The Miami Dolphins are open to selecting a quarterback in the next draft. We know this.
Last week at the end-of-disastrous-season news conference, I asked general manager Chris Grier if such a move was on the table.
“You’ve been around me for a couple of years now,” Grier said. “We’ve said we’ll always take the best player on our board. I’ve talked from Day One, we’ve talked about the J.J. Watt thing. At [defensive] end we have [Cameron] Wake and whatever; but if J.J. Watt’s on the draft board and we’re picking, we’re not going to pass on J.J. Watt because at defensive end we feel good. So, all positions, I mean again, we’re evaluating everything. Every position, it doesn’t matter ... quarterback, tackle, defensive tackle, everything’s wide open for us.”
So if a quarterback is the best player on the board when the Dolphins turn comes in the next draft, Grier says the quarterback will be the choice. And privately the Dolphins tell me two things:
One: They want to add a quarterback because they have to. So that will happen..
Two: They are not concerned about incumbent starter Ryan Tannehill and how he might perceive the team picking a quarterback, even in a high round. Tannehill is fine with it, I’m told.
All this suggests it is going to happen.
And now let me tell you why it might not...
Let’s shed light on the obstacles before we go crashing into them.
1. Picking a quarterback, especially a viable one early in the draft, is a hard decision for teams like the Dolphins because they aren’t very good, haven’t been good in the past, but think they can be good relatively quickly in the future.
2. Picking a quarterback, especially a viable one early in the draft, is a hard decision for teams like the Dolphins when they think they have other more pressing needs.
3. Picking a quarterback, especially a viable one early in the draft, is a hard decision for teams like the Dolphins because people whose jobs are at stake often want quick solutions to current problems.
That’s three different reasons the odds are stacked against Miami doing what I believe is the right thing — drafting a QB early if one presents himself.
There is an internal disagreement within the Dolphins organization now in which one side believes the team is on the right track and very close to being good and the other side believes significant and meaningful changes need to be made because the team is not necessarily on the right track.
That is a fundamental difference, and settling it will determine the direction of the offseason.
If the side that believes 2017 was a coincidental accumulation of bad breaks and those led to the 6-10 record, then the Dolphins likely aren’t going to pick a quarterback early in the coming draft because that kind of team is just a few pieces from doing something impressive and QB isn’t high on that priority list of pieces.
If the side that believes the Dolphins’ locker room is broken and needs significant revamping prevails, then the Dolphins might well pick a QB early because adding a good young player at such a vital position is good for the long-term stability of the franchise. That move sends a clear message to the locker room that everything is indeed on the table for change.
That side doesn’t worry that QB is down on the list of priorities because that side wants to blow out a lot of players you had no clue could get blown out.
So eventually this philosophical difference between “we’re close” and “we’re broken” needs to be settled and drafting a quarterback probably isn’t happening if “we’re close” wins out.
Another reason the Dolphins will struggle to do the right thing and pick a quarterback early is because they are indeed not close (in my opinion), and the evidence of that is the team has myriad significant needs.
The Dolphins must address the offensive line.
The Dolphins must address the linebacker corps — again.
The Dolphins must address the tight end position.
The Dolphins must address the running back position.
The Dolphins want to add another safety this offseason.
That’s multiple needs where the Dolphins don’t just need to improve but rather need starters. They need a starting tight end, starting guard or tackle or both and starting linebacker.
And because picking a quarterback such as Lamar Jackson would not add a starter right away and the team needs starters at the four positions I just mentioned, the priorities at the other positions are pushed ahead of the quarterback.
(Remember, when the Dolphins set their board they take need into account. They say they don’t draft for need, but everyone takes need into account in setting their board. And quarterback, especially early in the draft, is admittedly not the team’s highest need).
The last of the three reasons the Dolphins will have to fight to do the right thing and draft a good QB?
Because people like their jobs. And while drafting a good QB is normally a prerequisite for NFL coaches and personnel people keeping their jobs, in the Dolphins current situation it is seemingly adverse to that.
Because the current Dolphins brain trust — executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum, coach Adam Gase and GM Chris Grier — are entering their third season together in 2018. And they had one good season in 2016 and one bad season together in 2017.
They don’t want to hang another bad season on the board in ‘18 and possibly give owner Stephen Ross reason to fire somebody. Remember, Ross is going to be 78 in May and expects success now.
So how does one please Ross?
Make the team as good as possible for the 2018 season so it makes the playoffs.
And drafting a quarterback who likely isn’t going to play right away and affect the direction of the ’18 season suddenly looks like a luxury. Drafting players who will play right away and help the team be better right away, will seem more palatable to people who need to win right away to stay employed.
Yes, that is shortsighted.
But sometimes shortsighted people stay employed and visionaries need to go job hunting. Remember, no one running an NFL team wants to draft a starting quarterback for their successors.
So the Dolphins brain trust might opt to select the starting linebacker, or guard or tackle or tight end to improve the team immediately and, you know, keep their jobs.
None of this is valid, you think? I’ve seen it.
I saw Rick Spielman not draft Drew Brees because he had Jay Fiedler and wanted the team to get better at another spot rather than backtrack to the QB position. I’ve seen Bill Parcells go for the sure thing of Jake Long because he was going to be good right away, rather than pick Matt Ryan, who seemed more of a gamble and project.
We’ve seen past Dolphins hierarchies rationalize why they’ve passed on quarterbacks who turned into franchise players. We’ve seen all teams fail to make tough choices when it comes to the quarterback position.
The Dolphins will face several of those tough choices before the 2018 draft.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero