The Miami Dolphins are about to play Russian roulette with their QB search. There is no safe bet, there is no savior, there is no right or wrong answer. It’s a game where one bullet, maybe two are loaded in the chamber. Will they hit gold or fire off another shot in a long line of failed attempts to replace Dan Marino? Soon enough, that answer will be revealed and the scrutiny will begin.
After all these years it seems as though replacing Dan Marino has become more afterthought than anything else. With all the QB’s that have stepped behind center in that time, it’s more about finding a solution than replacing a legend. Do we really want to rehash those names? Or their outcomes? Let’s just say that when a one-season wonder in Chad Pennington, a six game winner in Matt Moore, and the memory of stability with Jay Fiedler tops your list of best QB’s since Marino, there is a problem.
Not to take anything away from those three individuals but they did not change the franchise. Not like a Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers would have.
This year it will become more of a spectacle. Why? Simple, the Dolphins have made it clear from owner Stephen Ross to Jeff Ireland to WR Brandon Marshall that finding the solution for the future at the position is as important as anything else. It will also provide new HC Joe Philbin the best chance at success. With the NFL Combine scheduled later this month, teams have started the arduous task of breaking down film, lining up “want” lists, and doing the background checks. All in the hopes of making the one move that will impact next seasons’ standings.
The Dolphins will not be the only team looking to upgrade or fix their QB situation. Seattle, Washington, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Denver all are expected to look at the position both in free agency and the draft. Six teams and very few candidates.
For Miami, the process is a sharp blade knife that all involved are walking on. Each decision comes with it’s own consequences and each has it’s own risk. While free agency may provide the best shot at finding a solution, the draft normally provides teams for their future. The Dolphins haven’t drafted a first round QB since Marino and in the last four seasons have opted for second rounders Pat White and Chad Henne. John Beck was taken in 2007 in the 2nd round and Dante Culpepper cost the Phins a second rounder as did A.J. Feely. In other words, the 2nd round has not been kind to Miami’s hopes of a franchise signal caller.
Yet while it’s easy to realize that a first round QB is the better route to go, the reality is that the draft is the last option available to the team. If they opt for the draft, they will have passed on free agents and if they don’t land the draft pick they want, they go into the season with the same situation as before. Relying on Matt Moore who while showing decent progress is still too raw to figure as a future star.
Of course there is also the problem of compensation. It won’t be easy to move up to the one or two slot if one or both become open. Draft picks are valuable to a team who is trying to build into a playoff contender. Robert Griffin, III will not be an overnight sensation in all likelihood so does two first round picks and more warrant that big of a jump? Would three first rounders and more warrant a jump to number 1 for Andrew Luck? The other issue is supply and demand. If the Dolphins head into the draft without a QB from free agency, then the price to move up will go up. Of course if they have a QB from FA, then they likely won’t need to move up at all. No team is going to buy the argument that Matt Moore is the teams future.
So do you wait for the draft and keep your fingers crossed? Or do you hit the FA market and secure your starter for the foreseeable future? That option comes with it’s own edge.
Peyton Manning is the hot name. Will he retire, will he be released, will he go back to the Colts? Questions upon questions. At the center of this is the one vital question that the Dolphins have to have answered. Will Peyton Manning be able to play in 2012. Indications now say that he won’t. If even a small chance exists, given the nature of his injury, that he will not play, the Dolphins need to look in another direction or they will do nothing more than kill their cap space for the next few years and get no reward from doing so.
So the obvious choice of course is Matt Flynn. He knows the Joe Philbin offense. Joe Philbin knows him. He had a record setting day against a very good Detroit Lion defense, and like Rodgers learned behind Brett Favre, Flynn has spent his career learning behind Aaron Rodgers. It’s a no-brainer. Yet there is always a but. Matt Flynn is a relative unknown. He has yet to feel the pressure of having to win a game or carrying a team on his shoulders to victory when the season and the game is on the line.
He will also be expensive. Not Manning expensive but expensive nonetheless. There is no guarantee that he will be the next Drew Brees anymore than RGIII will be the next Michael Vick or Aaron Rodgers. As much as Peyton Manning is an unknown health issue, Flynn is an expensive gamble in his own right. The issue here however is that either one of them would stand to make the Dolphins a better offensive unit…in theory. As would Andrew Luck or RGIII. In other words, despite the solid outings of Matt Moore, the Dolphins do not view him as the future.
That is where the problem lies.
Miami will compete against Washington, Seattle, Cleveland, and Denver for either Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn. If Manning is deemed unhealthy or unlikely to play in 2012, it’s just Matt Flynn on the top table. The second round of QB’s? Guys like Kyle Orton and Vince Young. Neither of whom offer much in the way of promise. If the team opts to leave Manning and Flynn to someone else and head into the draft to find their next signal caller, they will do so with the risk of not getting who they want and settling for someone who will need more time and development.
Assuming that Cleveland does not land either Flynn or Manning, they are in the best position to trade up to the number 2 spot and land RGIII as they have two first round picks. Seattle sits back a ways and actually is a team that is rumored to have high hopes of landing Flynn. Denver is not likely to go QB in round 1 but could be a team on the radar for someone like Brandon Weeden or Ryan Tannehill. That would leave Washington and Miami left to compete for RGIII. All of this assuming that the Colts take Luck.
The point is simple. The Dolphins need a QB and everyone knows it. They know it. So do five other teams. Free agency has two possibles and the draft has two front end possibles and the list stops there. Four teams will fill their vacancy and two teams will shoulder their team on their incumbents or draft a guy later or take a free agent plan B or C option.
For Jeff Ireland, his decision will have as much impact on Joe Philbin as any other choice he makes or they make together. The question is which way do they take the risk? Is there a safer option of those that are presented? Do you double up one onto the other and hope you hit on player A, B, or both? As free agency ticks towards a start this question above all others will hang over the team, it’s fans, and Jeff Ireland.