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Where Would The 2019 Dolphins Be With Lamar Jackson?

Chris Kowalewski

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Since the retirement of Dan Marino, the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback story has been one of frustration and division. With no replacement player able to even glimpse the franchise level set by Marino, fans continue to dwell on the past, clinging to the glory of his record setting career as well as the haunting despair of the franchise’s past poor choices (Culpepper over Brees) and sub-par draft picks. 

This year is no different, as it sees the sensational Lamar Jackson skyrocket from the practice field to the heights of NFL super-stardom.

It was widely reported that Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross was never really happy with the outcome of the first round of the 2018 draft. 

Miami held the 11th overall pick and whilst the team still lacked a true direction for the future, the choice of rookie was up for debate. Uncertainty loomed around the position concerning the return of Ryan Tannehill and the team had reached a metaphorical fork in the road when it came to deciding how they intended to proceed.

We all know how the events unfolded that night, as the Dolphins selected DB, Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama. Touted as Nick Saban’s ‘favourite son’, the selection was even widely applauded by Dolfans and the media in general with Minkah being considered a Top-10 talent.

But behind the scenes – before the Dolphins’ card had been turned in to the Commissioner – there was unease at the Dolphins’ top position regarding the decision. Stephen Ross voiced his preference was for the Dolphins to trade back from the 11th spot to acquire more draft picks and to select QB, Lamar Jackson.

Ultimately, Ross relented and deferred to the conviction of his employed ‘brain trust’ of Mike Tannenbaum, Adam Gase and Chris Grier – eventually swayed that Minkah Fitzpatrick was simply too good to pass up…

Whilst showing occasional flashes of brilliance in Miami, Minkah has since demonstrated his abilities and defensive prowess in the short time since joining the Pittsburgh Steelers on 16 September 2019 with 30 tackles, 12 assists, 2 forced fumbles and 5 INTS for 130 yards and 1 TD.

Some 240 miles SE of Pittsburgh, Lamar Jackson, the 32nd overall selection in the 2018 draft accelerates towards the position of league MVP following yet another stellar performance, a 45-6 victory on MNF against the LA Rams.

Through 11 games this season, Jackson has thrown for 2427 yards, 24 TDs, 5 INTs (66.9% completion) and a 111.4 QB rating. In addition, he leads his team in rushing yards with 876 yards on 124 carries for a further 6 TDs. 

How things can change in less than a year, when the right plan is in place and when it actually works.

This time last year, Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh was reportedly on the hot seat in Baltimore as their 2018 campaign unfolded. Since bringing a Super Bowl title to Baltimore in 2012 led by an outstanding post-season performance from Joe Flacco, the Ravens had failed to maintain their dominance in a competitive AFC North. Joe Flacco had become a shell of his former self, and the 2012 Super Bowl MVP show was a distant and faded memory. He was benched late in the season for the young rookie as the Ravens stuttered and stumbled to a 10-6 finish with Lamar Jackson at the helm, ended by a Wildcard loss to the LA Chargers.

For most NFL teams which dwell in the habitats of perpetual mediocrity, a 10-6 finish and a playoff appearance would be considered a positive thing. 

For those accustomed to the taste of victory and the shine of the Lombardi Trophy, it is a painful mark of failure. To them, falling so short marks a need for change rather than offering a solid foundation for the following season.

The way the Baltimore Ravens changed themselves and built new foundations for success has been nothing short of spectacular.

Ravens’ Offensive Co-ordinator, Greg Roman, was elevated to the position this season after spending 2018 as the team’s TE coach and Assistant Head Coach. NFL fans may recall that Roman had previously been the OC for the San Francisco 49ers under Jim Harbaugh en route to the brothers facing off in Super Bowl XLVII.

At the time, the 49ers had reached the Championship game with Colin Kaepernick – another dual threat quarterback – under center, after he had stepped in to replace the injured Alex Smith.

Over the 13 games he played in 2012, Kaepernick threw for 1,814 yards, 10 TDs and 3 INTs (62.4% completion), whilst rushing for 415 yards (avg 6.6 yards per carry) and 5 TDs.

