This is going to be about philosophy.
And before you roll your eyes, it’s not about Aristotle or Kant or Confucius. It’s not about any of those homeboys. It’s about football philosophy.
It’s about the philosophy for running a franchise.
It about Mando philosophy for running a franchise and how that is at odds with the Miami Dolphins apparent philosophy in one very obvious and meaningful way.
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I have won zero NFL games. I know nothing about how to win an NFL championship. But even out of that lack of expertise I know that a necessary step to winning big in the NFL is acquiring a great quarterback.
A team for myriad reasons may not win a championship if it has a great quarterback -- with the 1983 to 1999 Miami Dolphins being perhaps the most obvious example. Still, that team has a chance. Something great might happen.
But, on the other hand, I know nothing great is happening for a team without a great quarterback. That team definitely isn’t winning a championship.
To win a championship, a team at the very least has to have its quarterback playing at a great level for a span of games -- even out of sheer luck.
Yeah, go back and research Joe Flacco during his Super Bowl run or Nick Foles last season and you’ll see that although they’re not great all the time, they balled in the run-up to their teams winning Super Bowls.
This passing era (2005ish to present) of Super Bowl champions have with almost no exception had great quarterbacks or at least great quarterback play in key spurts.
So it makes sense the first thing any team must do if it ever wishes to win a Super Bowl is find one of those rare individuals who is a great QB.
Because, again, if you don’t have one, you’re not going to win big.
If you don’t have a great quarterback you’re setting yourself up to be an also-ran. You’re setting yourself up to finish somewhere other than at the top of the NFL hill.
So you’re a loser, in my estimation.
Because you’ve convinced yourself some goal other than winning it all is good enough. Either that or you’ve convinced yourself the not-great quarterback on your roster -- the guy everyone else on Earth knows is not going to lead a team to a Super Bowl win -- might just take you to the Super Bowl and win it for you.
In which case, your personnel acumen should be questioned.
So, in my opinion, Job 1 of every NFL personnel department and head coach lacking that stud QB is to, what?
Find that stud QB!
Draft that stud QB. Sign that stud QB. Trade for that stud QB.
Do whatever is necessary to get that guy on your roster.
The New Orleans Saints didn’t have that guy in 2006. They signed Drew Brees.
Voila, Super Bowl contender.
The Denver Broncos didn’t have that guy in 2011. They signed Peyton Manning.
Instant Super Bowl contender.
What do the Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks, Giants all have in common as they won Super Bowl games years ago? They all had great quarterback play from top tier quarterbacks they drafted.
So it stands to reason if you are a team that doesn’t have a top tier quarterback on its roster, you should be doing everything possible to add that guy. Like, every year.
Like, in the draft,
Or free agency.
Or via trade.
For that reason, I have suggested every year to my friends at the Miami Dolphins they should draft a quarterback. Every year. Without fail.
Throw darts at a board if you must.
Or, better yet, do the necessary homework and due diligence and make a well considered pick. And keep doing that every year until you find that franchise quarterback because that guy isn’t going to magically walk through those doors on his own.
But the Dolphins have chosen not to go this route. At least the current Dolphins brain trust has chosen not to.
Coach Adam Gase, who came to Miami to attend to the Dolphins quarterback situation, loves Ryan Tannehill. The bond between those two was formed within weeks of Gase arriving in South Florida.
And the bond should be applauded because predecessor Joe Philbin didn’t forge that bond. Quite the contrary, which was bad.
But this good bond has blinded Gase in some way. It has made the quarterback whisperer into a quarterback mute.
Because Gase apparently believes Ryan Tannehill is good enough to win a Super Bowl.
And there’s no evidence of that possibility ever actually manifesting.
This is where you folks say, “What about executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum? Isn’t it his job to draft the quarterback? Isn’t it his fault when Dolphins’ talent is not great?”
I know you say this because one of you emails me these and similar Tannenbaum questions practically every day.
Answer: No. It isn’t.
Tannenbaum doesn’t order Gase to do things to the roster like draft this or that quarterback. That’s not how the Dolphins are set up.
The way I understand it is set up is Gase, Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier come to an understanding on direction of the team and what needs to be added or subtracted from the roster. And many times they agree.
But when there is disagreement, Gase has control of the 53 man roster by a clause in his contract. And so Gase makes the final call.
Neither Tannenbaum nor Grier can or are going to force Gase to accept anyone -- especially a quarterback -- he doesn’t want. Neither, by the way, can they or are they going to force him to part with a quarterback he wants -- which perhaps is a reason the Dolphins had like nine (*4) of them on the roster to begin the season.
So last year Ryan Tannehill goes down with a knee injury, Gase sets his sights on Jay Cutler. And that was it.
Gase wanted Cutler. Gase believed in Cutler. Gase got Cutler.
