A New Era Begins for the Miami Dolphins

When the Miami Dolphins traded Ryan Tannehill, the next era of the franchise officially began. Stuck in neutral, the Dolphins could never rise into the league's upper echelon, yet were never horrible enough to consider drafting Tannehill's successor. An NFL quarterback is either the savior or the bane for the entire organization surrounding him.

The list of casualties is extensive, Philbin, Campbell, Gase, Ireland, Hickey, Tannenbaum, throw in all the coordinators and position coaches and it's easy to see how one player can affect the lives of every person associated with a professional football team. The incredible difficulty and importance of the quarterback position places the rest of the organization squarely on the shoulders of a single player.

Many pundits do not believe the fate of so many resides in success at one position, but the "Fired Football Coaches Association" may disagree. Obviously, teams with great QBs are in the mix every year and teams without sometimes get there, but everything must fall perfectly into place. It is also the reason fans and writers spend so much time and energy on the quarterback position.

Brian Flores and Chris Grier begin their journey through the minefield with singular purpose; their jobs depend on finding a quarterback. Coming from the house of the GOAT, Flores knows what it looks like. He has an advantage Adam Gase was never given, he doesn't have to attempt whispering mind tricks to coax a Lamborghini out of a Chevy. Chevy's aren't bad, a Corvette is a Chevy, but even a Corvette will never be mistaken for a Lamborghini. It's when a team invests $50 million dollars in that Chevy that it damn well better become a Lamborghini or the "Fired Football Coaches Association" awaits.

It all means, Flores and Grier either find that player, or eventually join the esteemed FFCA. The Dolphins purged the entire team, divesting older highly paid players in salary cap maneuvers. Ever wonder what kind of text messages those guys sent Tannehill when his inability to raise the team brought the hatchet down? Maybe Miko Grimes wasn't so wrong after all...

There is no time for the I-told-you-so folks to pat their own backs, its time to move on. This leads to Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen in what should be a single season tryout, not a seven-year project. There is no doubting what the Dolphins have in Ryan Fitzpatrick, he's a placeholder until the real deal presents itself.

Grier knows the FFCA quite well, he watched the demise of all the names above first hand. He knows implicitly that his future resides on the throwing arm of the next Miami Dolphins franchise QB. The trade for Josh Rosen could go either way, but that depends solely on play of Josh Rosen, not the hope of Josh Rosen. Grier placed Miami and Rosen in a great position to be successful. Grier doesn't stand to lose much if Rosen busts and Rosen is no longer burdened with being the 10th pick of the draft.

Miami can only lose by playing the Tannehill game and thinking a QB that has never been a winner can somehow find the Midas touch. History for Rosen is not necessarily great, his UCLA teams never achieved greatness, but that is not a huge concern. UCLA last won the NCAA football championship in 1954. It is not as if the Bruin's are annually churning out national powerhouses. Rosen is in the NFL because he has an NFL caliber arm and has exceptional intelligence to play the position.

What Miami needs to figure out in short order is whether Rosen can win when surrounded by NFL caliber talent. The Arizona Cardinals had a fair offensive line in training camp. Then Center A.Q. Shipley tore an ACL before the season, right guard Justin Pugh tore an ACL in November, right tackle Andre Smith was released in November for non-football reasons, left guard Mike Iupati injured an MCL on Dec. 3, and then left tackle D.J. Humphries re-injured a knee on Dec. 5 and they all missed the remainder of the season.

Rosen will now get a second chance with a Dolphin team that may not be much better than those Cardinals. It will not be easy to judge whether the kid can actually play with a decent team around him. Rosen must display the illusive "IT" factor even if his team is simply not good enough to beat quality NFL opponents.

In the event that Rosen plays the Tannehill opossum and shows just enough to tease, the Dolphins should open the 2020 NFL draft with a QB. This is what the 2019 Miami Dolphins season comes down to, the Rosen audition. It doesn't mean he has to set the NFL afire, it means he has to show beyond any doubt that he has what it takes to be a great NFL QB.

