WELLINGTON – Make sure not to count former Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison among those who think the Miami Dolphins would be wise to part ways with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“Ryan’s always been on the same page with Coach Gase since he’s been here,” said Madison, a four-time Pro Bowler with the Dolphins from 1997-2005. “No matter what offensive coordinator (he has), Ryan Tannehill has picked up the offense faster than everybody else. Now, it seems and should be that everyone is on the same page because they’ve been in the system a couple years.”
Tannehill, who turns 30 on July 27, missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in training camp. A first-round draft pick in 2012, Tannehill led the Dolphins to an 8-5 record in 13 games two seasons ago, completing a career-high 67.1 percent of his passes for 2,995 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
The Dolphins have yet to win a playoff game in Tannehill’s tenure, however, and some fans continue to call for a change at the quarterback position.
Dolphins Hall of Fame defensive end Jason Taylor, whose retirement in Jan. 2012 predated Tannehill’s drafting by three months, also expressed optimism in what the former Texas A&M star can do this season.
“If you can keep him healthy, we’re one year removed from being a playoff team,” Taylor said. “I think they’re in good shape and the next month (will tell) a big story. If you can get out of training camp into September in one piece, you’re set.”
Taylor and Madison, now coaches at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, are serving as guest coaches this week at the Western Communities Football Tackle Football Showcase at Wellington’s Pierson Park.
Whatever Tannehill does this season will be without two of his biggest weapons from 2016, as running back Jay Ajayi was traded to Philadelphia last October and the Dolphins sent Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry to Cleveland in March. Landry posted a career-high 112 catches and nine touchdowns last season without Tannehill, but he failed to crack the 1,000-yard mark.
Miami signed former New England Patriots wideout Danny Amendola and Chiefs receiver Albert Wilson this offseason. Former Miami Hurricanes running back Frank Gore also signed with the team and will partner with Kenyan Drake for a 1-2 punch in the backfield.
“Yes, we added a couple new pieces, but they can learn on the fly,” Madison said. “As long as the major key points to this football team are in place, ready to go, and everyone can play extremely fast, you’ll see some playmaking ability out there.”
The name Chuck Klingbeil might not mean much to younger fans today, but the former nose tackle has a secure place in Dolphins lore for an improbable starring role in Don Shula’s 300th career victory, in 1991.
Klingbeil, who spent his entire five-year NFL career with the Dolphins ending in 1995, has died of unknown causes. He was 52.
Longtime fans will recall Klingbeil as the hero of a 16-13 victory over Green Bay on Sept. 22, 1991, when he fell on a fumble by quarterback Don Majkowski in the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that eventually gave the Dolphins license to give Shula his first (and only?) Gatorade bath in celebration of his milestone.
“What were the odds of all that, of me scoring? A million to one?” Klingbeil asked after the game, although he evidently thought his odds were no worse than even. Before the game, for no apparent reason, he told fellow nose tackle Brian Sochia he was going to score a touchdown.
“I was just joking around,” Klingbeil said. “But I did say it. That’s weird, isn’t it?”
Long before anyone heard of Cameron Wake, Klingbeil was a star plucked by the Dolphins out of the Canadian Football League. The season prior, he helped the Saskatchewan Roughriders win the Grey Cup by earning MVP honors in the championship game.
Klingbeil went on to start 65 of the 78 games he played for Miami, making 242 tackles and recording 7.5 sacks.
Injuries pressed him into duty against the Packers on an afternoon so hot and humid that the weather helped gift the Dolphins a win.
The strange sequence was set up by a 54-yard punt by Reggie Roby that went out of bounds on the Green Bay 2. With no one near him, Majkowski cocked his arm back to pass.
“But the ball didn’t go back with him,” Klingbeil said. “It stayed right where it started. When his hand moved, the ball just hit the ground, like a great big Christmas present.”
Majkowski was so sweaty, “The ball just slipped out of my hand,” he said.
Klingbeil cradled it like a baby as officials’ arms shot straight upward. Scared he’d be penalized, Klingbeil didn’t dare spike the ball.
