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State of the Miami Dolphins Franchise – September 1, 2019

Travis Wingfield

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A blockbuster trade, 10 newcomers, a war chest of future draft picks, the Dolphins are finally doing things differently

No one expected to be here. Not the fans. Not Laremy Tunsil. Not even the Miami Dolphins themselves thought about the possibility of trading one of its two, sure-fire blue chip players, and yet here we are.

As Albert Breer of the MMQB put it, Miami had no intentions to move Tunsil until Houston’s full court press turned into an offer Miami couldn’t refuse.

The lack on long-term job security turned Bill O’Brien into a mad scientist, operating free of any governing watch, spending all of his company’s future assets on immediate returns. A long day for the Texans saw a potential division favorite part with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, an all-pro defensive end, and a pair of mid-round picks on middling tailbacks (one of which occurred two weeks ago).

Miami cashed in. And while this might not have been Stephen Ross’ exact image of a teardown rebuild, the ultimate apple of his eye is now clearly within range (more on that QB in a moment).

When Ross stepped to the podium (or table, rather) on New Year’s Eve to announce the dismissal of Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum, and the coinciding promotion of Chris Grier, he vowed to do things differently.

Chasing the New England Patriots and their six Super Bowl titles, nine appearances in the big game, and 16 division titles in 18 years has long been a futile effort. Rather than chasing the dragon with pipedreams like Robert Quinn, Danny Amendola, and a host of failed bandage attempts over the last decade, Ross finally learned the definition of insanity.

And while his initial vision probably included a minimal regression to the mean, unique circumstances forced a pivot. Now, bottoming out to the fullest extent of the definition is the preferred mode of operation going forward.

That wasn’t the case just three weeks ago. Ross detailed his instructions to the coaching staff to “try to win,” a hilarious quote without context, no doubt. Ross continued by saying that if Miami winds up with, say, five wins, it’s OK because of Miami’s draft capital gives the team the flexibility to trade up to secure its franchise altering passer.

But now, with a war chest of future resources, Miami might be able to divide the 21 draft picks it has beyond its own, organic 2020 first-rounder about the rest of the roster. One of those picks will now have to replace fast-emerging Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil, widely argued as the best young player at his position in the league.

So Why Trade Tunsil?

The return, along with adhering to a philosophical principle, the Dolphins saw an opportunity to maximize an asset. While many fans were sent into a rage about losing the only quality part of the integral offensive line group, that very fact might be why Tunsil was deemed expendable.

On the fifth day of training camp this summer, Brian Flores answered a flurry of questions regarding the decision to move on from recently hired Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty.

One of those questions asked what exactly the Dolphins were looking for with the other four positions — four spots regarded as suspect, at best.

Flores’ message has never deviated from his original clichés. “Communication, working as one singular unit, not five individual parts, that’s what we’re trying to get out of those guys.”

Even if Tunsil is an elite pass protector, even if you can put him on an island with a two-way go against the game’s best pass rushers, what does that gain? What does it gain when Tunsil blocks out the sun against Khalil Mack, but the right guard-right tackle combination fails to pass-off a stunt, and pressure arrives in less than two seconds anyhow?

The roster needs a jolt of talent, there’s no doubt about that, but the offensive line was the primary culprit behind Miami’s projected hopelessness this season. That group, more so than the team itself, needed a ground-up rebuild.

Cashing in the offensive line’s greatest asset, for well above market value, puts the Dolphins in a more advantageous position to restock that group as a whole, and solidify a singular unit. Not to mention that Tunsil was only two years — at most — away from cashing in the largest lineman contract in the NFL.

Miami can now spend that money on multiple players — maybe even two linemen — and scoops up three premium picks (all top 60 picks) in the process.

Everything about this offseason has been about positioning the team for success in the future, even if the path to the future is rigged with treacherous booby traps and unmitigated suffering.

 

Draft Round Dolphins 2020 Picks Dolphins 2021 Picks
1st 2 2
2nd 2 2
3rd 2 1
4th 1 1
5th 1 1
6th 2 0
7th 1 1
Total Picks 11 0
Projected Top 50 Picks 3 3
Projected Top 100 Picks 6 6

*Miami previously held two 7th round picks in 2020, but the trade for Danny Isidora brings it back to one.

