It felt pretty unusual to me, like it had been a while. So I did the research. And it is unusual. It has been a while.
Fateful circumstance — also known as rotten luck — has left both the Dolphins and Hurricanes each entering a season with a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2008, when the Fins were turning to Chad Pennington and the Canes to Jacory Harris.
Matter of fact, this marks only the eighth time in 52 seasons together, since the Fins’ arrival in 1966, that both of our marquee football teams each have a new man taking snaps. Four of those eight seasons happened between 2000 and ’08, when the Dolphins were playing a game of musical heirs to try to replace Dan Marino, and the Canes were scrambling to try anything they could to get past Ken Dorsey leaving and taking the glory days with him.
Never before in that half century-plus of Fins and Canes, until now, have we seen both teams making a simultaneous QB switch not by choice, but because unexpected circumstances left no choice.
It should be so, so different — the what-ifs bedeviling Dolphins coach Adam Gase and UM coach Mark Richt, gut-punching their teams and seasons.
Stability should reign where upheaval now does at the most important position.
Ryan Tannehill, coming off his best season, should be preparing for his sixth consecutive opening-day start, which would have been the Dolphins’ longest such QB streak since Marino made it 16 seasons in a row from 1984 to 1999.
And Brad Kaaya, after setting the UM career record for most passing yards, could and should be readying for his senior season and fourth consecutive year as Canes starter, such a rare gift in major-college football.
Instead Kaaya chose to enter the NFL Draft this past spring, unwisely I thought, despite scouting analysis that pegged him a likely late-round pick. Sure enough, he went in the sixth round, 215th overall, to Detroit, where Matthew Stafford is entrenched as the starter. Kaaya will see his first NFL game action in the Lions’ preseason opener Sunday at Indianapolis, but a Detroit media buddy tells us Kaaya trails Jake Rudock for the backup job and figures to begin his rookie season on the practice squad.
Tannehill, of course, had no choice in what erased him from the Dolphins picture with a season-ending left knee injury sustained last week in practice.
So, in place of each team’s stability, Dolfans and Canes fans get:
Question Mark & The Mysterians!
The Question Mark: That is the Dolphins’ decision to coax Jay Cutler out of retirement as Tannehill’s replacement. That is Cutler himself, who, at age 34, is coming off a Chicago Bears season that found him either injured or not playing well. Should Miami have opted for Colin Kaepernick instead? Or stuck with Matt Moore? Does Cutler have a last hurrah left in him?
The Mysterians: That’s everybody who might be UM’s starting quarterback in an ongoing competition to fill the crater-sized void left by Kaaya’s departure. Malik Rosier, the relative veteran, has 61 career passes for Miami, with dubious results. N’Kosi Perry, co-front-runner for the job, is highly regarded but a raw, true freshman. Long shots Evan Shirreffs and Cade Weldon are little-known.
Hopes remain stubbornly high as football nears, with the Dolphins coming off their first playoff season in eight years and the Canes off their first bowl win in 10. But hopes now are underpinned by the fragile faith in what Cutler might have left, and the tenuous trust that raw inexperience might ably lead UM’s huddle.
We’ll relive the regrets and rotten luck — of Kaaya making a decision ill-advised, of Tannehill crumpling without being hit — if anything about the coming seasons disappoint.