The play kick-started the sluggish Dolphins and Dan Marino, who had heard boos earlier. A 40-yard pass from Marino to Mark Duper set up the winning 31-yard field goal by Pete Stoyanovich.
Although Klingbeil’s time in Miami eventually ended because of a shoulder injury, he remained a powerlifter who could squat 700 pounds. His hopes of a comeback ended when he was rushed to the ER one night and diagnosed with a hole torn in his esophagus. He became an assistant coach at Michigan Tech.
Even on the day of his career highlight, Klingbeil could sense he’d accomplished something with a lasting impact.
“Being Coach Shula’s 300th win, that makes it even sweeter,” Klingbeil said. “It’s exciting to be a part of history.”
DAVIE — All this talk about three-safety formations (which the Dolphins haven’t really practiced yet) and about the return of linebacker Raekwon McMillan and the drafting of linebacker Jerome Baker.
Completely lost in the shuffle was former first-round linebacker Stephone Anthony. Anthony is still here, and actually as of right now, he’s a starting Dolphins linebacker.
Anthony is still young and still fast and still strong and still has the potential to make a positive impact.
“He earned it by the same way all guys earn it,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said of Anthony taking many spring reps at starter. “He’s been working hard. It’s always difficult to come in the middle of the season, come from a different scheme and pick things up. He works really, really hard. He’s a big athlete. He’s almost 6-foot-3. He’s 240-something. He can run and we like those body types.”
Burke believes a full offseason with Miami will really benefit Anthony, who was criticized in New Orleans not for his physical tools but his ability to consistently diagnose offensive plays. The Dolphins consider Anthony, 25, a part of their 2018 draft class, as he was obtained for a fifth-rounder.
“We’re trying to really overload him a bit and give him a full offseason, a full year of coaching with us, and see what he can do,” Burke said. “I think we’re doing the same thing at linebacker. I think a lot of our other linebackers are younger guys right now. So Steph’s been here. He has a little bit of history in the scheme, so I think there’s just a little bit of comfort level with him in terms of knowledge.”
The Dolphins have shown in the past that they want rookies and newcomers to earn their playing time and starting statuses. So it’s completely possible that by the time the season starts or say, Week 5 of the 2018 season, rookie Jerome Baker has surpassed Anthony as Miami’s third linebacker.
But from a physical standpoint, there’s no reason Anthony can’t contribute when called upon. And right now he’s a starter.
“Stephone is another guy that he can do it all,” Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso said. “He can drop into coverage, play the run. (He’s a) high-energy guy. He’s another guy that (is) a playmaker.”
DAVIE — Brock Osweiler has had two consecutive poor seasons, with more interceptions than touchdowns for the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos.
But the Dolphins felt it was worth giving him a look in the backup competition. And he’s off to a decent start.
“We’re just working on a few things to tweak a few things mechanically,” coach Adam Gase said Wednesday. “Nothing big. We’re just trying to get him back in rhythm to where we were three or four years ago, however long it’s been. It’s coming back to him really fast.”
Gase worked with Osweiler when they were in Denver from 2012-2014.
Osweiler broke out in Denver in 2015 and was rewarded with a big contract he failed to live up to.
But with lower expectations in Miami, Osweiler seems comfortable reuniting with Gase. In a practice open to the media on Wednesday, Osweiler showed off a strong arm. He also seemed to have command of the offense and poise in the huddle.
Osweiler has worked under Peyton Manning, so he has tried to mimic him in a past life.
“It’s not too far off from the last time he was really in this system,” Gase said. “He’s been good. It’s been good to be around him again. He’s got a great energy level. I think he’s enjoying kind of being with that group and working with the receivers he’s been working with.”
It’s fair to say David Fales may have a slight edge entering the backup quarterback competition. But the Fales-Osweiler battle will be worth monitoring this spring and into the summer.
Alex asked whom I rated at the bottom but, being the kind of guy he is, blurted out my answer before I could beat him to the punch. If the phrases “fail forward fast” and “the entire Ted Ginn family” are dancing in your head, you think exactly like we do.
