In the course of covering the Miami Dolphins for decades I have encountered numerous occasions (just about every day since 1996, actually) when people who work for the team say things to reporters for public consumption. And those things have little veracity.
This never happened with Don Shula.
The man was all about integrity and truth. And because he won more games than anyone and could say just about anything he wanted within the organization he ran, he opted for being fairly transparent in a brilliant sort of way.
If I asked him about a player for a story I was planning and Shoes didn’t think that player had a future with Miami -- or even if the player wasn’t playing well -- he’d pull me off to the side and say something akin to, “You don’t want to do a story on that guy, do you? Ask me about (insert name of player) instead.”
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So it would become very clear to me what the winningest coach on God’s green Earth was thinking about certain players.
I knew who was in. And who was out.
And it was awesome.
But things changed after 1996. The Dolphins hired some men who were really smart. And other men who thought they were really smart. And those guys decided it was in the team’s best interests to use their intelligence to stretch the truth.
So Jimmy Johnson insisted to me he was really, really happy at the finish of the 1998 season so I would not report he was unhappy and thinking of quitting. I wrote the story anyway. And a week or two later, Johnson cleared out his office and quit for a day until owner Wayne Huizenga begged him to come back.
These smartest men in the room said things like Trent Green was 100 percent unaffected by his numerous concussions. Then Green suffered another concussion that ended his 2007 season prematurely.
We were told everything was great between Nick Saban and Daunte Culpepper -- even as players privately talked of their confrontation during a practice in 2006.
We heard things like, ‘Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland remain good friends’ -- after that January 2011 plane ride truly changed everything between them.
And Ireland and Joe Philbin “are just fine” -- after Philbin and Dawn Aponte took up sides against Ireland.
I’ve heard a lot of things that come from the otherwise good people running the Dolphins that, well, simply are not true.
Remember the Jarvis Landry franchise tag last offseason? Coach Adam Gase told reporters at the Combine that the team wouldn’t have used that franchise tag unless it planned on keeping Landry.
And the next evening the Dolphins told Landry’s agent to seek a trade.
Many NFL teams, and perhaps the Dolphins more than most, stretch the truth. They believe it somehow serves their best interests.
This practice used to bother me because it’s insulting. It’s telling me something I know not to be true so that I might disseminate it to the masses as if it’s fact.
Lately, however, I’ve decided not to be offended.
Instead I’ve decided to stick with what I believe to be the truth even in the face of the team’s strategic deceit. And then point out that deceit.
Which brings me to quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
And general manager Chris Grier.
And a 10-minute interview Grier gave after the press conference that introduced Brian Flores as Miami’s 13th head coach on Monday.
During that interview, Grier was asked if a report saying the organization will be moving on from Tannehill is fair and accurate.
(Full disclosure: That’s my report. If you read this space with consistency you know I’ve reported it multiple times dating back to December, but for some reason it became a national story last week during the lead up to the Super Bowl.)
And this was Grier’s response:
“No, I don’t think that’s fair because Brian just got here,” he said. “You really need whoever is going to be his offensive coordinator and the rest of the offensive staff, which is not finished, to let them sit down and evaluate the roster and look at him. Because maybe they say, “Hey’ we’ve got something here we work with and fix,’ if people think there’s something wrong with him.
“So I would say that’s not fair. There’s been no decisions made. I’m not making anything. I’m not giving my opinion on the players. I’m letting them watch and then we can get together and talk about what we think.”
Thus late Monday and Tuesday multiple outlets reported the Dolphins have made no decision on the fate of Ryan Tannehill and, of course, Mando is wrong and a moron.
So this is where you have a choice. You can believe the Dolphins, after seven seasons, have still made no decision on Tannehill. Or you can believe me.
I take that back. You can believe the Dolphins spent the past month making no decision about the most important player on their roster. Or you can believe logic.
Let’s do this exercise:
So Tannehill has been with the Miami Dolphins seven seasons. Grier, who recently was given ultimate and final authority over the football side of the organization, has been with the organization all of those seven years.