With Lamar Jackson, OC Greg Roman has developed a scheme from scratch built entirely around the electric second-year QB. The verbiage of the plays has been constructed in tandem with Jackson to ensure the quarterback has full understanding and full control of the offensive system.

Everything about the offense has been designed with Jackson in mind, utilising the abilities of a dominant and athletic offensive line headlined by Ronnie Stanley, Marshal Yanda and Orlando Brown. It promotes a bulldozing running game and a vertical passing game incorporating blazing speed and playmaking tight ends. John Harbaugh has built a complementary defense and running game to support Jackson’s skills ensuring he can make the most of his ability on each and every play. It is a team built on speed and aggression, synonymous with the Ravens’ historically established mentality.

So, how does this all fit in with the Miami Dolphins?

Less than 18 months ago, the Dolphins had the chance to draft Lamar Jackson. He was there for the taking at 11 and the Dolphins could just have easily have traded back to land him later in the first round.

And now Stephen Ross has little option but to sit back along with the rest of the world and marvel as Lamar Jackson tears up the league with unprecedented success, filling up the stands at M&T Bank Stadium, with Super Bowl hopes bounding through the streets of Baltimore.

Whilst John Harbaugh was once on the hot seat, he’s now perched on a block of solid ice as the Ravens seem to have quickly set themselves up for long term success.

As much as Lamar Jackson is firmly established within a system to highlight his incredible skillset, the Ravens’ model is not one which the Dolphins can – or could have – replicated to the same degree. There is a reason the Dolphins have historically struggled so mightily when facing the Ravens and it isn’t just because of the quarterback position.

The Ravens have been purpose-built over the past decade, like a well maintained car tweaked and repaired with authentic, matching parts. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have tried to fix their team with misfit spares and failing cast-offs taken from whatever other high-end motor they could find, hoping it would fit.

That process finally came to a close when Stephen Ross accepted the irreparable state of his own franchise. 

2018’s coach, Adam Gase, had wanted to stay and build a winner ‘now’, but even the ever-hopeful Ross did not foresee this as a viable option. The hefty contracts handed out by Mike Tannenbaum were not producing a level of on-field success relative to their costs. The team lacked any semblance of an identity and Ryan Tannehill had now become the punching bag for a divided fanbase.

Ross knew that the rot ran deep and elected for a total rebuild.

But what if Ross had gained his way, and the Dolphins had drafted Lamar Jackson in the first round? 

Let’s try and look into the mystical crystal ball to see what might have happened to the Dolphins offense.

First of all we would have to make some assumptions regarding a number of the team’s moves which have since happened:

  • The Dolphins draft Lamar Jackson in 2018 either at 11 or through a trade back.
  • The rest of the 2018 draft would have remained the same, in which they did nothing to help the OL.
  • Adam Gase remains the head coach after 2018, trusted with developing his QB.
  • Mike Tannenbaum remains the GM.
  • It’s debatable whether the Laremy Tunsil trade still happens or not, but for the sake of this scenario, we’ll imagine he stays.
  • Kenny Stills therefore stays too.
  • Ja’Wuan James still leaves in Free Agency.
  • The rest of the offensive line? Likely stays the same quality as it is now.
  • DeVante Parker would have been released.
  • Kenyan Drake, purposely limited under Adam Gase, likely would still be gone by this point. We’ll imagine he was traded in any event, likely with another veteran brought in.

Whether Jackson could have succeeded in Miami probably comes down to the offensive scheme under Adam Gase and likely-would-be-returning OC, Dowell Loggains. 

For 7 years, we watched Miami Dolphins quarterbacks struggle to stay alive behind a depleted offensive line. The sacks and injuries piled up raising nothing but questions as to how the Dolphins would approach the team’s most important position.

Heading into the 2019 season, the Dolphins were projected to have in the region of $14m in cap space. So they were never destined to be big spenders and it is extremely unlikely that they would have been able to fortify the offensive line with any real quality and they still would have needed to sign Laremy Tunsil to an extension.

