad dream), Miami was able to gloat over the fact that they currently have one of the best left tackles in the game.

What keeps Tunsil from being higher on this list is the obvious abbreviated career he has had with the Dolphins. We don’t know what the future holds for him, and it’s possible injuries mount or his play deteriorates for a myriad of reasons.

However, if Tunsil is anywhere close to the prospect he’s shown he can be, he’ll find himself much higher on this list in the future. It’s not crazy to say that 10 years from now, he could be #1.

4) Vernon Carey – 1st-round (#19 overall)

There isn’t much about this draft pick you can talk about. It’s about as generic as offensive linemen stereotypically are, though his publicity is a far cry from the previous offensive lineman on this list.

Vernon Carey traveled a very short distance from The University of Miami to the Miami Dolphins after being drafted 19th-overall in the 2004 NFL draft.

A career that spanned 8 years and 121 games (107 starts), Carey is your quintessential compiler; never really doing anything wrong, but not dominant enough to be a memorable 1st-round pick.

Really, his longevity and durability (active for 94.5% of all possible games), are what have him on this list. We know that Laremy Tunsil is currently a better player than Vernon Carey ever was, but we still don’t know if Tunsil will survive longer than Jake Long did, let alone go on to have a solid 8-year career like Carey had.

For a guy who was a bit overweight towards the end of his career, he was one of the most reliable Dolphins throughout his tenure. Most casual Dolphins fans didn’t even know who Carey was, and that’s a good thing for an offensive lineman.

This selection speaks more to the the Dolphins draft history this century than it does Carey’s skill. Frankly, Carey should never be on this list – he’s just one of the only draft picks to last longer than their rookie contract while still remaining durable. If the Dolphins were even adequate drafters at the start of the century, or if they knew how to handle immaturity, Carey would most likely be viewed lower than Mike Pouncey.

3) Chris Chambers – 2nd-round (#52 overall)

The toughest debate of this entire piece, Chris Chambers was almost replaced by another wide receiver recently selected by the Miami Dolphins.

Both players are virtually the same, but if you talk to most Dolphins fans they’ll speak glowingly of Chambers while looking down on Jarvis Landry. So you’d think this was an easy decision to make…but taking into account everything involving these players, it was a closer call than we expected.

Like any good story, it begins with their origins. Miami gave up a 4th-round pick in the 2001 draft to move up 4 slots and select Chris Chambers at #52. If you have conviction in a player and he’s someone you want, I will always encourage you doing what is necessary to grab him (similar to what happened when Miami traded up to get Patrick Surtain back in 1998; no one cares what you spent when you get the pick right).

Landry, on the other hand, didn’t cost Miami anything extra. In fact, he was more of a risk than Chambers, as most teams saw Landry’s body type as a detriment in the NFL.

In his 6.5 year career with Miami, Chambers amassed 5688 receiving yards and 43 touchdowns on 405 receptions. Landry accumulated 4038 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns on 400 receptions.

At first glance, it seems like Landry’s numbers are stacked in his favor. The prevailing thought was that Landry was a possession receiver that benefited from Miami’s inept offense and short-passing game. A deeper dive into the numbers tells us that Chambers was almost as “possessive” as Landry was, we just have a different perception of it all.

  • Chambers racked up 5688 yards on 846 targets (6.72 yards per target) while Landry had 4038 receiving yards on just 570 targets (7.08 yards per target)
    • Chambers’ 5688 yards came in 100 games (56.88 yards per game) while Landry’s 4038 yards came in just 64 games (63.09 yards per game)
  • Chambers did score touchdowns at a better pace than Landry, scoring a touchdown once every 2.33 games compared to Landry scoring once every 2.91 games.

The kicker? Their overall value, longevity, and their ball handling.

Chambers cost Miami an additional 4th-round pick in 2001, but the team was able to trade him to the San Diego Chargers in 2007 for a 2008 2nd-round pick. Miami didn’t have to give up any additional draft picks for Landry, but they were only able to deal Landry for a 4th and 7th-round pick last offseason. And that was after the team decided they didn’t want to extend Landry. You can’t fault Chambers for being able to sign a 5-year, $23m extension in 2004, just like you can’t fault Landry for wanting to cash in on free agency.

Difference is, one is better for the Dolphins and the other is better for the player. I’ll always side with the player in those scenarios, but when we’re trying to figure out who the top-5 draft picks are for the Miami Dolphins, the contract differential plays into it.

Chambers played an extra 2.5 years, has 4 less fumbles, and was able to net Miami a 2nd-round draft pick in return for 6.5 years of service. With everything so evenly matched statistically, Chambers gets the slight nod. It was just a lot closer than I would have imagined.

2) Reshad Jones – 5th-round (#163 overall)

Through contract disputes, quitting mid-game, and game-sealing interceptions, Reshad Jones has had an enigmatic career with Miami.

