Armando Salguero

Dolphins considering choices for replacing Tannehill — one is worse than all the others

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill after Buffalo Bills game.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill comments on his future at the Miami Dolphins after the Buffalo Bills defeat the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field, Orchard Park, NY on Sunday, December 30, 2018.
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Quarterback Ryan Tannehill comments on his future at the Miami Dolphins after the Buffalo Bills defeat the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field, Orchard Park, NY on Sunday, December 30, 2018.

Allow me to look into the not-too-distant future for the Miami Dolphins.

The next seven weeks will determine what the 2019 team will look like and tell us what chances coach Brian Flores has of raising this franchise out of 17 years of frustrating mediocrity and inconsistency. And there are a couple of ways this will go.

The first way is the Dolphins do what they’ve always done and try to be as good as they can. No, they have not accomplished much with this approach but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It was the poor execution of numerous front offices and coaching staffs and two different ownership groups that failed with this rather than the approach.

So If this continues to be the approach going forward (I don’t think it is, but work with me here) then the Dolphins are about to make some interesting moves at quarterback. I mean, they have no choice. They need a quarterback.

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If the Dolphins are actually trying to compete hard in 2019 and help you, the fan, believe in general manager Chris Grier and Flores, they need the best signal-caller they can find because, well, the quarterback is important to any team’s success. Everyone else in the AFC East has one they like. And the Dolphins are the only team in the AFC East that doesn’t.

So, one would assume, the Dolphins will try to sign the best veteran they can find for the present. And they will try to draft one for the future as well.

This, by the way, was going to be the plan if Adam Gase had not been fired as the head coach. Gase, according to club sources, had decided by mid December 2018 to move on from Ryan Tannehill. And he knew he needed to draft the right rookie.

But Gase also saw what was happening to Todd Bowles in New York. And Steve Wilks in Arizona. He realized that a coach who drafts a great quarterback prospect is going to go through some growing pains with the youngster. So unless that coach has a veteran QB to shepherd the team through while the youngster is learning, the coach might only be drafting a quarterback for the next head coach.

Sure enough, Bowles and Wilks were both fired after the season.

So Gase intended to avoid this course because he didn’t want to get fired after 2019. He had determined he would try to draft a QB but also sign the best veteran quarterback he could find.

That means, yes, the Dolphins were going to be in on the Nick Foles sweepstakes this offseason. They were going to seriously discuss and perhaps sign Teddy Bridgewater.

They were going to search the veteran quarterback landscape and fight for the best scenery they could find.

Obviously, Gase got fired and he won’t be implementing that plan in Miami. And don’t feel sorry for him because he’s got a better situation for now at quarterback with Sam Darnold as his established and young starting quarterback.

But the Dolphins are still not going to have Tannehill. So who are they going to add?

Well, let’s look at the draft:

It won’t be Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. Barring a significant surprise, Murray will be drafted by the Arizona Cardinals at No. 1 overall. Or he’ll go to the Oakland Raiders at No. 4 if he’s there. It’s even possible the Raiders trade up to No. 1 to pick Murray. The point is, I don’t see him landing with the Dolphins.

The next quarterback off the board is probably going to be Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins to the New York Giants at No. 6 overall. And the next quarterback, barring a surprise or trades, will likely be Drew Lock and he’ll end up in Jacksonville, or Denver or perhaps Washington in some sort of trade up.

You know where that’s going to leave the Dolphins? With no quarterback who has a first-round grade when they pick at No. 13 or lower.

And you know what would happen if they pick one of the lesser quarterbacks in the second or third round? Nothing. Because those guys -- with exceedingly rare exceptions such as Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson -- do not win Super Bowls in the NFL’s current passing era.

Those guys don’t even start right away. Brady didn’t. Brees didn’t.

And they’re Tom Six Super Bowl rings Brady and Drew Every QB record in the Book Brees!

So the way I see it, an inability by the Dolphins to draft a quarterback in the first round will automatically compel them to sign a veteran bridge quarterback. It must happen.

