Since Dan Marino left the Miami Dolphins organization, or rather pushed out of the organization by Dave Wannstedt, the team has been in a downward spiral at the position. We all know the names of the starters since Marino left. Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, Sage Rosenfels, A.J. Feeley, Gus Frerotte. Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington,Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Tyler Thigpen, and Chad Henne.
Did I miss anyone?
We, the fans, and to some extent the media continually place blame on the QB’s that have failed to take control of the roster but in reality, it’s more the management of the team that has put the Dolphins in such bad shape. Forget about the “we could have, should have, or needed to get” mantra from fans and media for names like Drew Brees, the Dolphins coaches and managers simply never had a vision of what the team needed or should have been.
As the years wear on and the QB situation in Miami continues to baffle, it’s easy to point the finger of blame towards the QB’s that have started since the man to the right left for good. It’s hard however to blame players who were either never starting material, far past their prime, injured, or had a history of being injured. That blame belongs not on the players but instead the visionaries who brought them to Miami in the first place.
Dave Wannstedt gets his name brought up more than just about any other coach in Dolphins history when the talk turns to the teams failures. Let’s face it, Don Shula may have been rode out of town on the heals of poor seasons but he also still enjoys being the winningest coach in NFL history. Let alone the Miami Dolphins. Earlier today, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports, wrote a column about this very issue as it relates to teams and their trying to replace legends. You can read that here. I disagree with Marvez on the point of the Dolphins. Simply because in my mind, the team never tried to replace Marino.
Wannstedt took over the team when Jimmy Johnson bailed for the television studio. He was both Head Coach and General Manager. Immediately, Wannstedt turned to a little known back-up QB who had one solid game. A mop-up against the Dolphins a season before in the playoffs. Jay Fiedler lacked the pedigree, he lacked the arm strength, he lacked just about everything except pure desire. Instead of trying to find a top flight QB, Wannstedt instead would trade two 1st round draft picks for Ricky Williams and let Fiedler and his top ranked defense run the show.
As the seasons wore on and Wannstedts failures mounted, the team promoted Rick Spielman to the GM spot. His lone season as GM sent a 2nd round pick for A.J. Feely. A perennial back-up.
Perhaps the biggest failure came a year later when Nick Saban and his college swagger spent the money and the pick compensation to land Daunte’ Culpepper. Who would spend his two Miami seasons injured with the same injury he came in with. In the two seasons that Saban stayed in Miami, the lack of vision and priority at the QB spot showed clearly in the choices that were made. While Saban overhauled a lackluster defense and brought the runaway salary situation under control, he failed to find a franchise QB. Not because he swung in miss, but instead because he simply didn’t look.
Enter Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller. Yes, in hindsight drafting Brady Quinn over Ted Ginn, Jr. may not have proved to be the fix that fans were looking for but it would have showed a commitment to solving the problem. Instead, they gave us John Beck who simply never got the time he needed to become anything but a third stringer. Ironically, he stands to start the season for Washington as the starting QB.
Cameron and Mueller had one year and one year only to find their solutions. Despite their failure as a duo, the reality again was simple. They lacked the foresight to bring in a fix to the QB problem that Miami was plagued by. While many thought that trend would change with the arrival of Bill Parcells, it really didn’t. The team got a gift from the Jets when they released Chad Pennington. Despite his phenomenal first season with the team, everyone knew he was not a long term solution. Specifically due to his history of injury.
The staff did however bank on the development of Chad Henne. So far it’s been a bag of mixed reviews that lean heavily towards yet another failure. General Manager Jeff Ireland faces an uncertain free agency period when the lockout ends and perhaps he too will forego the addition of a possible franchise QB in favor of another season with Henne at the helm.
Jeff Ireland is the here and now and regardless of whether he goes looking for an FA QB this year, sticks with Henne, or goes into next years draft looking to make a splash, his tenure in Miami will be graded almost solely on what he leaves the team at that position when his time is done. It’s an ongoing theme in Miami that has not left favorable marks for any of the previous management teams since Don Shula. And more specifically Dan Marino.