 

The happiest accident of the entire thing, Miami is a dreadful football team for the 2019 season; a season in which college football is set to send some premier quarterback prospects into the league.

Most notably, Tua Tagovailoa.

Stephen Ross professed his love for the Heisman Runner-Up and 2018 National Championship Game hero. Tagovailoa is widely regarded as the next great quarterback prospect, the best one since Andrew Luck in 2012.

All Luck did, for a previously 2-14 Colts team, was take a talent-barren club to the post-season three consecutive years. He led Indianapolis to three playoff victories and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game in 2014, his third year. Miami hasn’t done any of those three things since the 1990’s, for those keeping score at home.

The year prior, Miami and Indianapolis were competing for the right to Luck’s services. Miami started the campaign 0-6, but finished 6-4 and all the way out of the top five. The Colts wound up with Luck, the Dolphins with Ryan Tannehill, and I don’t need to tell you how different the last seven years would’ve been if Miami could’ve traded those two quarterbacks straight across.

Nothing changes the landscape of your franchise like a marquee quarterback. Nothing. There is no more direct route back to a Lombardi than an elite quarterback, and the opportunity to acquire one should not be taken lightly.

And if Miami hits that pick out of the park, and at the cost of just ONE draft pick, then the organization would have to royally screw up the next two offseason for Miami to stay in the shadows for long.

With 19 additional picks to aid Tua Tagovailoa (or Jordan Love), if the Dolphins bat just .400 on those picks, we’re talking about eight more contributing players to a core that already features some quality parts.

Parts like Jerome Baker, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Christian Wilkins.

Parts like Xavien Howard. Which brings us to the next question.

Why Did Miami Pay Xavien Howard, Acquire Josh Rosen?

As the offensive line was constructed around one elite player, and four players that probably wouldn’t start anywhere else, the defensive backfield is not in the same neighborhood.

Howard is one of, if not the game’s premiere cover corner. Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the game’s best slot corners, and a versatile weapon. Miami are enamored with a pair of former Patriots corners in Eric Rowe and Jomal Wiltz. Reshad Jones is still here, though his future is in jeopardy, and Bobby McCain is a good player and one of the leaders of the team.

The Dolphins are only one or two parts away from putting a top-flight secondary on the field, the same was not true of the offensive line. Not by a long shot.

On the other side, the players that the secondary are trying to prevent from succeeding, sits the cursed 22-year-old, Josh Rosen.

Rosen’s chances of becoming the answer in Miami are slim. Regardless of how you feel about the kid’s talent, he’s in a position where far greater quarterbacks would struggle, and the success he would have to enjoy to push Miami off of next year’s QB class is simply unachievable.

Maybe that’s why Miami opted not to start the season with Rosen. With the knowledge that a high draft pick at quarterback is greater than a 90-percent proposition (a number pulled from thin air, but let’s be real, they’re drafting a QB), Rosen’s greatest value to the Dolphins might be on the trade market.

Jimmy Garappolo brought back the 43rd pick in the 2018 draft to the Patriots after 1.5 games of brilliance.

If Miami can hold off on playing Rosen until the circumstances are more favorable (perhaps the line gels a bit as the season wears on, and the schedule lightens up), then a few games of good tape could certainly attract a bidder.

And before you develop an ulcer at the thought of trading Rosen after he plays well, consider upside. Consider conviction. The same conviction the Chiefs showed in the 2017 draft when, despite harboring a good NFL quarterback in Alex Smith, Andy Reid went for broke and wound up with the league’s Most Valuable Player in Patrick Mahomes.

In essence, you could wind up with the best QB prospect since Luck (Tagovailoa) and yet another second-round pick (would be Miami’s fifth the next two year) if Rosen plays his price tag up to that level. Rosen’s contract along could make him attractive to another bidder, if Miami so chooses that a high draft pick is more valuable than a backup quarterback.

All of these players are assets with a price tag attached to their name. That’s a cruel truth in the National Football League, but that’s what happens in business.