The exercise got me thinking on how I’d stack up all the head coaches in Dolphins history. Before getting to my list, a qualifier: You won’t find Adam Gase’s name here because I don’t think it’s reasonable to include him at this point. Call me a wimp, but after Year 1, everybody would have been in a rush to slot him as high as No. 2. After Year 2? Not so much.
Let’s give it another year, although I suppose if you gave me truth serum today, I’d probably say around No. 5.
11. Cam Cameron
Poster child for the NFL coordinator whose ceiling was just that. There’s a good reason Cameron was the shortest-lived of any Dolphins head coach excluding interims. Not only did he come within an eyelash of going winless, he often was clueless. During this dead end of a season, he insisted on going with Cleo Lemon at quarterback even though the only meaningful thing that could have come out of the year was some knowledge of whether second-round pick John Beck might be the long-term answer. We learned Beck wasn’t the solution, eventually. With Cameron, we already knew.
10. George Wilson
Kind of felt guilty slotting ol’ George this way. Luckily, I have a very forgiving nature. Nobody could have won with the roster he started with. Problem is, the Dolphins weren’t trending in the right direction even late in his tenure. The ’69 team went 3-10-1 with a lineup that included Hall of Famers Larry Little, Bob Griese, Larry Csonka and Nick Buoniconti, plus studs Norm Evans, Jim Kiick, Manny Fernandez, Dick Anderson and Bill Stanfill. Any wonder that when Don Shula took over in 1970, Miami flipped it around to 10-4?
9. Joe Philbin
Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Brian Billick were said to be on Stephen Ross’ radar. In the end, he went with Philbin, who had enjoyed success as the Packers’ offensive coordinator. Overlooked — far too much, as we soon learned — was that Philbin never called plays for Green Bay, so how much credit he deserved for its success was debatable. Less debatable is that he could never relate to players nor could they relate to him. A fine man, certainly, but not a fine head coach.
8. Todd Bowles
He took over a 4-9 team for Tony Sparano and won two divisional games (over the Bills and Jets) but might have been most impressive in a Christmas Eve loss on the road, 27-24 to the eventual Super Bowl runners-up, the Patriots. Current coach of the Jets coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons.
7. Nick Saban
At last, the lightning rod. Some will be aghast his name didn’t come up sooner in this list, some, later. If you’re a control freak demanding that every little thing go your way, yet you’re OK with violating one of the basic rules of the game — don’t quit — you’re losing big points in my book.
6. Jim Bates
Similar to the Dan Campbell tale, Bates took over a sinking ship but managed a few bright spots along the way. None brighter than a 29-28 Monday night win over a Patriots team getting used to seasons ending with parades. Right after that one, Bates interviewed with owner Wayne Huizenga for the permanent gig, but everyone knew by then that Saban was Wayne’s guy.
5. Tony Sparano
Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat. Chad Pennington, one of the great stopgap players in Dolphins history. Sparano made it all come together for a division title in ’08. Too bad he never could duplicate it. And those field-goal celebrations. …
4. Dan Campbell
It was a surprise when he was elevated from tight ends coach when Philbin was dumped after that debacle in London, but maybe it shouldn’t have been. Campbell has that “it” factor that inspires players. Isn’t that a huge part of being a head coach? Alex Marvez, a one-time reporter on the Dolphins beat, wrote this week how Campbell is next in line to be a head coach somewhere. Whichever organization makes that move will be glad it did.
3. Dave Wannstedt
In a post-Marino world, Wanny took heat for a conservative style in which punts weren’t considered a bad thing. But when you have Jay Fiedler as your quarterback and Lamar Smith and Ricky Williams as your running backs, would you be airing it out? Besides, how many other guys on this list were over .500?
2. Don Shula
Just making sure you’re paying attention.
2. Jimmy Johnson
The groundswell to get him hired in Miami, thinking he could duplicate his success with UM and the Cowboys, didn’t quite pan out with the Dolphins. But he is one of only two Dolphins coaches to reach the playoffs three consecutive seasons.