Drafted in the 5th-round (163rd-overall) in the 2010 NFL draft, Jones has been the Dolphins biggest steal of the century. Forever overlooked because he plays for a team no one in America cares about (see Zack Thomas‘ bid to get into the Hall of Fame), Jones has consistently been one of the top safeties in the NFL.

  • 21 career interceptions
  • 3 career forced fumbles
  • 7 career fumble recoveries
  • 10.5 career sacks
  • 4 career defensive touchdowns

And a swagger to match his aggressive playing style, Reshad Jones was everything you wanted out of a hard-hitting safety; especially one you unearthed so late in the draft.

Regardless of how the rest of Jones’ career with the Dolphins plays out, it’ll be hard for him to negate all of the passion and love he received from the fans throughout his 9+ year tenure. While recent history may not reflect too fondly on Jones, his name will forever be solidified as one of the great defensive players to put on a Dolphins uniform.

This interception against Tom Brady will always be one of my favorite Reshad Jones plays.

Honorable Mentions

We remember (most of) these players fondly for their time with the Dolphins, though none of us can correlate success with any one of them. You might be able to slot them into this top-5 list, but where would you put them and who are you going to take off?

Paul Soliai – 4th-round (#108 overall)

A 4th-round pick that turned into a dominant defensive tackle for the Dolphins, Paul Soliai was as forceful as he looked. His inclusion on the defensive line theoretically improved the running game, though Miami’s linebackers behind him were typically sub par, leading to underwhelming overall statistics.

That said, Soliai was certainly a steal for the Dolphins, but everything else that encompasses Paul Soliai leaves him just barely off the list.

To start, Soliai took A LONG TIME to develop. We’re talking one training camp away from being cut.

Though active for 22 games his first two years in the NFL, Soliai barely played, and combined to record just 6 tackles between 2007-2008. After a productive 2009, Miami began to realize Soliai was a really good player – eventually causing the team to use the franchise tag on the Samoan defensive tackle after the 2010 season.

After, once again, failing to have the foresight to sign one of their emerging players at a cheaper value and being forced to use the franchise tag, the Dolphins signed Soliai to a more-reasonable 2-year, $12m contract after the 2011 season.

Between his long development, the expensive franchise tag, and frankly, performance that was great but not elite, Soliai finds himself missing the top group of draft picks this century.

Brandon Fields – 7th-round (#225 overall)

Annually one of the best positions on the Dolphins roster, Miami always seems to have one of the more-premier punters in the game.

Brandon Fields played 8 seasons for the Dolphins and was active for every game.

At some points, he was worthy of being the team’s MVP; specifically remembering the game against the Jets in 2010 where the Dolphins accumulated 131 yards of total offense and Brandon Fields ended the game with 10 punts for an average of 50-yards per punt. Miami won 10-6 that day.

He was excellent at his craft, and most-certainly worth a 7th-round draft pick. If it weren’t for the fact that Miami’s offense was so anemic throughout Fields’ career, it’s possible we don’t realize how effective he was. Though he certainly deserves the recognition, it’s tough to put a punter into the top-5 category when there are other athletes affecting the game much more than a punter would.

…Still doesn’t mean we don’t love and appreciate what he did for us throughout his tenure.

Charles Clay – 6th-round (#174 overall)

A playmaker uncovered in the 6th-round, Charles Clay provided much more value than we could have hoped from his draft slot.

Selected as a multi-dimensional player who can both block and line up as a possible receiving threat, Clay initially served as a fullback/H-back hybrid before being unleashed more as a receiver the final two years of his Dolphins tenure.

Though never flashy, Clay was exactly what you wanted out of a tight end. He was seen as such a viable asset to Miami’s offense, that Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills devised a contract that made it nearly impossible for Miami to match and retain Clay during the 2015 offseason (this all occurred because Miami placed the Transition Tag on Clay leading into free agency).

The contract proved to be unwise for Buffalo, and it hamstrung them throughout its entirety as Clay was both injured and underwhelming. But that doesn’t negate anything he accomplished with the Dolphins.

Jarvis Landry – 2nd-round (#63 overall)

An offensive playmaker for an organization that hadn’t had a playmaker since pre-marijuana suspension Ricky Williams, Jarvis Landry gave Dolphins fans something to be excited about. It also gave the rest of the nation a reason to tune in to Miami – an otherwise desolate franchise tucked away in the corner of the United States.

He certainly didn’t have the “experience” the other players on this list had for Miami, but between his production, vastly outplaying the original “bust” vibe that followed him out of college because he wasn’t built like a “prototypical” football player, and the passion he brought to Miami, if he wasn’t a breath of fresh air he was certainly a dose of moxie that this club hadn’t had in years.