Tannenbaum and Grier I think presented Gase with other options but Gase wanted Cutler and that’s the direction the franchise went.
In that regard, the Dolphins are run by Adam Gase. He has the most say over the franchise of any Dolphins head coach since Nick Saban. The truth is Gase has as much power within the Dolphins as Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson had -- without, you know, the Super Bowl rings.
The personnel department presents Gase with options. And he, the coaches, the scouts, Grier, Tannenbaum all discuss the options before coming to a consensus.
But if Gase doesn’t want a guy, that guy will not be on the Dolphins.
Similarly, if Gase wants a guy -- like he wanted Brock Osweiler -- that guy will be chased by the Dolphins like a sportswriter chases a free meal.
So, again, Gase has final say over every major personnel decision the Miami Dolphins make.
And I enlighten you on all this for this reason:
During the 2017 offseason, the Dolphins were not all that interested in adding a QB that might be a challenger to Tannehill and maybe grow into a great player.
We know this because, well, they didn’t chase anyone of that caliber. We also know this because Gase said as much Tuesday when he was asked about Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“We weren’t looking at the quarterbacks too hard but through the draft meetings and the little time I spent on the guys that were coming out, the guy won a lot of games and did a great job, especially in clutch situations of finding a way to get his team into the end zone and winning games,” Gase said.
Look, this is not a screed about the Dolphins missing out on Watson, who was drafted No. 12 overall. This isn’t even about the Dolphins spending “little time” on QBs and not moving up to get Patrick Mahomes II, who went to Kansas City at No. 10 when the Chiefs traded up from No. 27 to get him.
I’m not going to play the results and tell you the Dolphins messed up.
(Although props to Andy Reid, who had a solid quarterback but moved heaven and Earth anyway for a chance at drafting a great one.)
This is a philosophical matter. This is about knowing what you’ve got on your roster.
This is about being content with good. And not chasing great.
So far through the Gase-Grier-Tannenbaum era the Dolphins have been content with good enough at quarterback. They have not been chasing a chance at greatness. The Dolphins have not been chasing a championship.
Honestly, the Dolphins have been sort of chasing disaster from the looks of things.
In that offseason we just discussed, 2017, the Dolphins had a quarterback who had just had an ACL injury and missed the end of the season and a playoff game. And Tannehill didn’t have surgery to correct the injury.
And the Dolphins were so comfortable with that, that they didn’t spend a ton of time working toward getting a viable replacement for Tannehill in the draft. They didn’t even spend a lot of time getting a replacement for backup Matt Moore, who we later found out was also incapable of playing a full season -- an admission the team later made.
Facing that ugly, uncertain situation at quarterback the Dolphins were not interested in finding a quarterback.
And it gets better. (Worse.)
After that lack of quarterback interest blew up in Gase’s face when Tannehill blew out the same knee again and missed the entire 2017 season, the Dolphins did not draft a quarterback this past offseason, either.
The Dolphins had a 30-year-old not-great quarterback with full blown durability questions and they did nothing to replace him.
Give them credit, they did much more investigation of draft eligible passers. They spent more time on the position.
But the result -- the NFL is a results-driven league -- was the same.
The team liked Luke Falk. And through sheer happenstance Miami was able to pick up Falk, who was drafted in the sixth round by Tennessee, when the Titans cut Falk before the season.
But Falk isn’t going to be competing to start for any NFL team anytime soon. Next training camp he’s going to have to come in to compete with David Fales for a roster spot.
The point is the Dolphins settled into a comfort zone with Ryan Tannehill.
By their own admission, they didn’t do a whole lot of work to get a great quarterback in 2017 after Tannehill was injured the first time. They engaged in much more work after Tannehill was injured the second time, but again, didn’t draft anyone.
So it was much activity but no achievement.
And now that Tannehill is missing games again in 2018 -- the third consecutive year he misses at least three games and possibly more -- it begs the question whether they’ll add a great quarterback (or at least the possibility of one) next offseason.
One last thing:
The Dolphins might argue they added Osweiler this offseason with the idea he could become great. So they tried.
No. Not buying that. Because it’s not accurate.
The Dolphins never believed Osweiler had a chance to be a great QB, regardless of anything they may say now. When the Dolphins signed Osweiler I heard a lot of what sounded like excuses for signing him rather than excitement over signing him.
Everything the Dolphins did in getting Osweiler tells you what they thought of him. They didn’t pay Osweiler like he was coming in to compete for a starting job. They gave him only a one-year contract, which is done for a player you like but not love. And they didn’t give Osweiler a chance to compete for the starting job.
The Dolphins stated unequivocally that the starting job belonged to not-great Ryan Tannehill.
A quarterback who is never going to carry this team to a Super Bowl victory.
Something the Dolphins either don’t know or are apparently content with.