The Miami Dolphins’ Quarterback Crossroads — and if the situation isn’t seen as that, it ought to be — got a heck of a lot more interesting this week.
The Kansas City Chiefs trading longtime starter Alex Smith to Washington, with Redskins incumbent Kirk Cousins in turn about to hit free agency, figures to have a ripple effect across much of the NFL, a certain South Florida team included, perhaps?
Kansas City believed it will be better with the future starting now for 2017 first-round draft pick Patrick Mahomes.
Washington believed it will be better with Smith.
Some other team out there will believe it will be better with Cousins and willing to give him the $$$ windfall he’ll get on the open market.
The question is: What does Miami believe about its most important position?
The Chiefs and Redskins had a strong conviction about what they’re doing at QB. Somebody will have a strong conviction about Cousins. Four other teams will have a strong conviction in an upcoming NFL Draft expected to see four QBs taken in the top half of the first round.
Do the Dolphins have a strong conviction either way on Ryan Tannehill? A belief he will lift them to greatness despite six years’ lack of evidence? Or a belief it’s time to move on?
Apparently not. Which is why Miami, for now, seems stuck in the purgatory of having a quarterback who isn’t quite good enough to be excited about or quite bad enough to fire.
Publicly, of course, the Dolphins say Tannehill’s their guy, turning 30 this summer, coming off major knee surgery, and with zero Pro Bowls or playoff games on his résumé.
The time is ripe, though, right now, to consider major options. It was ripe because of the QB-rich draft. And it got riper this week with Cousins now standing in the store window with a For Sale sign on him.
In an ideal world, Miami would be in a position to do what the Chiefs did: Be OK with moving on from your OK quarterback because you had a high-pick prospect you would be grooming who you thought was now ready.
Smith, 33, is better than Tannehill. Smith is coming off his third Pro Bowl season after a career-high 104.7 rating and 26 TDs. Tannehill would logically be easier to move past, except the Dolphins have no Mahomes, nobody to trust with the future.
The common denominator in KC and Washington both believing they could do better is that Smith was 1-4 in the playoffs with the Chiefs and Cousins was 0-1 with the Skins. These weren’t guys those teams were going to win big with, get to a Super Bowl with.
If the Dolphins share that feeling about Tannehill — if Miami feels the impatience its fans deserve — man, is now the time to act.
Cousins, the same age, is better than Tannehill. You can argue whether he’s enough better to justify what it would cost to sign him. You can ask why he’d make Miami a winner if he couldn’t in Washington? But he is better. There will be a bidding war for Cousins. He has made a Pro Bowl. Has 81 TD passes the past three seasons. Somebody will believe he’s the answer.
Kansas City got a good young cornerback and a third-round draft pick for Smith. Tannehill might not get that, or he might, with a handful-plus teams in need of a QB upgrade even more than Miami is.
If I were Miami, I’d sure put out feelers on any trade interest in Tannehill while I also did due diligence on Cousins and priced what it would take to get him.
Another viable option: Keep Tannehill for another year or two and draft and groom Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy-winning Baker Mayfield, who figures to (probably) be available when Miami drafts 11th overall.
There is just no reason, entering his seventh season, to think Tannehill suddenly will become what he hasn’t been: a transcendent quarterback able to lift a team and make up for its shortcomings elsewhere.
There is no guarantee Cousins or Mayfield would be a better answer for Miami than Tannehill has been.
This is a guarantee, though: The Dolphins must finally find a special quarterback they believe in strongly and who excites them or this stuck-in-the-middle mediocrity won’t end.
Believe in Tannehill, believe in Cousins, believe in Mayfield … believe in somebody.