Armando Salguero

Why is Koa Misi still on the Miami Dolphins? (Asking for a friend)

Even when he’s healthy, which isn’t often, Miami Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi is something of a liability in pass coverage.
Even when he’s healthy, which isn’t often, Miami Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi is something of a liability in pass coverage. el Nuevo Herald

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase will speak with the media from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this morning. I’m not on site. But there is one question that has been asked of me by friends, fans, and readers that I definitely do not have an answer for and hope Gase is asked:

Why is Koa Misi still a Miami Dolphin?

Asking for a friend.

As we sit here today, the Dolphins are optimistic Misi will be available to play the 2017 season despite the fact he had a serious neck injury in 2016 that required surgery. The team has known Misi was going to be available for quite some time, as I reported in January.

But, with respect, so what?

Koa Misi is a solid player and all, but I would never count on him or want him on my team because he’s a walking injury report. And as Bill Parcells once explained to me, durability is an ability. Availability is an ability.

And in that regard, Misi is lacking ability.

Misi played three games last season before suffering the injury that ended his season and had him seriously pondering retirement for several months until after his surgery. The year before that Misi managed 13 games. The year before that he managed 11 games.

Misi has not played 16 games since his rookie season -- in 2010. There’s a phrase for that: Injury prone.

This best tells the story of Misi’s career: In 2014, Misi got hurt in a non-contact special teams walkthru. He tweaked his calf during the walkthru and missed five games as a result.

And I want to feel sorry for the guy ... but I don’t.

You know why?

The Dolphins, for reasons known only to them, keep thinking Misi will somehow swallow some magic health pill every offseason that will get him through the entire following season. So they keep counting on him. And they keep paying him.

And Misi is a rich guy but he’s hasn’t done a ton to enrich the Dolphins defense.

Amazingly, every fall the Dolphins scratch their heads when the guy who is always hurt goes and gets hurt again.

So I ask (for a friend) why is it that after a series of salary cap moves, in which the Dolphins jettisoned Earl Mitchell, Mario Williams and set Branden Albert out to the trade pasture, that Misi survived? How is he still on this team taking up cap space?

Have the Dolphins decided the past six years during which Misi failed to play a full 16-game schedule were just a crazy coincidence?

The vexing thing about all this is that beyond Misi’s extensive history of aches, pains, neck surgeries and calf strains suffered during a walkthru, it makes sense to move on from him on other levels.

Misi, you should know, is scheduled to be the ninth-highest paid Miami Dolphins in 2017. He is scheduled to cost $4.778 million against the salary cap.

And I suppose someone might believe carrying a $4.778 million cap charge is pretty much nothing for a starting linebacker. The $4.2 million savings for cutting Misi isn’t really worth it to the Dolphins, you might say.

Well then why did the team cut Earl Mitchell?

The $4 million savings from that release was in the same neighborhood of what cutting Misi would bring and the Dolphins raced to make that transaction.

Now, I was told Mitchell was cut because he started to break down last year. He had the calf strain during training camp, re-injured it the first regular-season game, and when he came back eight weeks later, he was inconsistent.

That may be true but Earl Mitchell had like four teams vying for his services as soon as he got cut, including the Denver Broncos, which are now coached by 2016 Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. So maybe his tape left something to be desired but other teams liked him well enough.

And as I go through that scenario and give the Dolphins the benefit of the doubt for Mitchell because they deserve it after getting so many other moves right the past year I have to ask ... what is the difference between Mitchell and Misi?

Mitchell is starting to break down.

Misi has been breaking down for six years!

Mitchell didn’t play up to expectations. Misi didn’t play hardly at all last year.

When he does manage to get on the field, Misi has been solid against the run. Not great. Solid. But he’s a liability in coverage. And that’s an onerous liability because Misi’s a strong side linebacker.

His job is to, you know, cover.

So the Dolphins are keeping Misi around for now, perhaps hoping his surgically repaired neck and break-down-in-a-walkthru calves make it through the offseason camps and then training camp. If he makes it that far, I’m certain you’ll hear the team say it is optimistic Misi can be a contributor. All will seem good.

Until that moment when he does what he does consistently does best and leaves the lineup injured.

Sound harsh? Look, in the spring of 2013 I took a lot of heat from fans, readers and the organization because I kept writing (over and over and over) that Jake Long was a liability and he should not be re-signed. He’d been injured in 2012. And 2011. And parts of 2010.

And some guys simply just break down. Long was a physical freak when he arrived in 2008, running wind sprints with linebackers after practice. He was broken by 2012, barely able to keep up with his own position group.

I was ignored. The Dolphins offered him a big contract, anyway. The St. Louis Rams offered him a bigger contract and off he went as a free agent.

And all that happened was Long lived up to my expectation. He broke down year after year after year with the Rams until they cut him. One year he spread the ill-health when he whiffed on a block and the defender crashed into Sam Bradford’s knee, knocking the QB out for the season.

I tell you this not to pat myself on the back about being right about Long. I tell you this because I see the same thing from Koa Misi.

I don’t care that he plays a position the Dolphins need help at right now. I don’t care that people are saying he might come back good as new from this neck surgery -- think how ridiculous that sounds.

I don’t care that he doesn’t take up a ton of cap room.

I care that a player who consistently breaks down and leaves the team in dire straits as a result has inexplicably survived a salary cap purge, suggesting the team might have plans for him for 2017.

This cannot be real life.

How is it Koa Misi wasn’t cut weeks ago?

I’m asking for a friend.

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