Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins 2019 approach re-do: We’re not tanking! (and what’s really going on)

Brian Flores: ‘It’s about getting 11 guys on the same page’

Brian Flores, the newly announced head coach for the Miami Dolphins, talks to the media about how he plans to make his team work together during a press conference in Davie, Florida on Monday, February 4, 2019.
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Brian Flores, the newly announced head coach for the Miami Dolphins, talks to the media about how he plans to make his team work together during a press conference in Davie, Florida on Monday, February 4, 2019.

Now the Miami Dolphins insist they’re not tanking.

Ignore those things Stephen Ross said recently about taking “a different approach,” and rebuilding even if it “takes a year or so – two years, three years – we’re going to be there.” Those are his words.

Don’t mind the owner because, as general manager Chris Grier said Wednesday, Ross is “volatile.”

The Dolphins say they’re definitely not tanking.

“I think everyone kind of took Steve’s words the [December 31] press conference out of context because you’ve been around Steve. He is a volatile, very competitive person,” Grier said. “So we’re not trying to lose games. We’re going to do what’s best. We’re going to build like we’ve talked about building right, going through the process to do what’s best for the Dolphins.

“But, no, we’re not trying to tank or lose every game. But we’re going to build it right and see how it plays out.”

So this is how the Dolphins want to play it?

They’re blaming “everyone” for taking Ross out of context?

Like when Ross was asked why he ultimately fired coach Adam Gase and his response was, ““I think Adam wants to win and win now?”

So this whole idea of a reset and rebuild is a false narrative concocted by reporters who didn’t understand what Ross was saying?

Speaking for myself, I guess I also misunderstood what multiple sources told me when they said the word “tanking” was actually used and the idea was discussed in at least one coach interview last month.

And I misunderstood when I was told by team sources who said what is coming is a rebuild that will flush some significant talent for the sake of getting in position to draft a great quarterback in 2020 or 2021 such as Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (in ‘20) or Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (in ‘21)?

None of that is true? None of that happened?

We got it wrong? I got it wrong?

“Steve kind of clarified that when we introduced Brian,” Grier said. “We’ve talked the type of players we want, tough guys, competitive guys. It’s kind of hard to say you want that and say hey, reign it back for a year and just go lay down. So we’ll see how it goes.”

So either one of two things is happening: Grier is playing a game of semantics.

Or he’s denying what will soon be obvious because admitting you’re preparing to stink is kind of an embarrassing thing to do publicly.

About semantics: Look, no one has said the Dolphins are going to tank by trying to throw games. That doesn’t happen in the NFL.

What I and other respected national reporters have said is the Dolphins are taking a strategic approach whereby they will not win a lot in 2019 to set themselves up for comfortable cap space and elite draft pick position in 2020. And that goal will be achieved organically by the moves they make or decline to make this year.

That approach, while not trying to lose, is also not doing the maximum to try to win now.

Which is tanking, because not doing all that is possible to win is acceptance of losing.

All of this, of course, will be moot in the coming weeks and months. Because the Dolphins will begin to make roster moves over that time and those moves will clearly define whether the team is trying to win or not in 2019.

If during that time the Dolphins decide they want to upgrade multiple positions and refuse to let go of good, productive players, then they’re absolutely not tanking.

If the team re-signs highly productive defensive end Cameron Wake, who had six sacks on limited snaps last season, the team is not tanking.

If the team keeps solid starter Robert Quinn, who led the team with 6.5 sacks last year, then the team is not tanking.

If the team does everything it can to upgrade at quarterback -- either by keeping Ryan Tannehill and fixing his flaws (good luck), or chasing an upgrade in free agency, or drafting a replacement in the first round of the coming draft to be the new face of the franchise -- then the team is not tanking.

If the Dolphins keep leading receiver and team leader Danny Amendola, then they’re not tanking.

If left guard Josh Sitton is brought back to finish the work of locking down his position while also helping left tackle Laremy Tunsil to be great, then the team is not tanking. Indeed, even if Sitton is cut but the team signs an expensive free agent replacement or selects a replacement early in the draft, then Miami is not tanking.

If the Dolphins go into free agency in two weeks with an aggressive approach, as they have in the past, and hire the best available talent rather than cheaper reserves, then they’re not tanking.

The Dolphins have to do a majority of these things to put the best team they can on the field in 2019.

Look, we all know what the Dolphins do when they’re not tanking. They’re fighting to improve every strand of the roster with the best players they can. Today. Now.

They’re trying to patch holes with the best draft picks or veteran free agents they can find and they’re not cutting players other teams value (supposedly).

Interestingly, that approach this year would be kind of a status quo. Doing the same things that has been done in the past.

Ross in January said the Dolphins weren’t going to continue doing the same thing over and over as in the past, but instead would be “looking to the long-term” rather than the short-term. It is supposed to be about tomorrow and not necessarily today.

But the message Wednesday was different. The new message was, in part, don’t listen to Ross.

He’s “volatile.”

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Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.


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