Though Landry ended his Dolphins career on a sour note, I wouldn’t doubt he’d be welcomed back to Hard Rock Stadium with open arms and a round of applause. His passion bordered on immaturity and toxicity, but it was his infectious desire to win that won over the hearts of fans and fellow teammates. If Miami extended Landry prior to the final season of his rookie contract, he may still be on the team. Instead, the Dolphins let his price tag balloon outside of their price range (and, for the contract he signed, rightfully so).

Brian Hartline – 4th-round (#108 overall)

You’re tripping if you think Brian Hartline doesn’t deserve to be recognized on this list!

Though the only sexy thing to originate from Hartline’s playing career was his 253 yard receiving game against the Arizona Cardinals back in 2012, we shouldn’t discredit what Hartline has done for the organization.

9th on the team’s all time receptions list with 298 receptions and 7th on the all time receiving list with 4243 yards, Hartline quietly compiled one of the best receiving careers in Dolphins history. Never a player opposing defenses felt threatened about, Hartline seemed like a guaranteed first down every time he was open.

A crafty receiver who was an exceptional route runner with soft hands, Hartline didn’t have the speed, strength, skill or intangibles to defeat his defenders, but he was one of the smartest receivers on the field, and knew exactly what his quarterback was looking for.

Ryan Tannehill‘s “blanket” before Jarvis Landry was drafted, Hartline may get teased for ending nearly every reception with a trip right before being tackled (an extremely healthy tactic, frankly), but at times he was the only legitimate “playmaker” on Miami’s offense.

The team’s lack of success doesn’t help Hartline’s image, but as a 4th-round draft steal, he should be remembered fondly by Dolphins fans. Lest we forget Patrick Turner was the alternative selected one round earlier than Hartline…

Xavien Howard – 2nd-round (#38 overall)

A couple injuries away from being on this list, Xavien Howard is already a star for the Miami Dolphins. Thing is, does a near-shutdown cornerback for 1.5 seasons translate to one of the top-5 draft picks of the entire century?

While we don’t think Howard is going to regress, we can’t put Howard on this list with such minimal experience under his belt. Does he turn into the next Jake Long or does he continue to excel as one of the top cornerbacks in the AFC? You can certainly use the same logic for Laremy Tunsil; how is he on this list but Howard is not?

Tunsil nearly missed the list for the same reason Howard made it, but Tunsil’s durability and the potential length of his career (compared to cornerbacks) has him higher than Howard at this very moment. Ultimately, Miami should have been able to fill the top-5 without such a debate between 2016 draft picks, but that shows you just how poorly Miami has drafted since 2000.

Barring a trade or the Dolphins unwisely letting Howard leave in free agency, expect Howard to land near Tunsil towards the top of this list 5 years from now.

Randy McMichael – 4th-round (#114 overall)

Both a force on the offensive line and a route running threat, Randy McMichael was an absolute bad*** for the Miami Dolphins throughout his tenure.

If his career began 10 years after he was originally drafted in 2002, he would probably be putting up numbers equivalent to (prime) Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

Reliable and menacing, McMichael started every single game throughout his 5-year tenure – averaging 57 receptions, 619 yards, 3.6 touchdowns and just 0.8 fumbles per season during that time.

If you had any thoughts about including Charles Clay on this list, you can scrap it immediately for McMichael – this is the kind of tight end Miami has been missing since his departure in 2007.

1) Yeremiah Bell – 6th-round (#213 overall)

One of the best draft-day steals in the history of the organization, Yeremiah Bell was an underrated, overlooked and unknown safety throughout his 8-year tenure.

Easily the best set of contracts Miami has signed any player to in the past 30 years, on average, Bell annually cost just 1.66% of the team’s cap space. A phenomenal bargain for a starting safety who had a knack for making plays.

While his overall statistics aren’t as glossy as Reshad Jones’, his draft status (selected 50 picks after Jones), career contracts with Miami (Bell’s 8 years with Miami cost $2.5m more than Jones 2019 cap hit alone – $19.7m vs $17.2m), and a non-existent ego that didn’t quit on the team mid-game, Bell is easily the best draft pick the Miami Dolphins have selected this century.

If we had to pick between Jones and Bell for one game or for one season, the answer is going to be Reshad Jones; but take into account all the baggage that comes with Jones, and it makes more sense why Bell gave Miami more value for their draft pick.

While people have various opinions about Jones currently (overpaid, playmaker, quitter, leader, over-the-hill), no one has a negative connotation they can associate with Bell.

On a gloomier note, it certainly says something when the team’s best draft pick factored into just one playoff appearance throughout his 8-year career with the team.

By no means would we ever want to replace Bell, and he certainly isn’t the reason the team didn’t make the playoffs most of those years, but it does give us an indication why the team has been so mediocre all this time.

How many of these players were obvious selections? Now how many of them became obvious selections because there weren’t any other obvious choices you could make?

This list isn’t pretty, but it’s a bit prettier than the bottom-5 draft picks we put together this century. If you’re in the mood to torture yourself leading up to the NFL draft, check out who cracked the bottom-5 here.

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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