Updated 53-Man Roster – Courtesy of Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald

New Additions:

OL Julién Davenport
OL Evan Boehm
OL Danny Isidora
DE Trent Harris
DE Avery Moss
LB Deon Lacey
LB Vince Biegel
CB Johnson Bademosi
CB Ken Webster
S Steven Parker
DT John Jenkins

Position Players
QB (2) Fitzpatrick, Rosen
RB (6) Drake, Ballage, Walton, Laird, Gaskin, Cox (FB)
WR (5) Wilson, Grant, Williams, Parker, Hurns
TE (3) Gesicki, O’Leary, Smythe
OL (9) Davenport, Deiter, Kilgore, Calhoun, Davis, Reed, Boehm, Isidora, Prince
Edge (5) C. Harris, Orchard, T. Harris, Ledbetter, Moss
iDL (3) Wilkins, Godchaux, Jenkins
LB (6) Baker, Eguavoen, McMillan, Van Ginkel, Biegel, Lacey
CB (6) Howard, Fitzpatrick, Rowe, Wiltz, Webster, Bademosi
S (5) McCain, Jones, Lammons, Parker, Aikens
Spec (2) Sanders, Haack

*Current as of 12:37 PM EST, 9/2 (Roster at 52 players, long-snapper)

 

Miami landed in the headlines with the draft capital returns, but the organization has quietly been churning over the bottom of the roster in search of developmental pieces. Isidora and Boehm were added prior to the blockbuster trade, and there might be a find in there as we detailed in the film study work-up.

Miami had spent time with Saints Linebacker Vince Biegel prior to the 2017 draft, both at the Senior Bowl and with a private workout.

Deon Lacy was a CFL signing to Miami last year, but he didn’t make Gase’s 53-man roster — he’s back.

Cutting Zach Sterup likely means that new addition Julién Davenport is the starting left tackle. He’s, shall we say, had his fair share of struggles.

Miami is rounding out it’s practice squad as well. Here’s the up-to-date 11-man developmental player for the Dolphins (currently only at 9).

Practice Squad

Position Player
1. QB Jake Ruddock
2. DE Dewayne Hendrix
3. LB Christian Sam
4. CB Nik Needham
5. DT Gerald Willis
6. TE Chris Myarick
7. LB Terrill Hanks
8. S Montre Hartage
9. OT Zach Sterup
10.
11. OL Durval Queiroz Neto (Exempt Status

 

The Forgotten Man in All of This

Miami departed with more than just Laremy Tunsil in the trade. The Dolphins Walter Payton Man of the Year Candidate, and leading receiver over the last three seasons was also sent to Houston.

Kenny Stills was a fixture on the South Florida community. Every time the Dolphins social media pages shared video, or photography of the team aiding in charity events, number 10 was always there. Every. Single. Time. The Dolphins are losing a good football player, but also one of the best men in the game.

Best of luck in Houston, Kenny.

Darkest Before the Dawn

This season is going to be challenging, there’s no way around that. Miami doesn’t have the makeup of a team that can compete with many others at this level, but there’s still a reason to watch.

Watch to see how Jerome Baker develops as the leader of the defense. Watch to see Xavien Howard continue his tear of intercepting footballs. Watch to see Minkah Fitzpatrick, Christian Wilkins, Kalen Ballage, Jakeem Grant, Preston Williams, Mike Geisicki, Charles Harris, and Davon Godchaux attempt to take the next step.

Watch the low-risk investments like Mark Walton, Eric Rowe, Devante Parker and how they progress.

Watch the five undrafted free agents on the current roster — Williams, Patrick LairdShaq Calhoun, Jonathan Ledbetter, and Chris Lammons.

It’s evaluation season, Dol-fans. And we’ve got 16 games to self-scout the incumbent talent, and 13 more weeks to watch a decorated college class of prospects, primarily on the offensive side of the ball.

The Browns did this two years ago. The team finished without a win in 2017 and landed the first pick in the draft. Enter Baker Mayfield. Now, after winning seven more games than the previous season, the Browns are loaded.

Cleveland used all the resources it gathered to pick up superstars like Myles Garrett, and O’Dell Beckham, and paired them with other names like Denzel Ward, David Njoku, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, and a laundry list of above average NFL starters.

If you were content with perpetually finishing right in the middle of the pack — in that range of seven to eight wins, and picking in the early teens every April — then perhaps this rebuild isn’t for you.

But this team is doing things differently now. They had to.

We’ll find out if it works in three years.

@WingfieldNFL

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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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