Well the 2011 season has been over for all of one day, but since our beloved Dolphins couldn’t manage a playoff berth, it is time to look forward to 2012 and what this team may look like when training camp opens next year. For me personally, it is never too early to start thinking draft. I spend much of my NFL season (when I’m not dominating fantasy football leagues) thinking about the following year and who could end up in what uniform.
Being located in Connecticut, I don’t get the luxury of seeing many Dolphins games. Being addicted to NFL redzone, even when they are on television up here, I find it difficult to change the channel and watch the snail’s pace of a single game. Having a girlfriend who isn’t a big football fan, well…you get it. My point is, I did not get to see a lot of Matt Moore and company so I’d be lying if I said I had a fool proof idea of what the Dolphins need to be a playoff team in 2012.
But there is one thing I can be sure of. The Dolphins need a franchise QB. Once they hire a new head coach, attention will shift to the quarterback position and that will be topic of much debate leading up to free agency and possibly the draft. The topic of who is going to be the next head coach has been covered extensively by everybody on this site, not including me. I’ll stick with the players. Read everybody else for head coaching opinions.
So, we still have a good amount of time before we can have a serious conversation about this. But let’s be real for a second please. The Dolphins started the season 0-7. Everybody had eyes for Andrew Luck. Then, for some reason, the Phins decided week 9 would be a good time to start playing football. They played solid football the rest of the way. The defense showed what made them the sixth-ranked unit in 2010 and Matt Moore (more on him in a second) and Reggie Bush led the offense. They finished the season 6-3 and looked like a team that could’ve made a solid run in the playoffs if the first seven weeks of the season didn’t count.
I know what most of the comments on this article will inevitably say. Something along the lines of, “Matt Moore played great for most of the season! You stupid moron, why do you write this article now? We have our starter!”
Let me set the record straight. Matt Moore played great this year. He was an excellent game manager, used his legs to extend plays and certainly should be the starter going into 2012. But one of my favorite Dolphins writers, Omar Kelly, has made this point time and time again throughout the season, and I agree. Matt Moore is not a closer. He is not a finisher. In the NFL today, you NEED to have that killer instinct, to finish out games. If Matt Moore takes the field with 2:00 left, needing a touchdown to win the game, I am sorry, I don’t not feel confident that the Dolphins will come away with a victory. Compare that to somebody like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. When they take the field in that situation, you EXPECT a game-winning drive. With Moore, it is a pleasant surprise if it happens.
I will say this again. Moore did an admirable job this season and I expect him back in 2012, as the incumbent starter. I would feel extremely confident with him as the backup quarterback. But he is not the answer the Dolphins have been looking for since Dan Marino. Feel free to disagree with me, but how often is a player who was benched and cut in favor of a player like Jimmy Clausen turned into a franchise quarterback?
I do not believe Chad Henne will be back. He looked improved in his limited action in 2011, but both the Dolphins and Henne need to start fresh. I wish him the best of luck wherever he lands.
That being said, who are the options? I’ll talk about the draft in a minute, but let’s start with the free agent market. (Don’t even start with Drew Brees, as he will be buried in New Orleans.)
Matt Flynn- Looks like he will be the crown jewel of a generally weak free agent class in 2012. I like Flynn a lot, but I am a bit worried about the price tag attached to a guy who has 132 attempts and two starts in four seasons. Flynn probably made himself a good $10-$20 million with his ridiculous performance on Sunday against the Lions. 480 yards and six touchdowns, and I’m bashing the guy? Yes, I’m nuts. I know. There really isn’t much bad I can say about him. He had another great performance against the Patriots in 2010, tossing three touchdowns and almost beating a great Patriots team. The lack of experience and the price tag scares me, but sitting and learning behind Aaron Rodgers for four years can’t be a bad thing. Rodgers himself did that and now he’s the best quarterback in the league. There will be heavy competition for Flynn, so the Dolphins will need to go hard to get him, but I think they should. The unknown factor he brings actually kind of excites me.