Not even the greatest optimist can expect Tannehill to come anywhere close to the magic Marino pulled off in his return: 473 yards and five touchdown passes including a dramatic late score in a 39-35 escape against New England.
If you’re wondering how NFL quarterbacks typically respond from long layoffs, the answer is often, they look more like themselves than you might expect.
Before we start exploring examples from around the NFL, some important semi-obvious disclaimers:
No two injuries are alike, just as no quarterback is like Marino. Besides, while Marino was out for about 11 months, Tannehill will have to shake off far more rust. Assuming he suits up for the opener Sept. 9 against Tennessee, it will be his first meaningful action in 637 days — 1 3/4 calendar years.
Coach Adam Gase has maintained that he believes Tannehill is “ready to go,” and the company line is that the Dolphins expect Tannehill to look like Tannehill, which is a must because this team has no proven backup.
But if Tannehill is storming out of the gate, he wouldn’t even be the second Dolphins quarterback deserving of comeback player of the year consideration. Bob Griese rebounded from a broken ankle to win two Super Bowls, remember.
Speaking of Hall of Fame-caliber QBs, we’ll begin with Tom Brady, who tore his ACL and missed all but one game of the 2008 season. He immediately went to the Pro Bowl the next year, going 10-6 and winning the AFC East. His stats were very Brady: 4,398 yards, 28 TDs, 13 interceptions and a 96.2 rating.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers fractured his collarbone in 2013 but came out sizzling in ’14 with 38 TDs and only five interceptions. His passer rating was 112.2, eight points higher than his career stat, which ought to encourage Packers fans since he missed nine games last year with another collarbone injury.
Continuing on this theme of Hall of Fame QBs being a different animal altogether, Peyton Manning sat out the 2011 season because of a career-threatening neck injury. With Gase serving as his quarterback coach, Manning immediately put up back-to-back seasons of excellence both from a team perspective (13-3 both years in Denver) and personally (37 and 55 touchdown passes, triple-digit passer rating).
That’s not to say, of course, anyone is preparing a bust in Canton for Tannehill. Let’s turn to mortal passers.
Matthew Stafford played only three games of his second NFL season in 2010 because of a shoulder injury. The Lions obviously didn’t have many concerns about it in ’11, because his 663 attempts led the league. His 5,038 yards were a career high and his passer rating was among his best ever at 97.2.
Carson Palmer, a spectator with the Bengals for a dozen games in 2008 after injuring his elbow, put up more pedestrian numbers when he returned (3,094 yards, 21 TDs, 13 INTs). Ditto for Alex Smith, who missed 2008 with the 49ers because of a bum shoulder, then put up an 81.5 passer rating in ’09.
The Dolphins have to hope Tannehill doesn’t stay on the same track as Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, who missed nine games in 2015 with a string of injuries, played well in ’16, but was back on the shelf again in 2017. Same story for Sam Bradford, who suffered two ACL tears and is now with Arizona, in the likelihood you’ve lost track amid his many travels.
For dreamers out there, that ’94 performance by Marino ranks among his best. It was typical Marino. The Dolphins were down 35-32 and facing a fourth-and-5 with three minutes left. Rather than try a 52-yard field goal from the Marlins’ infield dirt, coach Don Shula liked his chances better by putting the ball in Dan’s hands (go figure). Or maybe Dan’s eyes.
In the huddle, Marino told receiver Irving Fryar if he had one-on-one coverage, he’d be going to him, and when they got to the line of scrimmage, Marino gave him the eye that said all that needed to be said.
Thirty-five yards later, touchdown. It was a play and a day for the ages.
“I felt pretty good about what I did,” Marino said.
“Dan’s back,” Shula said.
Come Sept. 9, Dolphins fans can hope for two words coming out of Gase’s mouth:
Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports was granted access to the Miami Dolphins scouting process by executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum. Here are some takeaways from the six parts posted Wednesday:
Tannebaum wants scouts such as Terry Bradway, Ron Brockington, Chris Buford, Adam Engroff, Max Gruder, Andy Howell, Anthony Hunt, Chase Leshin, Minh Luu, Lenny McGill, J.P. McGowan, Chris Rossetti, Grant Wallace and Matt Winston to receive what he believes is warranted credit and attention.