In the coming days, Quadzilla will use his exceptional skills to give Dolphinshout his exclusive Josh Rosen evaluation. Please tune-in and learn the good, the bad and the ugly about Josh Rosen.

Miami Dolphin 2019 Draft Musings

2019 Draft Musings
BY: Joe Tarell (Quadzilla)

The 2019 NFL Draft beginning on April 25th in Nashville is going to be a notable draft for a number of reasons.  The main theme for this class is that it will be remembered three to five years from now as very weak in overall talent.  First let me explain that and then I will dig into some of the players and how it will likely play out.

We all know that the QB class of 2020 is supposed to be a very strong group, just as in 2017 everyone pointed to the 2018 class.  The fact is this draft is not that strong overall or at the QB.  The unanimous top player in this draft is Nick Bosa.  While many expect him to be a good NFL prospect, the injury history and the measurables do not equate to an elite prospect.  He was well-trained, having NFL level players for a father, brother and uncle, but he will not out-technique everyone in the NFL the way he did in college.  The good news is that there is awesome depth in the D-line prospects, just not elite talent.  It appears to be the same at OT.  The two places where there appears to be elite talent are at ILB and TE, which are not the glamour positions. I just think this is a draft where we may not see a single HOF candidate when it is all said and done.

The QB’s in this class are led by Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray.   Both have strengths that can’t be denied, but both are one year starters with some major concerns as well.  I list Haskins first because his weakness is mobility and that can be overcome easier than size, which is Murray’s weakness.  I would rather go watch Kyler Murray play, but I would rather not draft either of them and risk my job on it.  After that, the talent drops off very quickly as I do not believe that Drew Lock is an NFL caliber starting QB, though I believe that Daniel Jones has the most upside of all of them considering he played at Duke and not a single player from that roster is going to be drafted.  The Dolphins should wait until next year for their QB in my opinion unless Haskins falls to them in the first or Jones in the second.

Drafting a QB is more art than science and most people get it wrong.  The fact is that three of the best QB’s in the history of the NFL are Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.  They were drafted in the 6th, 3rd and 9th rounds respectively.  Even Dan Marino, though technically a first rounder, was the sixth QB taken in 1983.  The key defining trait of great QB’s is leadership.  John Elway is the picture of the athlete you want playing QB, but took nearly 15 years to win a Super Bowl because it took time to become a leader and we are seeing that now in his role as a GM.  After leadership comes competitiveness.  And the next is the ability to deliver a football amid the chaos of an NFL pocket accurately and on time while seeing 22 moving parts and knowing how the movements will culminate in a completed pass… better known as spatial awareness.  Now tell me how the hell you measure those three things at the Combine or a freaking pro day?

Kyler Murray sat behind Baker Mayfield, but his three high school state championships and his one year at Oklahoma tell me all I need to know about his competiveness and leadership. I also think he has great spatial awareness and accuracy.  If he were over 6 feet tall we would have an Andrew Luck grade on him.  Draft him if you get the chance.  Haskins on the other hand, sat behind TJ Barrett (he’s an NFL star now isn’t he) and played on arguably one of the top three most talented teams in the country and still could not make the playoffs.  If you watch his tape closely, he has three NFL caliber WR’s and he waits for them to get clearly open before delivering the ball.  He got away with that because of the talent level at OSU but it caught up to him at times.  I still think he has a chance to be good in the NFL, but not elite.

I won’t spend much time on RB and WR because I do not believe there is a single player worthy of a first round choice in this draft.  I would almost never pick a RB in the first round and with WR’s it is almost as bad.  My theory on RB’s goes back to pee wee football and the best player is always at RB so by the time they get draft-eligible they are a dime-a-dozen and they only last three to four years anyway.  The WR position is similar these days with the proliferation of the spread offenses at the lower levels of football.  You add in the Diva Factor and the belief that this position is totally relying on the other 10 guys to have any chance for success and it is bad recipe.  Josh Jacobs is the best RB prospect and he did not even start in college.  Marquis Brown came to college weighing 144 pounds and now is a hefty 166, while DK Metcalf looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.  Really?  These are the top two prospects?  I will wait until rounds two through four and reduce the Diva Factor, thank you very much.

