Finding A Field General


The Dolphins have been looking for a quarterback since oh, Dan Marino.  I believe that when you can say, with a straight face, that outside of Marino the best QB the Dolphins have had since he retired is named Jay Fiedler, it’s safe to say you need a QB.  The Dolphins may not find one again this off-season and enter next year with Chad Henne the sole possessor of the starting job.

From free agency, to trading, to the NFL Draft in April, the Dolphins will attempt to find a starting QB.  A leader. A field general. That one player that can motivate his teammates, take control of the game, and lead.  Knowing what you need is the easy part, finding it is the hard part.  There is no need to sit back and regurgitate the epic fails of the last 15 years.  It’s a problem now as much as it was back then.  So while we can all stand around a water cooler and talk about the Drew Brees issue over and over and over again, the reality is it does not nothing to solve our current issue.

And that will be the task of Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano, and new OC Brian Daboll.  

Prediction at the bottom.

On the roster:

Chad Henne – Henne is the incumbent and like him or hate him most fans believe that there is still a chance that he could become the future QB of this team.  Forget about the stats comparable to Brees and others in the same time period, the facts that surround Henne are hard to dismiss.  He ran a very poorly coached offense designed for someone not named Henne.  He was pulled out of rhythm by a failed Wild Cat formation that only furthered his own downward spiral into mediocrity.

Chad Henne was not allowed to lead this team so it’s worth asking if he can?  The lack of leadership on the field was glaring.  His lack of intensity could easily be mistaken as a lack of caring.  Boredom.  Name your own.  There was no will in his eyes, or fight in his movements.  Towards the end of the season, we saw a bit more spunk but that only seemed to arrive when some of the restrictions were taken off.

Henne is a gunslinger QB.  Probably more like a Jay Cutler to some degree.  He needs to be allowed to play and make mistakes.  Not be told to be careful and not make mistakes.  When your career and your job is on the line do you take chances in tight coverages or do you check off to appease the coaches?  Henne took the latter and failed because of it.  Simply it’s not his game style.  Brian Daboll will tasked to fix that if Henne is to remain the starter, otherwise, Henne will play his last season in Miami and find work elsewhere.

Tyler Thigpen – Thigpen is scheduled to be a free agent and he wants a chance to start.  He won’t be given an honest shot at that in Miami barring an off-season with no free agency.  Thigpen made waves in his one game start this season when proving once again that he couldn’t coach, former OC Dan Henning, couldn’t call a game to match the talents of his QB.

Thigpen is a runner, but he tends to run too soon.  The waves he made stemmed from his disregard to the coaches calls and made in huddle changes to passing routes to appease WR Brandon Marshall.  He didn’t start again all season.  Thigpen will likely be out of Miami if there is a 2011 free agent season.

Chad Pennington – Pennington says he wants to play one more year, which basically means he wants to get paid a couple of million dollars to run 3 plays.  His shoulder is shot and one small bump will send him back to the surgeons table.  Only two people want to see Pennington back on the field this year.  Pennington and that surgeon.  Both will make a lot of money for a limited spot of work.

Pennington is a solid motivator and a good coach for the younger players but his time as a player has run to an end.  It’s time that he decides whether a coaching job at the NFL level is something he wants to do.  He has said previously that he doesn’t know.  The Dolphins management team needs to recognize that re-signing Penny will have nothing but a detrimental effect on the team.  Unless they sign him to stand on the sidelines and offer advice.

Tom Brandstater – The two year veteran has yet to step on a field.  This year he will likely get a good luck in training camp and pre-season and will have a shot at proving that he could become a backup QB.  At 6-5, he has the height to see over big lineman, but outside of that, we have nothing really to see outside of Fresno State college footage.  TB is a work in progress that has yet to really be culled.  He is the guy that runs the scout team during practice.  His future really depends on what the Dolphins do with Thigpen and Pennington.

Free Agents

Vince Young – His name is likely to be the most talked about.  Fast, accurate at times, vocal, emotional, and of course loaded with more attitude than all the diva WR’s in the NFL.  Young has had a tumultuous  career thus far in the NFL.  Surrounded by controversy at almost every turn.  Just when fans thought he had turned the corner in Tennessee, he abruptly changed directions and regressed both on the field and in the locker room.  He has yet to be released by the Titans but most still believe that he will be once a new CBA is instituted.  The Titans say they want to trade him.  If that fails, release is likely to come for the young QB.

For the Dolphins, Young is both intriguing and troublesome.  While the team will likely utilize his running ability to better serve the WC formation without having to pull the QB off the field, there is still questions that surround his consistency as a QB.  While there is no denying he can run, he runs into problems when he is forced to throw.  He often gives up on plays too quickly so that he can use his legs instead.  The real issues with Young though is his character.  Can the Dolphins afford a high priced attitude in the locker room and is that risk worth what he actually could bring to the field?

