Before I dive into this article I just wanted to make three things clear. First and foremost, I am not a fan of Matt Ryan, nor do I support him in any way shape or form on Sundays. Secondly, I am completely aware that I am writing this article with 20/20 hindsight. Finally, I am not taking up for former Dolphins’ head coach, Tony Sparano, with regards to his firing on Monday. So, there is no need to pull these cards out on me in your comments. The purpose of this article is to bring attention to the biggest need for the Miami Dolphins. The next head coach for the Dolphins should learn from the first round decisions made by both the Falcons and Dolphins in that 2008 draft. This is a tale of two teams who went in completely opposite directions.
Sure, there are a bunch of “what ifs” and both the Falcons and the Dolphins had their own needs at that time. However, the one thing that both teams desperately needed by the end of their dreadful 2007 seasons was a Quarterback. The Falcons ended the season with Joey Harrington behind center and the Dolphins were using a combination of John Beck and Cleo Lemon once Trent Green went down with a concussion. Wow, enough said… Just think about that for a moment. It just blows my mind to even think these two guys were our only QB options at the time. No wonder we finished one and fifteen. The Dolphins were in a terrible situation at the end of that 2007 season and clearly needed to shore up the glaring QB problem. Their answer to this monumental problem: Parcells and Ireland (mainly Parcells) gambled on a mediocre QB in the second round, Chad Henne, who struggled during his college career to win big games. His college career stats were just above average and he did nothing to make you believe he would be a successful QB in the NFL. Instead of going for the highly acclaimed and number one ranked college QB in that draft class, Matt Ryan, the Dolphins decided to fill a need on the offensive line with that number one pick.
Don’t get me wrong, Jake Long has been a fantastic player for the Dolphins. The three-time Pro Bowler is arguably the best left tackle in the League and has been the most consistent leader on this team. You really couldn’t ask for a better player at that position. Long was a solid, safe choice and he was a complete monster at Michigan. It was an easy pick for the Dolphins to draft him with that number one pick. The problem is, the Dolphins had absolutely no talent or leadership behind center at the time. I don’t need to remind any of you how anemic that offense was in 2007. They finished with the 28th overall ranked offense. Well, as the saying goes, “you don’t win friends with salad” and left tackles can’t score points when you need them. When the Dolphins have the ball trailing by four and have under two minutes to go, Long is not the one calling plays with a magical arm who can drive his team down the field to win games.
The Falcons did the right thing using that third pick to draft their franchise quarterback, Ryan. Four years later the Falcons are most likely on their way to a third playoff appearance and Coach Mike Smith looks like a genius when you sit and watch Ryan highlights on NFL Network. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are playing in their third consecutive losing season (first time since 1970) and Sparano is now on Monster.com looking for a job.
Before Sparano even started his coaching career in Miami, he was already set up for failure. For all intensive purposes, Chad Pennington was an early Christmas gift and was not part of the plan during that 2008 draft. If Henne and Aaron Rodgers switched places, Mike McCarthy would have been the one cleaning out his office on Monday and Sparano would be talking about his undefeated team. If you don’t have a solid signal caller, you will not win games in this league. Plain and simple.
The Falcons were down 23 to 7 at the start of the second half on the road against the Carolina Panthers this past Sunday. And what did Ryan do? He threw three second half touchdowns to lead his team to a come from behind victory. I have a question for you, when is the last time a Dolphins QB led his team to victory after trailing at the start of the fourth quarter? Try thirty four games ago when the Dolphins came from behind at home to beat New England in 2009. And as you know, there has been plenty of opportunities where the Dolphins were behind in the fourth quarter in the last three years in which they could have won but failed.
The Dolphins will enter the 2012 draft with the same glaring need they had in 2008. Regardless who the next coach will be for the Dolphins (Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Jeff Fisher, Rob Chudzinski, or the Legend himself, Don Shula), their tenure will be short lived just like Sparano if they don’t draft a franchise QB in the first round. If they don’t, the fans in South Florida will be protesting outside the stadium on draft night. The next regime needs to figure out who they want, then go and get him. If they like Matt Barkley from USC, then trade away draft picks and move up to get him before the Redskins, Browns, Chiefs, or Seahawks do.
DolFans are tired of washed-up, journeymen QBs who only act as a band aid. You can’t always rely on duct tape to fix all of your problems and the Dolphins have done just that since Dan Marino left. The next regime will have their chance to finally right this ship. If they don’t go after a franchise QB with that first pick, we will be seeing another surprise Monday afternoon press conference from Stephen Ross within three years.