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Why Ryan Tannehill Will Be Miami’s Starting Quarterback in 2019

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Buckle up, Dolphins fans. There is no TL;DR version of this. If you want to be invested in who the starting quarterback should be for the Miami Dolphins next season, take into account every bit of information that goes along with it. And I’m telling you upfront, there’s a lot.

This piece is not for someone who is sensitive or emotionally-charged about their 5-5 football team. Suspend your current desire to blow up the organization and start from scratch, and take a look at what questions and evidence lie before you.

Miami has been at a crossroads since it fired the greatest head coach and quarterback in the history of the NFL; almost as if it’s payment for irrationally and emotionally moving on from our franchise’s all-time greats. And, going into 2019, the Dolphins remain at the same crossroads they were at 20 years ago.

How exactly do they alleviate themselves from mediocrity?

The calls for a new head coach are slowly rumbling, but they aren’t as loud as the outcries for a new quarterback. While the team has been teased with Matt Moore, Jay Cutler and now Brock Osweiler (all previously starting quarterbacks for their former teams), it has never been able to dismantle Ryan Tannehill from the starting spot. Even David Garrard couldn’t stay healthy enough in his own backyard to unseat a rookie quarterback on the gridiron fresh off the 8th-overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft.

So while (futile) attempts have been made, the team has never successfully replaced the embattled quarterback. Which has led to such a porous cry for change, and for Miami to do “whatever it takes” to land their next beacon of hope.

Careful, Dolphins fans, as the last time the team did whatever it took, they signed Mike Wallace and Ndamukong Suh. And to an extent, Ryan Tannehill was a forced selection by Stephen Ross; a billion-dollar business man who understands that quarterbacks = cash for his entertainment business.

But let’s be rational, not emotional.

Yes, there is no doubt this team needs to guide itself off its current course and towards a new horizon. It has been:

  • 45 years without a championship
  • 34 years without a Super Bowl appearance
  • 17 (most likely 18) years without a playoff victory
  • 10 years since their last division title

This team has produced 2 Hall of Fame players over the past 3 decades. To say that this team has been irrelevant is somewhat of an understatement. It’s evident something needs to change.

This article isn’t to convince you that Ryan Tannehill is the answer. In fact, if you’ve come to the conclusion that Tannehill definitively isn’t the solution and the team needs someone new, I won’t blame you one bit. You’re not wrong. Like Bleacher Report said, after seven seasons, we really have no idea what we have in Tannehill. But this article will prepare you for the nightmare that lies ahead; the reality we face as we try to become a franchise we can be proud of once again.

Below are some things I’d like you to consider when taking into account Miami’s 2019 starting quarterback:

“Poor” Quarterback Class

According to every “expert’s” opinion, this is going to be a weak draft class. I’m sure come February we’re going to hype ourselves into believing that four quarterbacks should go in the first round, but remember back to this time when the aura around the quarterback draft class was disappointing.

The top two quarterbacks (Justin Herbert of Oregon and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State) might not even declare for the draft, leaving NFL teams reaching desperately past a person’s true draft value to select one of the other “top” quarterbacks coming out.

With Miami likely scheduled to select somewhere in the late teens, they will either have to settle for giving up a treasure trove of draft picks to move up, or remain steady and select a quarterback that drops to them.

Teams have wised up since the mid-2000s, and a quarterback of Aaron Rodgers‘ caliber isn’t falling to Miami again. So instead, Miami has to give up extra lottery tickets and cheap roster spots in exchange for a prayer that your less-than-desired quarterback class strikes lightning in a bottle.

Are you fine passing on patching the defensive line, the linebacking unit, a second cornerback opposite Xavien Howard, or a wide receiver to compliment Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, all for the chance of selecting what’s more likely to be the next Tim Tebow or Branden Weeden?

Although we have hindsight on our side, let’s take a look at the previous 10 draft classes and see how the quarterback selections panned out:

Click here for a larger image

Over the course of a decade, there are 10 quarterbacks that we would easily take over Ryan Tannehill, 8 who are on par with Tannehill (Deshaun Watson is the only one of that bunch that you can argue is definitively better, though I’m hesitant to say that right now with his limited sample size and annual injuries), and 57 that are clearly below him.

Out of all of those quarterbacks taken, how many teams traded up in the 1st-round (or into the 1st-round) to get their QB? 19

How many of those QBs would we take over Tannehill? Not counting the uncertainty of the 2018 draft class, 4.

Most of the trades that worked out ended up being quarterbacks taken within the first 5 picks of the draft. And even then, Mark Sanchez and Robert Griffin III were busts, so moving into the top-5 still isn’t a guarantee.