The Dolphins’ official scouting philosophy includes: “We evaluate players for the Miami Dolphins, not the NFL,” “Scout with your eyes and not your heart,” “Protype, traits, football intelligence, toughness, passion,” and “Think outside the box… we adapt and anticipate trends.”
The Dolphins scouts sit in on positional meetings with coaches and players during training camp. Thus, scouts understand even better the coaches are asking those players to do.
Often times, the most important person interviewed by a scout is the strength coach. But Miami also interviews less obvious individuals, such as Josh Rosen’s tennis coach.
The Dolphins ideally want players who fit their prototype. But they’re clearly not afraid to go outside that protype (Charles Harris, Jakeem Grant, Jerome Baker) if they perceive value and foresee a potential role.
According to Miami scouting summaries, Minkah Fitzpatrick has “good coverage awareness,” Mike Gesicki “can make plays in the red zone,” Jerome Baker can cover but “is inconsistent to stack and shed in the box,” Durham Smythe not only has good instincts as a blocker but also “is a chain mover that can make tough catches all over the field,” and Kalen Ballage needs to develop more consistency but “can be a mismatch as a route-runner.”
Over the course of the last few seasons, it’s been generally accepted that Ndamukong Suh is the best player on the Miami Dolphins.
But because Suh plays defensive tackle, his impact wasn’t always evident.
To an extent, the Dolphins will learn this season what that impact really was, as Suh has been cut for salary reasons.
The NFL Top 100 Players of 2018 list has recently begun to be unveiled on the league’s network, and I’ve been wondering which Dolphins will make it. No, an anonymous player vote isn’t necessarily the best way to evaluate relative talent.
But I know it meant something to Jarvis Landry, the Cleveland Browns receiver who would always used his perceived-too-low ranking as a motivation. Landry, too, has been sent away from the Dolphins, as part of a reconfiguration that includes the extraction of some serious skill.
Landry caught more passes than anyone in the NFL in recent years, so it would be foolish to suggest he was not one of the Dolphins’ best players, arguably their most important offensive player.
Sent away too, on Halloween last year, was running back Jay Ajayi. Like Suh and Landry and cut center Mike Pouncey, Ajayi is a Pro Bowler. When Ajayi was posting 200 yard games, I was writing about how he was the Dolphins’ most important and most indispensable player.
Things changed. And quickly. Coach Adam Gase didn’t want to ride Ajayi, didn’t really jive with Ajayi, and didn’t really trust Ajayi.
Which is all fine and good. The Dolphins felt Gase was “changing the culture” upon taking over and this offseason “changing the culture” still seemed to a be a part of the plan that’s unfinished.
But like any NFL team, Miami needs more talent. They need more players. They need better players.
Which got me to thinking — who on this current roster is great?
Miami hopes that some of picks from the last three drafts will end up as great players. It’s crazy to think that tackle Laremy Tunsil, who is supposed to possess Hall of Fame skills, was taken three drafts ago.
Perhaps Tunsil, Xavien Howard, Kenyan Drake, Charles Harris, Raekwon McMillan or Minkah Fitzpatrick (or dare I say, DeVante Parker) will emerge this season as a Pro Bowl talent. Perhaps one of those players will emerge as the best player on the roster.
That would be ideal for Miami, which is clearly in a transitional-replenishment phase. This season will not be an intended tank job for Miami. So the youngsters Miami has selected really need to take giant leaps forward to facilitate a competitive product.
The Dolphins added consummate professionals in guard Josh Sitton, wide receiver Danny Amendola and running back Frank Gore this season. Miami has a handful of solid, proven NFL players such as Kenny Stills, Ryan Tannehill, Ja’Wuan James and Kiko Alonso.