The TE class is intriguing again this year.  TE’s usually take a year to develop in the NFL so there is still some hope for Gisecki and Smythe.  I bring those two names up for a couple reasons; one, because this is a Dolphins blog and I am still pretty high on both of them, but also because they are two separate types of TE.  One is primarily a blocker and the other is primarily a receiver. The feeling is that T.J. Hockenson can be both so he is expected to go early, Noah Fant and Irv Smith, Jr. are better receivers than blockers but Smith is probably closer to being a combo than Fant.  All three could go in round one as the TE position has become more of a focal point lately.  Teams play follow the leader and the Patriots have always been the leaders in utilizing the TE, but now with Philadelphia winning a Super Bowl and the Chiefs having Kelce as a primary threat, they are becoming all the rage.  We will see 15 or more TE’s get drafted this year after 14 went each of the last two years.

The OT class is not very strong this year.  If there is top LT prospect he is usually going in the top five and we may not see one come off the board until after 10 and even some of the other Tackles expected to get first round attention are potentially moving to OG.  Jawaan Taylor seems to be the top  OL prospect followed by Andre Dillard, Jonah Williams, Cody Ford and a couple of interior guys like Garrett Bradbury and Chris Lindstrom or Erik McCoy.  Again, some good depth, but not exactly rated as elite.

The defensive line is the strength of this draft and  is usually split into two groups these days.  The edge rushers, who could be OLB’s in a 3-4 or DE’s in a 4-3, but they are primarily edge defenders who rush the passer and set the edge in the run game.  The second group is the interior players, which may be a 3-4 DE, a DT or NT.  The edge group is pretty strong and deep, but not elite in my opinion.  Bosa, Josh Allen, Montez Sweat, Rashan Gary, Clelin Ferrell, Brian Burns and potentially one or two others could all go in round one.  When it comes to edge defenders I always count productivity over measurable, that is why Sweat, Allen and Bosa should all go well ahead of Gary.  The leading sacker of all time in the NCAA is in this draft, Jaylon Ferguson, who went to Louisiana Tech – I want him before I want Rashan Gary.  A wise person once wrote, ‘whatever they are before they get paid, they will only become more like that after they get paid.’

In the interior defensive line we again have a strong and deep group led by Quinnen Williams, who may be the best player in the draft.  Ed Oliver, Christian Wilkins, Jeffrey Simmons (who is recovering from a torn ACL), Dexter Lawrence and Jerry Tillery could all go in the first round.  There are also enough good players here that talent can be found into rounds three and four.  Again, though, other than Williams, I do not see any elite players.  You can pick them apart for a variety a flaws; Oliver had some attitude issues and is on the small side, Lawrence has minimal production, Simmons has the ACL and some character flags, so buyer beware.  The Dolphins first pick could come from these two groups, my guess is Wilkins.

At the LB position there a couple of players that really turned heads at the combine.  Normally, I am opposed to the workout warrior, but when the production is there and with Devin White and Devin Bush it is definitely on film, and they run 4.41 at the combine, hello first round.  Bush will go later because he is only 5’11”, but these two guys are three down linebackers with a ton of tackles and plays made from sideline to sideline at two big time schools.  Plug and play.  Unfortunately there is not much depth here.

Defensive back is another area where there is no truly elite player in this draft.  Many have the best CB as Greedy Williams from LSU but I wouldn’t draft him before the third round for one simple reason; he won’t tackle.  Watch his tape and you will see he is a pile inspector.  Tackling is about desire, not talent or skill, it does not get better in the NFL.  Deandre Baker and Byron Murphy are much better candidates and likely first rounders, but there really is not much to get excited about.  Some safeties like Jonathan Abram or Taylor Rapp may go in round one but they are mostly graded as 2nd rounders.