And we pause right here to deliver this public service announcement from Grier: “We’re not trying to tank or lose every game.”

He said this recently.

Cool, so they’re trying to win. Which means a search for the best available veteran QB must be under way.

Interestingly, this search has already gone askew if it’s meant to go after the best guy because multiple media outlets have reported the Jacksonville Jaguars are getting Foles in free agency. And no one has reported the Dolphins tried.

Because they didn’t.

So are they trying to put the best team out there by signing a quarterback who won a Super Bowl, has a 98.8 quarterback rating in six playoff appearances, and is 14-3 in his last 17 starts?

Nope.

And this flies in the face of the idea the Dolphins are going to really try in 2019. It refutes the idea they are not tanking. But fits perfectly with what you read was about to happen with the Dolphins offseason a month ago in this very space.

But forget that reporting. Grier says not tanking.

Fine, so somebody with a chance to be pretty good will be signed, right?

Bridgewater has a 17-11 record as a full-time NFL starter, including an 11-5 record in 2015, which happens to be the last year he was anyone’s No. 1 quarterback.

If the Dolphins aren’t tanking, Bridgewater makes sense. He’s from Miami. The Dolphins were interested in him last year in free agency when the plan was to try to win as many games as possible. This makes sense.

Except in February, I was told by a team source this wasn’t going to happen, either.

Well, who then? Because the goal for any team that’s trying hard to compete is to upgrade at quarterback.

The Dolphins should be trying to find a quarterback better than Ryan Tannehill.

Not about the same.

Not slightly less accomplished.

Better. And hopefully much better.

Otherwise, what’s the point of moving on from Tannehill? To take one step backward? What organization that’s doing all it can to compete does that?

But here’s the thing: I still don’t think the Dolphins are going to be doing everything within their power to compete. That has actually already been shown to be true by the lack of interest in Foles.

I predict the Dolphins will sign a middling veteran who has started games for somebody in the NFL and already washed out once or twice as a starter already. That guy will give the sense the Dolphins are trying. But unless he’s on the cusp of a supernatural career year, the best he’ll be able to do is get the Dolphins to five or six wins.

And that’s the absolute worst scenario possible because that will make the Dolphins bad again but perhaps not bad enough to gain a top pick so as to draft a top QB in 2020.

It would be a half-measure signing to deliver a merely half-measure tank job.

One more thing: On Tuesday, I suggested on Twitter the Dolphins should join the market for quarterback Josh Rosen if and when the Cardinals decide to move on from their 2018 first-round pick.

I know the Dolphins weren’t in love with Rosen before the 2018 draft as a first-round prospect. But if -- big if -- he becomes available, he’s not going to be a first-round prospect anymore. His value drops through the floor and maybe he goes for a No. 3 pick.

Would the Dolphins be wise to consider Rosen, who has the arm and skills of a first-round pick, albeit not the personality and leadership -- based on what sources have said -- for a third-round pick?

It makes sense to me.

Again, if Rosen develops into a good player, it’s a big win because the Dolphins have their franchise quarterback and they got him at a bargain price.

If he fails this coming season like the 19 (actual number) other guys who have started games at quarterback for Miami since Dan Marino’s retirement, then chances are good he lost a ton of games in the process. Just like he did in Arizona.

And while that’s not good in a typical season, it actually could help the Dolphins tank and put them in position to draft a big time college prospect in 2020. It could be success via failure.

And that failure comes with an added bonus that it’s accomplished while seemingly trying to win. The Dolphins win if Rosen is good. The Dolphins win if Rosen is awful. The Dolphins don’t lose face because they seem to be trying.

But a veteran bridge quarterback who isn’t the next best guy after Nick Foles?

The Dolphins lose by downgrading from Tannehill. They lose by probably not downgrading enough to go for a full-on tank. And no one buys that they’re actually trying to win this year, anyway.

It’s a half measure approach. And that’s the worst approach of all.

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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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