If the Dolphins have reached the point of critical mass where mere mediocrity is as bitter and unacceptable as constant losing — in other words, if the franchise has reached the same spot their fans reached the past couple of seasons — then I propose a solution.
This one is going to sound fanciful and perhaps even outrageous at first.
This one is going to require a high-stakes gamble as an investment because, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
This one is also going to require some stone-faced, brass-(foot)balled negotiating at the highest levels of the organization as well.
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But I guarantee if the Dolphins try this Hail Mary attempt at redefining themselves, a completion of that improbable attempt will absolutely change their stale course.
Here it is: After this season is over and the team begins its search for a new coach, the first stop it should make is to try to lure New Orleans coach Sean Payton to Miami while also trying to eventually acquire Saints quarterback Drew Brees in a trade.
So coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees to the Dolphins.
There. Mediocre solved.
And please stop mocking me, I’m a professional sportswriter, darn it!
No, seriously, this can happen. It isn’t Star Wars nutty.
But it will cost. It will cost a lot.
DEAL NOT CHEAP
Start with that cost: The New Orleans Saints are fully aware Payton might be willing to move on after this season despite having two years remaining on his contract because the team didn’t make the playoffs in 2014, probably isn’t making it this season, and they haven’t had a winning record since 2013.
So maybe Payton really will explore that chance for fresh, new surroundings his people were whispering about earlier this season. (Or maybe he was just angling for a contract extension, which kills the whole idea.)
Either way, somebody needs to investigate this. The Dolphins will investigate this.
If Payton indeed wants to leave New Orleans, it is going to cost in compensation to the Saints because he is under contract. And a high-ranking Dolphins official earlier this year mentioned to me he thought Payton would cost two third-round picks.
It’s going to cost more than that.
So here is what the Dolphins should do: If Payton, after signaling he wants to explore his options, is given permission to shop himself, the Dolphins should approach him ready to pounce but only with the understanding Brees somehow gets worked into the mix.
This gives Payton a quarterback he’s comfortable with, which would make his desire to leave New Orleans greater.
Why would Brees agree to this? He’d be going to a team that he wanted to play for in 2006 ahead of New Orleans. He’d be coming to a coach he won a Super Bowl with and an offense he knows intimately.
He’d also be coming to a younger team with a solid nucleus of offensive talent that is perhaps three good players on defense — defensive end, middle linebacker and cornerback — away from being playoff-caliber.
And here’s the kicker: Why would the Saints ponder giving up the two most prominent faces of their franchise?
Because the Dolphins would be giving them a first-round pick in 2016.
Perhaps a first-round pick also in 2017.
And Ryan Tannehill.
Look, if Payton signals he wants out, the Saints aren’t going to want to force him to stay. And Brees is 36 years old and unsigned after 2016.
So maybe a reset with a younger quarterback, new coach and two first-round picks is attractive to New Orleans.
Back at Dolphins’ headquarters in New York, I think owner Stephen Ross would love this idea. And the reason I think he’d love it is because it’s his idea, in a strange twisted way.
You see, in January 2011 when Ross went coach shopping behind Tony Sparano’s back, his mission was not solely to lure Jim Harbaugh to the Dolphins.
Ross tried to lure Harbaugh and also wanted to get Harbaugh to lure then-Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck into the NFL Draft as well.
Ross wanted to see if Harbaugh could convince Luck to go pro and then refuse to play for anyone but Harbaugh in Miami — similar although not identical to what happened with John Elway and Eli Manning in the past when they wanted to control where they landed in the draft.
Ross failed obviously. But billionaires don’t become billionaires if they’re not somehow persistent. So … persist.
And how would this all affect the Dolphins?
Firstly, senior vice president of many football things Mike Tannenbaum would be affected. Could he agree to work with a strong personality such as Payton, who would also want a great deal of control over many football things?
Tannenbaum believes in collaboration. He believes in team work. And he recognizes that even if he has to take a step or two back on some fronts, a slam-dunk hiring of a proven Super Bowl-caliber coach improves his job security more than controlling everything does.
By the way, there are contract and cap ramifications in all this. But those actually could help drive this because the Saints might be willing to part with a soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback who might walk after 2016 anyway.
And would the Dolphins give up on their 27-year-old quarterback who is signed through 2020 — effectively opting for a short-term fix rather than waiting on long-term potential?
Yes. I think they would.