Miami is going to have to (over) commit to a quarterback that is genuinely one of the top-3 best prospects coming out of college, but they shouldn’t press to make someone a top-3 talent. And while there are still quarterbacks worthy of being selected outside of the top-5 (Patrick Mahomes at 10, Watson at 12, Joe Flacco at 18), the truth is, you need to identify a legitimate, elite talent at quarterback in order to convince yourself that it’s worth giving up extra assets to obtain them.

Over the past decade, there are only two quarterbacks selected outside of the top-5 that are definitively better than Tannehill: Russell Wilson (75th overall) and Patrick Mahomes (10th).

Though it’s not a given, if we were to make the assumption that this quarterback class is equivalent to one of the “weak” quarterback classes mentioned above (2008-2011, 2013-2015), Miami’s best option would be Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton, who would all be desired, yet two went #1 overall and the other was the 3rd-overall pick (that should have also been #1 overall). Are you convinced Justin Herbert or Dwayne Haskins are any of these quarterbacks? Are they worth the cost of a franchise quarterback?

Seeing how 2019 isn’t the year to invest in a rookie quarterback, Miami might be interested in taking a chance on a potential free agent.

Expensive Agents

Are you willing to provide a riskier quarterback you know absolutely nothing about with a larger contract than what you’re giving Ryan Tannehill?

That’s the first compromise you have to pass if you’re going to go after a free agent quarterback.

With Kirk Cousins possibly setting a new precedence for quarterbacks after obtaining $84m fully guaranteed from the Minnesota Vikings, quarterback contracts are only going to get more expensive as each season passes.

Desperate teams take desperate chances, and teams are willing to pay less-than-stellar quarterbacks (with the most minute bit of potential) for the hope that they can bring their team out of the abyss of irrelevance.

  • Brock Osweiler: $72m, $37m guaranteed with the Houston Texans
  • Sam Bradford: $78m, $50m guaranteed with the St. Louis Rams after being drafted; $36m, $22m guaranteed with the Philadelphia Eagles; $20m, $15m guaranteed with the Arizona Cardinals
  • Matt Flynn: $20.5m, $9m guaranteed by the Seattle Seahawks

Are recent examples of quarterbacks that received a bunch of money due to the desperation of the teams signing them.

I’m not saying spending on a free agent quarterback is the wrong route to go; if you’ve identified an upgrade, you try and obtain it. But how many successful quarterbacks have hit free agency since 2010? Take a look at the quarterbacks who recently signed free agent contracts and look what they earned:

Click here for a larger image

I was going to abstain from color-coding this chart, as it was just going to be a sea of red, but figured I’d leave it in for visual effect.

Now, to be fair, most of these quarterbacks were signed with the intent to be a backup, and nothing more. And that’s fine, but Miami isn’t looking for a backup quarterback right now, they’re looking for an answer, and this chart lets you know just how many answers are out there on an annual basis.

Other than two Hall of Fame quarterbacks not moving anywhere (Peyton Manning in 2011 and Drew Brees in 2018) and then Manning’s unique case in 2012, there are only two quarterbacks whose signings worked out for the team: Alex Smith in 2012 and Kirk Cousins in 2016. You can argue Joe Flacco in 2013, but that contract was horrendous and he is not all that good to begin with.

Jimmy Garoppolo and Cousins’ recent contracts remain to be seen and are temporarily filled in yellow; though I have a feeling those have a better chance of being shaded red than they do green when we reflect back on this a few years from now.

Even now, I’m not all too convinced that Kirk Cousins is anything special. Cousins is a career 31-33-2 quarterback with a 116/60 TD/INT ratio. He took over for a team that Case Keenum led to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship game, and he is currently 5-3-1. He might be the most successful quarterback on this list not named Manning or Brees, but it’s mostly by default. For comparisons sake, Tannehill is a career 40-42 quarterback with a 114/71 TD/INT ratio…or about the same as the quarterback currently making $28m annually.

Unless it’s a rare case like Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, when their previous team had a top-5 first-round pick waiting in the wings, teams don’t get rid of good quarterbacks.

So let’s take a look at our available options this year (including quarterbacks that are speculated to be released by their current teams):

I could list the Sam Bradford‘s, the Matt Barkley‘s and the Nathan Peterman‘s of the NFL, but we’re not dipping down that low. Plus, give me Nick Mullen (not really).

Above are your most realistic possibilities. How many of those quarterbacks would you confidently select to a larger contract than Ryan Tannehill’s AND confidently expect better results?