So what is the consensus? Miami at 13 should be able to get a really good OL or DL candidate.  I don’t expect an all-pro to be sitting there unless you want to draft Jeffrey Simmons and give him a redshirt year.  He has top 5 talent, but tore his ACL in February preparing for the draft so there is little chance he contributes this year.  If the Dolphins are truly rebuilding for 2020 and beyond this pick make sense.  Otherwise pick Andre Dillard, Jonah Williams or Cody Ford for the OL.  I also like Garret Bradbury as a guard or center, but this is a little early.  Maybe a trade back is in order.

Then in the second round Miami should just flip the side of the ball.  If you go Simmons in round one, go OL at 48, where Kaleb McGary, Titus Howard or one of the highly ranked interior players should be available.  If you go OL in round one, then Jaylon Ferguson, Jerry Tillery, L.J. Collier or Chase Winovich should be available.  The point is stick to the strength of this draft and go get some big uglies.

Miami should avoid skill positions until at least round three unless a DB falls in their lap in round two.  If Dwayne Haskins somehow slips to 13, take him.  I have a good feeling about him, but all of this talk of him slipping is a just smoke screen.  Remember, it is lying season.  Three or four QB’s will likely come off the board before the Dolphins pick at 13.  And this means with T.J. Hockenson also likely off the board, the Fins will get one of the top 9-10 linemen in the draft at 13.  Get a big ugly that sacks the QB or protects the QB or trade out of the pick.  And don’t be surprised if they trade out multiple times next weekend and take 2020 choices in return.

The Miami Dolphins Leap into the Future

Miami Dolphin fans watch the ugly business of shedding contracts hoping it ends in a sustainable winning team. The Dolphins have dominated free agent signing many times in a twenty stretch of mediocrity without fielding a playoff caliber roster. Finally recognizing that building teams through free agency is not a winning formula in the NFL, Miami embarks on an interesting journey through the minefields of the NFL draft.

"Building through the draft," has a wonderful sound to it, but selecting which human is best prepared for the rigors of NFL football, is an inexact science at the very least, a guessing game at best. Agents have become teachers, processing players through a myriad of classes designed to provide answers to questions in preparation to present the perfect football player. How can a person be courteous and kind, yet mean as rabid pit-bull.

It's an interesting dichotomy...

Meeting face-to-face with prospects about to become the team's future is essential when failure is fatal. Attempts to trip up scripted responses have led to interesting questions. Jeff Ireland's callus inquiries about Dez Bryant's mother, or whether a player prefers men, or how many cars did he steal, have made headlines for all the wrong reasons. In reality, these meetings have little bearing on whether a prospect will make a great professional. During the pageantry, they are actors auditioning, not players playing.

Miami Dolphin fans can relate to Dion Jordan as a great example of all that can go wrong. When it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The Dolphins were picking 12th in 2013 and the Raiders were willing to accept Miami's 12th and 42nd pick to give Miami the 3rd overall pick. One look at these names is all you need to know the Dolphins should have traded down, instead of trading up.

1 Eric Fisher OT
2 Luke Joeckel OT
3 Dion Jordan DE
4 Lane Johnson OT
5 Ezekiel Ansah DE
6 Barkevious Mingo OLB
7 Jonathan Cooper OG
8 avon Austin WR
9 Dee Milliner CB
10 Chance Warmack OG
11 D.J. Fluker OT
12 D.J. Hayden CB
13 Sheldon Richardson DE
14 Star Lotulelei DT
15 Kenny Vaccaro SS
16 EJ Manuel QB
17 Jarvis Jones OLB
18 Eric Reid FS
19 Justin Pugh OT
20 Kyle Long OG
21 Tyler Eifert TE
22 Desmond Trufant CB
23 Sharrif Floyd DT
24 Bjoern Werner OLB
25 Xavier Rhodes CB
26 Datone Jones DE
27 DeAndre Hopkins WR
28 Sylvester Williams DT
29 Cordarrelle Patterson WR
30 Alec Ogletree OLB
31 Travis Frederick C
32 Matt Elam FS

The Dolphins committed the Cardinal Sin of selecting a player based on his measurements and combine numbers. They overlooked the player's obvious troubles, exacerbated by bringing that player within reach of South Beach. Jordan cost Miami picks 12 and 42. Imagine if they had traded down for a couple of 2nds, here are few names selected later in 2013.