Seneca Wallace – Wallace is well known to Brian Daboll.  He has had minimal success in both Seattle and Cleveland but is more of a back-up QB than a legit starter.  The Dolphins need to find a legit starter and bringing Wallace in to compete with Henne really isn’t a competition to find the best QB to run the team as much as it would be to find the best QB of the two you have to choose from.  Henne needs a solid competitor that will push him and teach him how to execute a more open offense.  Is Wallace that guy?  Not likely.  But he does have value as a back-up to replace Tyler Thigpen…but then again, that would mean that Henne battled Wallace for the starting job.

Matt Moore – Moore is a guy to keep an eye on.  He may not have that franchise QB stature yet, but he is still developing.  Moore was signed by the Dallas Cowboys under Bill Parcells and they tried to stash him on the practice squad but Carolina poached him.  Moore’s first season with the Panthers was a big success as he finished the season with only one loss.  Last year however the entire team fell apart, with a lot of that reason coming from off-season changes made by owner Jerry Richardson.  Moore is quick and has the ability to move around in the pocket avoiding hits.  His accuracy needs work but he has only had one full season in the NFL to work on it.  If the Dolphins go free agency, Matt Moore is at the top of my list.  He brings an energy that inspires his team around him which leads to leadership.  He may not be a franchise QB but he will push Chad Henne into a solid competition, and could be a capable bridge to a young QB in the future.  Moore is coming off a torn labrum so that injury is an issue of concern.

The rest of the free agents – Brady Quinn and  Matt Hasselbeck.  Hasselbeck is likely to stay in Seattle and I’m not sure if Daboll saw enough in Quinn to bring him to Miami considering the Browns traded him to Denver last year.  .  Alex Smith looks more and more likely to stay in San Francisco under Jim Harbaugh, and the rest of the free agent list is highlighted by Caleb Hanie who almost won the NFC Championship for Chicago this year.

Simply, barring an unexpected release of a veteran such as Donovan McNabb, there simply isn’t anything that really says “starter” or “franchise” next to their name.

VIA Trades

There are more than a few names that are expected to garner trade talk this off-season once teams are allowed to begin trading…if they are to begin trading.  Of those names two have had the highest degree of mention with regards to the Miami Dolphins.

Kevin Kolb – Kolb is young and has been very well coached at this level of football.  So much so that he was anointed the starting QB prior to training camp last year in a move that sent McNabb to Washington.  His injury was his undoing as the play of Michael Vick was so good, the Eagles simply couldn’t justify bringing Kolb back into the fold.  Now, he is reportedly being offered for a second round selection.

But is really worth it?

Kolb has a lot of upside and potential and out of all the possibly available QB’s, he may have the best chance of finding success in the NFL.  But there are issues.  He isn’t a consistently accurate QB and he is trained more as a “West Coast” QB.  A style that is not used in Miami.  Kolb may be the best of what is available but he may not be the best fit for the Dolphins.  He would provide a legit QB competition with Chad Henne however.

Kyle Orton – Orton was part of the Denver/Chicago deal that sent Jay Cutler north.  His season as a starter in Denver was sub-par at best.  Was he, like Henne, a product of a bad system and coaching, or are his mechanics simply not good enough to advance to higher rating?  His statistics were down from previous years and he lost his job to the more engaging Tim Tebow.  The same Tim Tebow who was never going to be successful in running an NFL team, according to many NFL scouts.

The fact that the Broncos found slightly more or at least the same success with a rookie as they did with Orton is the red flag that goes up for me when you consider that Orton will cost the team a draft pick.  Regardless of his relationship with WR Brandon Marshall, Orton is still a project that should have “gotten it” by now.

If we compare Orton to the incumbent Henne, are we improving?  Henne is still young and has yet to reach his potential, we may be seeing all that Orton is going to give.  He has now managed to play a mediocre game for two teams.  Personally, I see his contract value and his compensation in trade value too much to spend on a talent who really hasn’t shown much in the way of return.  Add to that our new QB coach, Karl “I have never coached a QB in my life” Dorrell, and I’m not sure I go this route.

The Draft

Blaine Gabbert – Expected to be off the boards in the top 8 picks of the draft, Gabbert is said to be the most NFL ready of this years class.  The Dolphins would have to move way up to get him.

Cam Newton – There is talk, rumor if you will, that the Buffalo Bills are seriously thinking of taking Newton at three overall.  Perhaps it’s a ruse to solicit a trade down or to take the focus off a defensive player the team really wants.  Either way, pairing Newton with CJ Spiller gives the Bills a formidable offensive one-two speed punch.  The Dolphins are doing their due diligence as well.  Some believe the Phins may try and move up a few spots if he is still on the boards closer to the Dolphins pick at 15.

Newton has a lot of upside.  Speed, accuracy, and the long ball.  What he doesn’t have is the experience.  A one year starter at a top school and in an offense that only requires one read and run is hardly close to what the NFL will require.  He has a lot of learning to do at the next level to be successful and while he may come into the 2011 season blazing with his feet, he isn’t likely to see much time starting for any team that drafts him.

