The Miami Dolphins return from their bye this week and, amazingly, the 2018 season can still be salvaged. Something good can still happen.
This team is still playoffs relevant.
And I know what you’re thinking: The Miami Dolphins, losers in three of their past four games before the bye, aren’t going to the playoffs. And even if they stumble into the postseason, the exit will be certain and swift and all that will have been gained is a lower draft spot next spring.
I understand your thinking.
You’re playing the long game in viewing this franchise. You’re not expecting any sort of lasting success from this team. So you’re looking to the future for some hope.
Well, let me give you a little of both ...
I am reporting the Dolphins have already begun to search for new quarterback help in both the short and long term.
Obviously, in the short term the hope by the team is that starter Ryan Tannehill this week can make his return to the lineup after missing the last five starts with a capsule injury to his right (throwing) shoulder.
The 5-5 Dolphins are actually 3-2 in the games Tannehill has started this year so the hope within the organization is if Tannehill can return to the lineup the final six games, the Dolphins can somehow rally and qualify for the playoffs.
The Dolphins, you see, have the same 5-5 record as four other teams that currently have the best chances of nailing down the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.
The Dolphins expect to decide as early as Monday if Tannehill will be able to start against Indianapolis next Sunday -- although the team may hold the news until later this week.
If Tannehill cannot start, the expectation will be that Brock Osweiler, who was simply terrible in his last outing against Green Bay, will get the starting nod at Indy.
That’s the short-term plan.
The long-term plan at quarterback?
Well, the search for quarterback help for 2019 has begun in earnest.
Last week the team brought free agent Paxton Lynch, a 2016 first round draft pick of Denver, to camp for a tryout. He threw to a handful of receivers the team was also trying out.
Lynch was not good, per sources familiar with his performance. So he is not currently on the radar as a possibility for Miami down the road.
A few days earlier, a Dolphins contingent had traveled to Utah to scout the Oregon at Utah game. Obviously Justin Herbert plays for Oregon and there was interest in seeing him in person.
And I would tell you the Dolphins have slim chances of ever being able to draft Herbert in 2019. He’s an underclassman who is not certain to leave school before his senior season. And even if he bolts for the NFL, Herbert will be drafted well before a team that is currently not looking as if it will draft in the Top 5 spots of the next draft gets a chance to select him.
But the point is the Dolphins are at once trying to do all they can to make the best of this season while also allowing the personnel department to peak down the road at potential quarterbacks.
And philosophically I can tell you the Dolphins will be in the market for at least one quarterback again in 2019, per sources familiar with the organization’s thinking.
No, that doesn’t mean a decision has been made on any of the current quarterbacks.
It does mean the team recognizes it needs to do more work to improve the quarterback room for 2019. That could mean jettison Ryan Tannehill and start over. That could mean keep Tannehill and add talent either to compete with him or back him up in 2019.
It could mean a number of things that won’t be decided until after the season.
But it definitely means the Dolphins will be quarterback shopping in the 2019 offseason.
(Of course, they said the same thing after the 2017 season and didn’t really upgrade to any great degree despite adding Osweiler and picking up Luke Falk. So it’s unclear to what degree the Dolphins will be aggressive enough to actually improve the position.)
But all this does suggest the team is aware it has a problem at QB, in that Osweiler has been playing progressively worse since he became the starter Oct 14. And the team is aware Tannehill, who has missed five starts this season and 25 in his last 30 opportunities, is no longer reliable as the lone answer at the position.
So the quarterback position will be the epicenter of news for the Miami Dolphins in both the short and long term -- through the end of this season, and into the spring.