35 Zach Ertz TE
37 Giovani Bernard RB
46 Kiko Alonso MLB
48 Le'Veon Bell RB
57 D.J. Swearinger SS
61 Eddie Lacy RB
63 Travis Kelce TE
69 Tyrann Mathieu FS
71 T.J. McDonald SS
76 Keenan Allen WR
85 Jordan Reed TE

Miami actually ended up paying two of these players premium free agent contracts. The problem in today's selection process is placing too much weight on profile numbers and not enough on what's on film. Jeff Ireland's glaring example with Dion Jordan should serve as the poster child for every want-to-be general manager.

It is obvious, Ireland was unprepared for the 3rd pick in that draft. Looking at the first round players, Oakland knew every player in the 3rd slot could be had with the 12th or indeed, the 42nd pick. There were some good offensive linemen at the top of that draft, but Ireland was under pressure to make something happen. He had submarined his coach in a power play, leaving his owner hanging out to dry. Ireland needed to take a chance. In the end, it cost him his job and very nearly his career.

Oakland ended up with D.J. Hayden and Menelik Watson. Watson never turned into much, but Hayden has been a starter in the league since that draft. What rings true is, there are very few can't miss prospects. The only position worth taking risks on is the quarterback. The irony is, there was only one QB taken in the 1st round of that draft, EJ Manuel. In fact, there was only one QB taken in the second round, Geno Smith. Not one true starting QB came from the 2013 draft.

If the only reason to trade up is for a QB, Jeff Ireland did it in the poorest NFL QB draft class in the last twenty years. Ireland believing Ryan Tannehill was a franchise quarterback in 2012, created a disaster from which, the Miami Dolphins have yet to recover.

The reason for this comparison is only two possible franchise QBs are available in this draft, Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray. Neither of these QBs is an absolute sure thing which means, the teams at the top of this draft will be looking to opt-out.

Miami must not, for any reason become a player in these reindeer games. The second and third rounds of this draft overflow with talent and this is the prefect year to forget the splash and trade down.

Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater have both opted for contracts as backup quarterbacks rather than join the Miami Dolphins as a one-year starter.

The term "placeholder quarterback" has become vogue when discussing the position in Miami. Miami is looking to stock draft picks in the coming years and the most painful way to do that is by losing starters through free agency and not replacing them. This creates opportunities for compensatory draft picks the following year.

If Taylor or Bridgewater was a starting free agent QB in Miami (and indeed, they would) then it would displace the loss of Wake or James. Those two players will start on other teams and by not replacing them, Miami earns compensatory draft picks.

Bridgewater or his agent may have an over inflated idea of his value, but if a QB is coming to a team as the starter, than he should be paid as a starter. Why get killed and not get paid? Miami is not willing to pay a placeholder quarterback and hence, they have no incentive to come to Miami.

The press will malign the Dolphins as a place no quarterback is willing to play. The truth is, this is the pain Miami must endure to erase the errors reaching all the way back to Jeff Ireland.

It's interesting how none of this is ever tied to a man named Bill Parcells, but it was Parcells who began the downhill run. Parcells hired Ireland and Sparano (RIP) without understanding, once Jeff Ireland smelled the scent of power, the strength would overwhelm him.

The Dolphins swapped their 6th round pick for a 7th round pick in the 2019 draft and obtained a 4th round pick in the 2020 draft in trade for QB Ryan Tannehill.

The Dolphins understand, 2019 is not going to be a pretty season so why add players now. It means a QB position manned with marginal talent that will not impair the ability to obtain compensatory draft picks. It also assures the team will not be very good.

It's going to be a tough ride for Miami fans... Rigorously adhering to a plan is painful but there is some relief. In the past, Miami was under the illusion of being constantly one player away from a playoff team. They did not seem to understand the difference between a minor playoff team and a Super Bowl caliber team. The new regime clearly understands this difference and it starts at quarterback.

The quest to find a great quarterback in the draft, begins now...

Buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be an interesting ride Miami Dolphin fans!