Armando Salguero

Why it’s troubling the Dolphins GM felt keeping Tannehill the last few years wasn’t a mistake

Chris Grier doesn’t think the Ryan Tannehill years were a mistake for the Miami Dolphins.

The man in charge of finding the next franchise quarterback on Monday looked back at the hit-and-miss of the past seven years with Tannehill at quarterback and didn’t see the missed evaluation of the player or the missed opportunities it all caused.

“I don’t know that,” Grier told reporters during a break at the NFL annual meeting. “Because [Former coach] Adam [Gase’s] first year here we went 10-6 and right when [Tannehill] got hurt he was playing really good, that stretch of about six or seven games. So it was his first time with Adam and working with Adam.

“Him going down in training camp the following year (2017) and then last season up and down so ... I don’t think, because after that 10-6 year with Adam you thought now it’s going to turn and it’s going to be what people hoped it would be as far as being a top 10 pick in the draft. The expectations are always, when you’re picked that high, through the roof.

“And I think ... No, I don’t think it was a mistake.”

And now it’s time for a little concern. Because whatever you think of Tannehill -- good, bad or indifferent -- it is obvious he is history in the rear view mirror. So litigating his positives and negatives is folly.

But the topic is important here because Grier was part of the decision-making process on Tannehill the past three years. And now he’s leading the Dolphins expedition across the dangerous draft minefield the next couple of years to find a new quarterback.

And by his own admission, finding a franchise quarterback is the unquestioned, top priority of that mission.

But how can we have high confidence the looming search for a quarterback won’t be plagued by mistakes when the man leading that search doesn’t think the Tannehill years were a mistake? And let’s be clear, they were a mistake.

Everyone knows this.

I hope Grier, as a big proponent of Nick Saban, recognizes this is a problem. Because one of Saban’s favorite credos is that, “The best predictor of future behavior is past performance.”

And the Dolphins’ past with Tannehill was, without doubt, lacking foresight and vision. And if Grier cannot readily see this, that is not good.

A front office with vision might have worried about Tannehill in the spring of 2017 after the quarterback chose to not have surgery to repair a torn ACL and his backup Matt Moore was by the team’s own admission not capable of filling the void if one came up. Yet the Dolphins, dealing with uncertainty with two quarterbacks, did nothing in the 2017 draft to find a suitable quarterback addition of note.

“I think the one thing we could have all done, and me pushing too, was drafting someone behind him to come through,” Grier admitted. “So looking back, maybe we could have, but we had other needs so, you know, it was kind of a different mindset in the way we were doing things.

“There are some players there that we liked a lot and what we were looking for. But we also weren’t willing to mortgage the future at that time, in terms of working with Adam and going through the process. Patrick Mahomes? We liked Patrick Mahomes. I would say we probably didn’t spend a ton of time with him. But we met with him briefly, spent some time. Our guys who went on school visits liked him. Very talented player. As far as the other quarterbacks, they were all talented players but at that time, we weren’t willing to give up a couple first-round picks to move up at that point.”

Fine, so let’s excuse the Dolphins for not seeing the whole playing field after 2016 and missing on both Mahomes and DeShaun Watson in the ‘17 draft. I can understand it. But after a 2017 season in which Tannehill again blew out his knee, there was again no grand urgency to draft a quarterback in 2018...

...While the Jets traded up to draft a quarterback in the first round.

...While the Bills, picking behind the Dolphins in the first round, vaulted over Miami to draft a quarterback in the first round.

That was the tipping point. That was the critical hour for the Dolphins to replace Tannehill and failing to do so was a mistake that ultimately cost Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum their jobs.

So that wasn’t a mistake?

After a 2018 season in which Tannehill was clearly inconsistent and obviously not the right guy, the Dolphins new coaching staff did a two-week study on Tannehill. Grier did not tell them what he thought of Tannehill until the study was complete. And then the decision to move on from Tannehill was made.

“It was an organizational one,” Grier said. “I’m not going to say who this way or that way. But all of us we talked through it and at the end of the day we all thought that was the right move for the Dolphins going forward.”

This frustrates me because I want the Dolphins to succeed. I really do. I want to believe they will.

But for that to happen the decision-making that seems obvious to fans in the stands should always be old news at Dolphins headquarters. The Dolphins should know more about football than you and me. And on this Tannehill issue, the opposite seems true.

Amateur general managers and arm-chair coaches in the stands knew Tannehill was not it before the professional team did.

Grier on Monday said the quarterback position is one “you can never be satisfied in until you have the guy you really feel can give you a chance to win a championship.”

Did he feel Tannehill could win a championship after 2017? Really?

The chase will soon begin for Miami’s next franchise quarterback -- someone who might actually lead the team to some postseason success. And Grier is open to the process he will lead.

“I would say that all options are on the table for us,” he said. “Like I said, it always has to be the right guy, in terms of personality, leadership skills, what you’re asking him to do in terms of, is he going to fit with [offensive coordinator] Chad [O’Shea] and [head coach} Brian [Flores] believe in? So again, it’s going to be a lot of time here in the spring, getting to know a lot of these kids to determine if that’s who Chad and Brian and myself all believe is the right guy to lead us into the future.”

And might that mean drafting someone this year and next year?

“Yes,” Grier said.

I’m all for that. Draft one until you get it right.

But, that assumes, the Dolphins will be able to identify when they’ve made a mistake.

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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.