If Tannehill rises to the level of play that Alex Smith, Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan have shown at times during their career (why not?) he could arguably emerge as Miami’s best player in 2018. We know there are skeptics. We know Tannehill is turning 30, but it’s not too late at his position.
Which brings us to Cam Wake, Robert Quinn and Reshad Jones. Despite Miami’s struggles on defense at times over the past few years, it’s interesting that Miami’s three best players may be defensive players capable of applying pressure.
Quinn, 27, is the youngest of the bunch and his acquisition for a fourth-rounder could prove to be a steal for executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum and Miami. But Quinn has dealt with some injuries in two of the last three seasons, and may have peaked in 2013.
Jones, 30, is a two-time Pro Bowler, like Quinn. Jones played incredibly in 2015 and was off to an excellent start in 2016, before an injury ended his season. Jones is capable of game-changing plays, and was solid last season, but surely feels he can play at an even higher level this season.
Which brings us to Wake, 36 years old, and yes — the best player on the Miami Dolphins.
It’s not ideal when your best player is 36. But what a remarkable example Wake can set for his teammates in so many ways. Undrafted. Began his professional career in Canada. Through superior nutrition and commitment, he’s producing at an incredibly high level at such an advanced stage.
Perhaps Wake and Jones will represent Miami on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2018 list. What’s more important is that in the coming years, the Dolphins have far more players worthy of consideration for the list.
Woulda, coulda: The Dolphins were correct in picking a guard named Turner in the third round. Too bad they went with North Dakota State’s Billy, not Trai Turner of LSU, who has made three Pro Bowls and could have solved a need at guard dating back to FDR’s administration.
Comment: For a draft that wasn’t that long ago, it’s startling that the Dolphins teetered on entering this summer with zero draft picks from 2014. Amid much speculation over whether James was worth $9.3 million, the Dolphins decided to bring him back as the right tackle. The other holdover is Walt Aikens, who doesn’t see much action in the secondary but is in line to succeed Michael Thomas as special teams captain.
Grade I gave last year: C-minus
Adjusted grade today: D-plus, admittedly skewed by the fact the Dolphins failed to extend Landry’s contract a year ago, when it could have been economical to do so.
Top pick: WR DeVante Parker
Notable pick: RB Jay Ajayi (5)
Notable whiffs: I rated it TBA a year ago. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Like everybody else, I’ve grown weary of hearing this will finally be Parker’s year. The guy has all sorts of talent — we all know that — but whether it’ll ever be realized in a Dolphins uniform is looking less and less likely. History shows the Dolphins picked a bad year to need a receiver. With Landry gone, it’s way past time for Parker to shut critics like me up. Will he? G Jamil Douglas gave the Dolphins nothing as a fourth-rounder.
Woulda, coulda: CB Marcus Peters, who went to the Chiefs with the 18th overall pick, would have been a nice addition to Miami’s (or anybody’s) secondary.
Comment: This is a bit of a sneaky draft class. Ajayi obviously wasn’t Adam Gase’s cup of tea, but DT Jordan Phillips (2) and CBs Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett (both 5s) are emerging as the true value picks.
Grade I gave last year: B-minus
Adjusted grade today: C
Top pick: T Laremy Tunsil
Notable picks: RB Kenyan Drake (3)
Notable whiffs: WR Leonte Carroo (3) has barely sniffed the field and is hanging on by a thread.
Woulda, coulda: It’s hard to beat up the Dolphins on this because they’re in the company of 30 other teams, but they passed multiple times on the 135th pick, a Mississippi State quarterback named Dak Prescott. The choice of CB Xavien Howard (2) may pan out to be a wise selection at No. 38 overall, but WR Michael Thomas, who went to the Saints with the 47th pick, is unstoppable.
Comment: As giddy as the Dolphins were to land Tunsil with the 13th overall pick, at the moment Drake stands to makethe greatest impact this season. Tunsil didn’t have a strong first season at left tackle, but let’s not read too much into that just yet. And don’t forget emerging WR/return man Jakeem Grant (6).