In view of the roster turnover, the Dolphins are still carrying a grand total of $62,436,902 of dead money through the 2019 season.

The question remains as to whether Gase have even wanted to play Jackson?

Stubborn in nature, with a strong affinity for Ryan Tannehill, Gase was quick to blame everyone and everything but his own scheme for the team’s failures. He was desperate to keep Tannehill as a pocket passer, bringing in Brock Osweiler to be his backup.

In a scheme built for Tannehill, with few designed QB runs, no power running game, no playmaking TE, a handful of diminutive receivers and zero protection,  Jackson would have no option but to scramble for his life on every play.

Ultimately there can be no real confidence that the Dolphins under Adam Gase would have been willing to build an entire scheme around Jackson as the Ravens have done. Even if they had wanted to, the Dolphins did not possess remotely the same caliber of players to do so, or even the capital to acquire them.

As the Dolphins embark on their rebuild, we even now see Tannehill having success with a system built to suit his needs and a strong running game.

Not for one second am I suggesting that Tannehill is currently playing on the level of Lamar Jackson, but he is yet another example of how the Dolphins in their previous state had no real direction of how to handle development of a quarterback or any other talented players. 

Whilst there always remains the chance that Lamar Jackson could have suppressed my scepticism and brought new life to Miami, I just can’t look back at the ‘what-could-have-been’ by copying and pasting the Ravens’ current success onto the 2019 Miami Dolphins.

Although Stephen Ross hasn’t got the quarterback whom he desired in 2018, he has now torn down the front office and (indirectly) the roster to enable the Dolphins to build an offense using the Ravens’ blueprint for success – identify a quarterback, and build the whole team and scheme around him to support his skill set optimise every chance of success.

Chad O’Shea, with a depleted roster has already shown a higher propensity for scheming and utilising players than we saw under Adam Gase/Clyde Christensen/Dowell Loggains and even though the running game remains a league worst behind the persistently awful offensive line, the team has been on a general upward trajectory with promising play calling and design.

With Lamar Jackson, the Dolphins certainly wouldn’t be in the position they are now with a multitude of draft picks and projected cap space. The more likely scenario is that they would have remained in stagnant position, gambling on Jackson being able to bail them out, rather than being able to do all they can to support him.

They would be stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to deciding how to proceed with Lamar Jackson. They could have continued to overpay mediocre talent, with an under-utilised run game and lacklustre play design under Adam Gase simply hoping for the best.

Or alternatively they could have offloaded talent and contracts as they have done in order to build for the future leaving him with little chance of success, similar to the Arizona Cardinals who have brought in a QB to a talent-depleted team. Even through Kyler Murray was reportedly a more accomplished passer than Lamar Jackson, the team as a whole is not built to match the Ravens’ success despite a scheme purposely built for Murray’s talent. 

Looking back in despair and wishing that Miami drafted Lamar Jackson is natural for Dolphins fans. However, it simply can’t be trusted that the Dolphins front office in their previous incarnation would have had the mindset to incorporate the changes needed to see Lamar Jackson reach his current dizzying heights. With neither the versatility, draft capital nor cap space to support such a radical deviation from Miami’s usual approach it is impossible to state with any confidence that the Dolphins would now be settled with their franchise quarterback. 

Lamar Jackson’s unprecedented success is a perfect storm in Baltimore, but one which would likely have ultimately developed into nothing more than a relative breeze down in South Florida.

‘Hoping for the best’ is what has landed the Dolphins in the sticky, stagnant puddles of mediocrity. They have now taken the opportunity to make a radical change.

It is time to stop looking back to the past and begin looking towards the future.

FINS UP.

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

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

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

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

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

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

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

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

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

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

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

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

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

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

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

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

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

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

Jason Sanders is a stud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

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

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

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

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future We Created

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

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

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

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

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

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

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

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

Full trade:

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

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

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

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

We’ve Heard This Before

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

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

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

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

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

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

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

Great person, but terrible with people.

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

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

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

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

So Why is This Different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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