The only quarterback on that list that has a ceiling is Teddy Bridgewater, one of the most unknown commodities in this game right now. His hype will elevate him to a rich contract, similar to what hope accomplished for Sam Bradford throughout his career.

It’s quite possible Bridgewater is completely durable and there is zero injury risk, while Tannehill, once an iron-man is this sport, is deemed injury-prone. But Bridgewater’s first two seasons, the only seasons we really know, are on par (or worse) than Tannehill’s first two seasons. Is this similar to when a musician or athlete dies at a young age and we never witness their decline, forever immortalizing them as “stars” in our minds? We never got to see Bridgewater develop, so there’s hope that he can regain his franchise form. This is the biggest risk the Dolphins front office has to ask themselves, is Bridgewater the bridge to the future? The traits we wish Tannehill possessed are easily identified in Bridgewater. He has “it”. But outside of the 2018 preseason, where he looked good, what are we really investing $25m-per-season in?

Are you taking a flier on Eli Manning, an aging quarterback who has crumbled to a 5-19 record over the past two seasons while having better offensive weapons than the Dolphins?

Are we bringing in Jameis Winston‘s character flaws or Blake Bortles‘ inconsistency? Look at how badly he’s holding down a Super Bowl caliber defense in Jacksonville.

Convinced Tyrod Taylor deserves a shot after falling out of favor with his past two teams?

If your answer is Derek Carr, then I wonder why you would want to bring in a more expensive quarterback who has under-performed with a team that features better skill position players than the Dolphins as well as one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

You also have to consider how long you’re signing this quarterback for. Is this a long-term solution that you’re investing close to $100m in? Or is this a temporary solution until you find your next quarterback in the draft?

Chances are, you’re looking for a quick fix while impatiently waiting for the 2020 draft class to hit. In that case, how many quarterbacks are taking one-year deals and how many of them will accept that contract for anything significantly less than Tannehill’s $26.6m next season?

The quarterbacks that are taking prove-it contracts are going to be in the most precarious of situations and will essentially select anything. Which means say hello to Trevor Siemian.

No one is saying Tannehill’s $26.6m cap hit is ideal, but when compared to the other options out there, it doesn’t seem as daunting.

Contracts Guaranteed To Make You Cringe

This is where Miami bites itself in the ass.

Ryan Tannehill will cost $13.4m against the cap if he’s cut (along with $5.5m in 2020), while costing $26.6m if he’s on the roster.

Taking into account the $18m increase in Tannehill’s cap hit from 2018 to 2019 ($8.6m vs $26.6m), it’s not like their cap space will be too dire. Below is a quick summary of the players likely to be released (and what it’ll cost the team) as well as the likely pay raises coming up.

Yes, the players you release will need to be replaced, but losing Andre Branch, Robert Quinn and Danny Amendola isn’t too much of a downgrade. And while Kiko Alonso has had himself a “good” year, he is also a liability and can be replaced at a much cheaper rate.

One of the most intriguing questions going into 2019 will be the status of Kenny Stills. He is set to earn $9.75m if he’s on the roster, but only $3.5m in dead cap space if he’s released. Stills is a wonderful leader and has a tremendous work ethic, but I wonder if Miami approaches him with the possibility of a contract extension in mind. Lower the rate for the next two seasons while giving him more guaranteed money. It’s also possible Miami does this with some of their other players, giving them more space to play around with in free agency.

Miami’s recent draft history gives me confidence that they can find at least 2-3 impact players on rookie deals.

It’s also not too far fetched to assume the Dolphins are capable of cutting Tannehill’s contract loose and eating the money – given what they did to Ndamukong Suh this past offseason.

Suh and Tannehill are different people and different players who are impacting different positions.

We saw how miserable the Dolphins run game was with Suh in the middle of the defensive line. It was better than what it is currently (so is everyone else), so Suh has that going for him, but he wasn’t enough to elevate this team to the next level.

Whether you think Tannehill is a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback or not is one thing, but the production Tannehill provides is abundantly better than a quarterback making less than $20m a season. We can throw $10m at Jay Cutler, but that was obviously a waste, and would have made more sense for Miami to go with a 720k Brock Osweiler than a slightly better option at $10m.

How far do you want to downgrade for being cheap?

For a team that likely won’t (realistically) address the quarterback position until 2020, retaining Ryan Tannehill gives you a winning combination with Adam Gase for 2019, and allows you to retain your assets for 2020 – should a rookie quarterback not be immediately available this offseason.

