All of a sudden the Miami Dolphins appear to have 2020 vision. But are they seeing clearly? Owner Stephen Ross’ recent pronouncement of a “new approach” toward sustained winning has been broadly interpreted as meaning the team would abide being lousy in 2019 in order to get a very high draft pick and presumably a franchise quarterback the year after.
“Tank for ‘20,” in other words.
This supposition arose from the postseason news conference at which Ross explained why he sacked coach Adam Gase and stripped personnel powers from Mike Tannenbaum.
Will the presumed incoming new coach Brian Flores, the Patriots’ defensive play-caller, be an upgrade? All we can guarantee for now is that Flores will have a more impressive meet-and-greet here than Gase did when introduced as the Jets’ new coach. Gase, wide eyes darting, looked as relaxed as a paranoid guilty man under police interrogation.
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Will promoted Chris Grier prove a wiser personnel chief than Tannenbaum? Another we’ll-see, but Grier has a mighty low bar to hurdle. When your team has just missed the playoffs for the 15th time in the past 17 seasons, change for the sake of it may be warranted.
The same impetus to try something different — to apply heart paddles to jolt a flatlining franchiise — is why you can bet quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be swept out of town — released unless Miami can find a trade partner and add a draft pick. Like David Bowie said: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.
But this “Tank for ‘20” notion is quite literally a defeatist attitude that no self-respecting franchise would dare openly admit to and that no club with any sense of smarts should get behind.
The strategy would be dangerously flawed.
The Dolphins owe it to their fans , who wear their patience like a hard-earned scar, to try to aggressively get better now and compete in 2019. Or at least get to the future as fast as possible, not wait.
The idea of tanking next season to draft Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or maybe Oregon’s Justin Herbert in 2020 is flawed because it’s hard to be top-five-pick bad and because even if you are it comes with no assurance you’ll still get your guy. The Broncos, Giants, Jaguars and any number of other teams might also be a combination of lousy and QB-needy.
I mean, why not just be adamantly bad the next two years and angle for Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in 2021? Or roll dice on some savior-to-be-named emerging in 2022?
(The Miami Hurricanes thought they might land transfer QB Jalen Hurts from Alabama ... until he chose Oklahoma on Wednesday. The same unpredictability surrounds any Dolphins grand plan to draft Tagovailoa).
You play for now in the NFL in lockstep with planning/building your future. You can do both simultaneously. Ain’t no law against it. Winning teams have mastered the craft.
Better the Dolphins should address and attack their QB void now — this offseason via free agency or in the 2019 draft or both — rather than wait for what might or might not happen in ‘20.
The Eagles’ Nick Foles, a likely free agent-to-be who turns 30 on Sunday, and the Saints’ Teddy Bridgewater, 26, better by osmosis for having played behind Drew Brees this season, both will be out there, available. (No thanks on fading Joe Flacco, by the way).
The coming draft tantalizingly will then include QBs Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State and Kyler Murray of Oklahoma, one of whom could fall to Miami picking 13th, and either of whom might be gettable with a tradeup.
Foles would be an immediate upgrade over Tannehill and Bridgewater would offer a higher upside. Either would be a neat, win-now bridge to Haskins or Murray.
And none of it happens if you are hell-bent on being a laughingstock in 2019 and gambling you’ll hit the draft lottery in ‘20.
In the NFL you can go from mediocre to really good (from, say, seven wins to 11-plus) pretty fast. This season the Bears shot from five wins the year before to 12, the Colts from four to 10 and Texans from four to 11. It happens. Every year. But only if your franchise is judiciously daring.
Miami cannot have blinders on to quarterback as its only need, either.
Look around the league.
Le’Veon Bell, at 27 still arguably the best runner in football, is out there for the taking (albeit the pricey taking) after sitting out this past season in a contract dispute.
Kareem Hunt, the 2017 NFL rushing champ and still only 24, is available after being cut by the Chiefs over a domestic violence issue. He faces possible league discipline, but that isn’t precluding some teams (reportedly including the Bears) from weighing interest.
The Steelers seem to have elite receiver Antonio Brown on the trading block.
Free agency (starting Feb. 3) also will be full of defensive aces of the sack variety, such as DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark and Dee Ford.
That’s a lot of talent out there that will be heading somewhere, making this a bad offseason to retreat into “Tank for ‘20” mode for some crapshoot of a dream that may or may come true two Aprils from now.
The salary cap and the odds say Miami obviously cannot afford to draft or sign everybody mentioned just above, but the paths are out there to get appreciably better, starting at quarterback, now, not someday-maybe.