Jake Locker – Some believe that the fast falling Locker is going to be the steal of the draft because of the fact he is falling further and further in the rankings.  There are some who believe he will be taken in the 3rd round.  Locker had a very poor season year and a poor showing at the Senior Bowl.  A poor showing at the Combine next week could drop him into late round 3.  A big arm, Locker has serious accuracy issues and his footwork is a mess.  He is able to move around the pocket and of all the QB’s has one of the highest ceilings for growth.  But he is a project and the Dolphins really can’t afford a project.

Ricky Stanzi – There are some that like him and some that don’t.  And so goes the NFL draft and every player that is in it.  Stanzi has some upside but needs a lot of work to be successful at this level of football.  Of course they said the same things about Tom Brady and just about every other QB not taken in the top 5 of the draft.  The Iowa product has good size at 6-4 and can use his feet to buy time but it’s been reported by several draft sites that he panics in pressure and is unable to make the soft touch throws and become erratic the further down-field he throws.  Sounds a lot like what we have seen so far out of Chad Henne.

Stanzi is a 2nd or 3rd round projection and could improve with a good showing at the Combine.

Andy Dalton – This TCU product is projected to be taken in round 3 or 4 of the draft.  The Dolphins’ Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano, and even Bill Parcells have already spoken with him at his home.  Dalton has some really solid upside and is a good controller of the game.  The deficiencies he possesses are all coachable, stuff like footwork and delivery mechanics.  He could be a good fall back option later in the draft if the Dolphins don’t fall in love with someone else.

Colin Kaepernick – After a very solid showing at Senior Bowl practices, Kaepernick has turned the eyes of a lot of NFL scouts his way.  He is a project with a lot of upside and potential but not likely someone who will contribute much in year one.  He is solid running QB but tends to rely more on his feet than on his arm.  The Dolphins will likely spend some time on this kid at the Combine and in the month leading up to the draft.  While a long term project out of the gates, he could be a very solid long term investment.

Christian Ponder – This is the Miami Dolphins answer to Chad Pennington.  Had Ponder been switched with Henne for the last two years, Dan Henning would look like a genius.  He is smart, deliberate, a leader, has good touch and solid accuracy consistently.  He also can’t throw the deep ball with any degree of consistent accuracy.  If the ball has to go deep, he struggles.  Still, he is solid in almost every other aspect of the game.  Methodical and able to move around in the pocket to buy time and uses his progressions to make to solid reads and knows when to check down.  But the lack of arm strength will hinder his abilities at this level for an offense that needs to open up their playbook.  Ponder is going to be a game manager much like Chad Pennington and if he is drafted by Miami, he could very well have Pennington guiding the start to his career which will really help him adjust to the NFL.  But again, this is not the gunslinger that most Miami fans want running their offense.

Ryan Mallett – Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I really like this kid and wouldn’t be opposed to the Dolphins drafting him.  Mallett has fallen out of the top half of the draft and the Dolphins could trade down, gain a second rounder, and still draft the QB that could be the face of the franchise for the next decade in round 2 or even 3.  He could be the guy that challenges Chad Henne in training camp and could make Henne a better QB because of it.

Mallett has one of the biggest arms in this years draft.  He is 6-7 and 238 pounds.  He is the prototypical pocket passer.  Which means, he can’t move very well outside of it.  For all of his size and arm strength, Mallet is going to need a lot of coaching but you simply can’t deny the talent that he possesses.  He can get the ball down-field and can rip through his progressions and make solid reads.  His problems are that he tends to overthrown the ball letting his passes sail, which at the NFL level means the safeties will have a few opportunities to pick him off.

I suppose I like him because of his size and potential.  Mallett was graded early as a first round prospect and now is sitting in round 2.  Similar players have found the NFL off-season leading up to the draft to be just as agonizing.  Watching their draft stock plummet over off-field issues, which Mallett has more than his share of, and the lack of intangibles that many teams look for.  Names like Aaron Rodgers and Dan Marino.  Not saying that Mallett will become anywhere near that good, but he has the arm strength and mental attitude to do it.  The question is whether or not he will waste his arm strength and size on his attitude and slip away like Jeff George or if he will use the drop in status to re-energize his drive and prove everyone wrong.

Other notables:

Pat Devlin – Strong arm, smart, accurate.  Out of Delaware.

Nathan Enderle – Strong arm, smart, accurate, moves in the pocket well.  Out of Idaho.

PREDICTIONS:  With Tyler Thigpen likely to leave Miami if he becomes a free agent after a new CBA is ironed out, the Dolphins have two choices, stick with Henne and draft a QB, or stick with Henne and find another one to compete.  I’m not sold on Kyle Orton but think that the Dolphins might be if Brandon Marshall endorses him.  Might be interesting to see that play out but I wouldn’t go there unless the price is very acceptable in trade comp.  This years free agent crop doesn’t excite me but I do think that Matt Moore would be the best option for Miami to push Henne while they coach up a rookie, which I have to assume they are targeting in the draft.