Or, if you’re convinced, bundle your assets and select a quarterback this year in the draft while retaining Tannehill for one more season. Allow your rookie to learn and grow while also developing a potentially hot trade chip to help recover some of those lost assets.

Ryan Tannehill is essentially on a one-year contract (at $26.6m) for 2019, with a $5.5m dead cap hit in 2020 (if released). Rather than continue to pay players that aren’t on your team, retain the contract you unwisely extended during the 2018 offseason and finish out the Ryan Tannehill era with a concrete answer.

Next year is Ryan Tannehill’s “prove it” year. Miami isn’t going to extend him any further (unless he chooses an extremely reduced rate with the intent of obtaining more guaranteed money. Think 2-years, $40m), and are poised to pounce on the 2020 draft class.

How Much Fun is Ross Really Having With His Marionettes?

With every situation comes a caveat, and that caveat rests in the ambitious and perplexic mind of the team’s owner, Stephen Ross.

At this point, Ryan Tannehill’s status is entirely cemented to Adam Gase’s tenure. If Stephen Ross decides to make a move for one of the Harbaugh brothers, or another splash hire he identifies somewhere else, then you can bet the new regime will look to utilize all of the draft picks and cash they have to build their own brand.

We still have another 6 weeks to go, and if the team flutters miserably, it’s quite possible Ross removes Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier in a complete upheaval. Though if the team stays competitive and ends up with at least 7 wins, it’s likely Gase stays, which means it’s likely Tannehill stays.

Find someone who defends you the way Adam Gase defends Ryan Tannehill.

Fast-forward to the 6:23 mark when Gase is asked about Tannehill as the future quarterback of the team. Look at his body language the moment the reporter begins to ask the question. Listen to the tone of his voice as he’s giving his answer. That’s a passionate response. That’s a head coach who has conviction in who his starting quarterback should be. Adam Gase remaining as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins is a separate topic for another time, but as long as he is the head coach in 2019, Ryan Tannehill will be his starting quarterback.

I believe that Adam Gase needs to focus more on being a head coach and less of an offensive coordinator, but there’s no doubt that Gase believes he has one of the better quarterbacks in the league already on his roster. No one can argue that Tannehill has all of the intangibles (arm strength, accuracy, speed/agility), but everyone is aware that he doesn’t have the “killer instincts” that are expected to come at the position.

I will also buy the notion that you might be skeptical of Tannehill’s shoulder. While I do not believe this will affect him in 2019, if there is any chance he can miss time leading into August, the injury is not worth the hassle and this all is voided.

But, if he is declared healthy, I will discard the narrative that Tannehill is injury-prone. Unless we consider the large gash of an offensive line he’s had to play with throughout his entire entire career as an injury, I’m not sold. Prevent defensive linemen from collapsing on his knee at full force or tugging his arm backwards as he’s trying to fire a 60mph football over 40 yards (one week after another 275lbs+ defensive lineman drove him to the ground and landed full force on the same shoulder) and you’ll see a perfectly healthy quarterback.

Dolphins fan, Rick Morgan, has collected the jersey of every starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins since Dan Marino.

Don’t let this fool you, I’m all for finding a new quarterback. I would love nothing more than to set this franchise on the right path to success rather than muddling in mediocrity. Miami has missed on its fair share of opportunities and it has haunted this franchise for years. I don’t need to tell you about Drew Brees x2 or Aaron Rodgers or even the pain of watching Alex Smith go to the Washington Redskins this past offseason for a 3rd-round pick (though who’s to say Kansas City would have traded him in-conference).

You don’t need to be reminded about A.J. Feeley or Joey Harrington, who are substantially better than John Beck, Cleo Lemon and Pat White. I mean, when Gus Frerotte rounds out your top-three quarterbacks this century (and Jay Cutler is #4), it’s kind of easy to be numb to it all.

There is a lot of pain and frustration pent up inside every Dolphins fan. It has been 45 years since the Dolphins were Super Bowl champions, and yet, we’re not even talking about how frustrated we are that this team hasn’t won the big game…we just want to win a playoff game first.

This franchise needs a new course. Whether that’s a new coach, new general manager, new quarterback or new owner, it needs a change. It’s evident that the fanbase has become disgustingly tired of mediocrity, and wants the team to lead us down a path that’s more promising than the uncertainty another year of Ryan Tannehill brings.

There’s an entire generation of Dolphins fans that hasn’t witnessed success. Two decades worth of NFL seasons, and, frankly, your life, wasted on watching an average product. It’s time to take that next step. Just be bold…not stupid.

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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