Grade I gave last year: B
Adjusted grade today: C
Top pick: DE Charles Harris
Notable pick: DT Davon Godchaux (5)
Notable whiffs: Too early to tell, especially with LB Raekwon McMillan wrecking his knee and missing the season and G Isaac Asiata (5) essentially spending ’17 as a redshirt year when he really could have helped.
Woulda, coulda: McMillan was taken with the 54th pick and could prove to be a fine pick, but the Saints (again, the Saints?) nabbed RB Alvin Kamara from everybody’s noses 13 selections later. Then there’s the tale of the 86th pick, which at one point belonged to the Dolphins. It eventually ended up in the hands of the Chiefs, and all K.C. did was take RB Kareem Hunt, who rushed for 1,327 yards to lead the league.
Comment: I’m taking a wait-and-see approach on Harris and most of this class, but at the moment, two later-round DLs jump out for me: Godchaux and Vincent Taylor (6). With Ndamukong Suh gone, they’ll have ample opportunities in 2018 and I expect them to deliver.
You know the Dolphins are committed to Ryan Tannehill as their starting quarterback in 2018. You also know they currently have the No. 11 pick in this week’s draft. And you know this quarterback class, supposedly four deep, could be spoken for by the time Miami’s on the clock.
But if you need a reminder that all is not lost, here goes.
Recent history tells us there’s a good chance that No. 11 slot will look considerably rosier someday. If you’re willing to erase visions of Sam Darnold or the Joshes (Allen and Rosen) in aqua and orange, you mind find someone on the level of a Case Keenum or Russell Wilson palatable.
Yes. Peruse the list of the NFL’s top 10 passers from last season and you’ll find that fully half of them would have been available at No. 11 in their respective draft pools.
At the risk of bringing up a sore subject, there’s Drew Brees, whose 103.9 rating in 2017 was surpassed only by former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith. Brees was the 32nd overall choice by San Diego in 2001, and behind him in the top 10 are four others who waited awhile for their phone to ring: Tom Brady (famously 199th in 2000), Aaron Rodgers (24th in 2005), Wilson (75th in 2012) and Keenum, who made the Colts wish that when they made the 253rd (and last) pick in the 2012 draft, they instead went with Keenum rather than blow such a hot commodity on Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish.
OK, so making sense of the NFL’s quarterback rating system, where 158.3 somehow equals an A-plus, isn’t everybody’s favorite barometer. Winning is. Let’s now look at the dozen QBs to start a Super Bowl since 2010.
Guess what? Same results. The Mannings (Eli and Peyton) and Cam Newton were No. 1 overall picks, and Matt Ryan slipped through the Dolphins’ hands before going to Atlanta No. 3 overall in 2008, but beyond them, the number of Super passers who were not available at No. 11?
There’s Joe Flacco (18th, 2008), Nick Foles (88th, 2012) and Colin Kaepernick (36th, 2011) in addition to Rodgers, Brady and Wilson. And look here, Ben Roethlisberger, who in 2004 was taken with … the 11th pick.
Finally, since my fingers were itchy on the calculator, I computed the sweet spot for landing these two sets of standout passers, and it’s way lower than you’d think. Before getting to those numbers, a disclaimer: The selection of Brady is such an outlier, for the sake of getting a truer indication, I tossed out both him and Keenum, since there was no way to quantify a guy who wasn’t drafted.
Average draft position for last season’s top 10-rated passers: 17.5.
Average draft position of the Super Bowl QBs since 2010: 26.3.
(If you’re still curious on how the inclusion of Brady would have affected those averages, it’s 37.6 for the 2017 top 10 list and 40.8 for the Super Bowl passers.)
Bottom line: Even if there’s an early run on quarterbacks, the heat will still be on Adam Gase, the QB whisperer, to be screaming in the ears of Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier to find the quarterback of the future.
Eighty-five plus picks came and went before anybody thought enough to call the names Jacoby Brissett, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins and Foles. Just about everybody passed once on Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Baker Mayfield might be Miami’s best hope at landing one of the four prized QBs. That’s on Thursday night. Check back in a few years to see if Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph prove they were the real prizes in 2018.