Armando Salguero

Dolphins have bullseye on their backs with bet on Tunsil

The entire NFL on Thursday saw that now-infamous video of Laremy Tunsil put on a gas mask and inhale from a bong to maximize the effects of the marijuana he was smoking and, despite the fact that it was two years old, a dozen teams ran away from the offensive lineman as if he had a contagious form of the plague.

And the Dolphins had no problem with it.

General manager Ozzie Newsome, one of the best — if not the best — general manager in the NFL, saw the video and reportedly took Tunsil off the Baltimore Ravens board. They picked a different offensive tackle in Ronnie Stanley.

The Tennessee Titans, desperately needing a left tackle to protect Marcus Mariota, passed on Tunsil and selected less-talented-but-safer Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin.

But the Miami Dolphins were comfortable with Tunsil when other teams were not. The Dolphins saw the fire, and as other teams ran to flee the scene, the Dolphins ran toward the smoke.

(No pun intended.)

That doesn’t make the Dolphins wrong today. That doesn’t make Tunsil a loser or a bust by default.

But it puts a bullseye on this team.

It means the burden of proof that Tunsil is going to be alright and productive and not an embarrassment to the organization and this community is on the Dolphins.

And if the team’s group of football minds — headed by executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum and new general manager Chris Grier — are right and Tunsil spends the next seven to 10 years performing like he’s the best player to come out of the 2016 NFL Draft, then they basically get treated as if they just won a Super Bowl.

Because Thursday night was the personnel department’s Super Bowl.

They get the benefit of every doubt going forward for years and years.

But if Tunsil is a dope… If Tunsil continues to be the dummy who was in the room with teammate Robert Nkemdiche when the defensive end was arrested for drug possession last year, then this pick is a firing offense.

Simple as that.

“We’re very comfortable with all the information we have,” Grier said without hesitation about the newest Miami offensive lineman.

“So this is a guy, he’s passed personality tests and all the stuff we do. This is a guy, he loves football at the end of the day. This is a guy who’s ultra-competitive, you watch him play.”

The question is going to be, at least initially, not whether Tunsil loves football or is competitive. The question will be whether Tunsil loves football more than he loves drugs. I asked Grier, in his first draft as Miami’s general manager, that question.

“Yes,” he said without pause.

I asked Tunsil if he has a drug problem. He swatted the question away with an emphatic “I don’t have a drug problem.”

Of course, two years ago, when he returned from his first drug suspension, I asked Dion Jordan if he had overcome his drug problem and he smiled and said he had.

So excuse me if I wait until Tunsil goes a year or three without being suspended before I completely commit his answer to Gospel.

Look, the Dolphins have to be commended for boldness here. This franchise currently has a former No. 3 overall pick serving a suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse guidelines.

Jordan, selected in the first round in 2013, has more drug suspensions than notable great plays during his Miami career. And the team that was burned by Jordan didn’t hesitate on Tunsil.

That is either ridiculously tone deaf or downright genius. There is nothing in between.

“This is a different situation from that,” Grier said.

These Dolphins, I remind you, got rid of cornerback Brent Grimes this offseason to a considerable degree because his wife was a nightmare. Miko Grimes affected the stability of the Dolphins family, one assistant coach told me recently.

So Grimes had to go.

And the same team that just escaped that drama went and picked Tunsil, who is being sued by his stepfather for defamation of character and because he got beat up by the 6-5, 305-pound Tunsil.

Tunsil was arrested for a domestic dispute connected to that episode. And obviously, someone really doesn’t like Tunsil because that video that cost him so much money was released by someone (obviously not a friend) who hacked his Twitter account.

And the team that just ran away from a player whose family was damaging the greater good of the team just picked a player who has at least one family member who is not happy with the player and the Dolphins’ greater good by extension.

So this is kind of weird.

This isn’t: I get the reason the Dolphins did this. Laremy Tunsil is supremely gifted. He is already one of their five best offensive linemen. He might be a home run. He will help protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill. That’s the team’s projection of this pick.

But can you absolutely bank on the Miami projection being dead-on when everybody else picking ahead of them disagreed?


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