He has seen Tannehill play live every single down and studied his tape for years. He has watched a multitude of Tannehill practices.
And now he’s going to remain mum until a first-time offensive coordinator and new quarterback coach study the player for the first time to decide if they can fix whatever is wrong with him?
What happens if these new assistant coaches get the notion they can “fix” Tannehill? Is Grier going to put $26 million in cap space investment on the line and ride or die with Tannehill? Again?
Is this real life?
Look, Adam Gase bought into Ryan Tannehill. And he got fired.
Mike Tannenbaum bought into Ryan Tannehill. And he got fired.
Dennis Hickey bought into Ryan Tannehill -- to a much lesser degree, but still bought into him. And he got fired.
Joe Philbin bought into Ryan Tannehill. And he got fired. And Philbin bought in much less than anyone else, by the way.
And Grier is now going to allow the young, inexperienced next set of offensive coaches to make a decision on Tannehill before he utters a word?
It’s not their jobs to make that call. It is Grier’s call.
And if he didn’t know about Tannehill when he was prominent in the Dolphins personnel department from 2012-2015, and then was the general manager overseeing the draft from 2016-18, he surely better not miss it now.
Because missing on this quarterback has gotten a lot of a people fired in recent years, Chris.
There’s more: The Dolphins are rebuilding. They want to have high draft picks in the 2020 draft.
You know what keeping Tannehill might do to that plan? It might make the Dolphins mediocre. Again.
So what was the point of firing Gase? What was the point of Stephen Ross talking about not doing the same thing over and over because it’s “insanity?”
Am I supposed to believe the Dolphins are this dumb?
Do they believe I’m this dumb?
When the Dolphins interviewed their candidates during their search for a new coach, all of them gave the Dolphins a plan of action.
“All the candidates we interviewed presented, really, how they would attack the next three months leading up to the draft and then training camp and stuff,” Grier said. “It was, as you’d expect, detailed.”
Detailed? So Flores included an opinion on players he liked and didn’t like?
“He liked some of our pieces, going up against us the last couple of years, especially some of our offensive pieces he liked a lot,” Grier said.
So, I’m guessing a detailed plan for the next three months from a coach who studied the Miami offense as part of his job with the New England Patriots must have included an opinion on whether the Dolphins should keep or cut loose Ryan Tannehill.
Because, you know, quarterback is probably an important position for the incoming coach.
Folks, the decision on Ryan Tannehill is already made. And a new offensive coordinator or quarterback coach possibly deciding they can suddenly fix Tannehill’s pocket awareness or improve his instincts isn’t going to change anything because the decision is above their pay grade.
And, oh yeah, there is no proven way to fix those things, anyway.
So Ryan Tannehill is not going to be the Dolphins quarterback in 2019.
Now, let me offer a plausible reason Grier might have said what he did Monday: I’m hoping he obscured the truth because he’d like to trade Tannehill. And maybe he thinks putting it out there that the Dolphins might keep Tannehill would increase the quarterback’s market and worth.
Except it won’t.
Other NFL teams I talked to Tuesday don’t believe the Dolphins will keep Tannehill regardless of what Grier said. They do not buy it for an instant.
They do believe, on the other hand, the talk of Miami rebuilding. And Tannehill being present amid a rebuild makes zero sense to them.
Another thing they said is that when the Dolphins eventually put Tannehill on the trade market, the facade will be moot anyway.
At that point, according to one prominent NFL personnel man, Grier might regret his words.
“He said the new coaches would study Ryan and see if they could fix him,” the personnel man said, “but they’re offering him in trade, so they must think they can’t fix him. They might have actually given someone a reason not to do it.”
So I asked multiple NFL people what Grier could have said in response to the question so as to not hurt his bargaining position and also not insult anyone’s intelligence, especially mine?
This: “I don’t comment publicly on reports we’re keeping, cutting or trading a player.”
Obviously not Don Shula. But way better than we got.