Kyle Orton- Poor guy. Just can’t seem to catch a break. His regular season stats are comparably to Eli Manning, but he can’t find a starting gig. In my humble opinion, Orton is easily among the 32 best quarterback’s in the league and deserves to be starting somewhere. The Chiefs more than likely will not hold onto him with Matt Cassel returning from injury, so Orton will need to find another new home for 2012. Orton almost ended up in a Dolphins uniform this year, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could be in one in 2012 but I hope not. Orton reminds me a lot of Moore, more of a game manager than a game changer. He takes too long to make decisions and tends to make a lot of bad ones. Orton should be given another shot somewhere, but not in Miami.
Alex Smith- He was once labeled a bust before Jim Harbaugh came to town and believed in him. Now he is at the helm of the surprising 13-3 San Francisco 49ers. Smith is in the perfect situation in San Francisco because they don’t ask him to do too much. He runs a west-coast offense to perfection and rarely makes a bad decision (only five interceptions), but also rarely makes a big play (only a 7.0 yard per pass average). I believe the 49ers will resign Smith, especially if they make a deep run in the playoffs. Even if they don’t, I do not believe he would be a great fit in Miami.
Dennis Dixon- I have always been a fan of Dixon, from his time at Oregon to his short-lived but impressive performance against the Falcons in 2010. He has even less experience than Flynn and will probably not be much more than backup, but I never understood why the Steelers continue to go with never-say-die Charlie Batch instead of giving Dixon a shot when Ben Roethlisberger goes down with an injury. Michael Vick and Tim Tebow have proven that winning as a running quarterback isn’t impossible, so why not give Dixon a chance? He’s already a better passer than Tebow.
Chase Daniel- For those of you playing at home, this would be Brees’ backup, and that alone gets him on this list. He is restricted, but I don’t think the Saints are going to go out of their way to keep him on the roster. He did have success at Missouri, and can move in and out of the pocket. Playing behind Brees for three years is obviously a bonus. Very little is known about Daniel, but he may be worth the risk.
Other names to keep an eye on:
Jason Campbell (OAK), David Garrard (FA), Donovan McNabb, but not really (FA), Rex Grossman (WSH), Chad Henne (MIA)
And then there is the draft. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Matt Barkley decided he was going back to school and they basically played themselves out of the chance to get Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. They will either have the 8th or 9th pick (based on a coin flip, but it doesn’t matter because they are flipping against the Panthers who obviously will not draft a quarterback) and I would say there is a possibility that at least five teams ahead of them that could draft a quarterback with their first pick. Unless the Dolphins want to mortgage their entire draft to move up and take one of those top two guys, they may have an issue finding a franchise guy in their spot. It may be worth it though, if you look at some of the rookies who led their teams this year (Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder), so the Dolphins may want to think seriously about moving up.
Mind you, this is extremely early and I am sure guys will be raising big time between now and after the combine. If I remember correctly, last year at one point Blaine Gabbert was definitely going to guy #1, and then he ended up dropping to #10, so there is room for error here. But let’s take a look at a few of the guys who might make headlines next year.
Andrew Luck- Not going to happen for the Phins, though with Peyton Manning still on the roster and tons of holes to fill on the defense, and Colts could certainly be looking to move down and gain some picks. The top pick will come at a king’s ransom and Colts owner Jim Isray has said he likes Luck, and Manning has said he is okay with drafting the kid. Remember, this could bring about an interesting scenario where the Colts may be looking to trade Manning. He would look nice in a Dolphins uniform. Anyway, Luck is the real deal. There has not been this much hype surrounding a player since Manning and Luck certainly looks like he can back it up. He will be the #1 pick, whether it be the Colts or somebody else.
Robert Griffin III- My personal favorite, and the player I really hope the Dolphins move up for. I love running quarterbacks but I REALLY love running quarterbacks who can throw. RGIII is more accurate than anybody I have seen who can run like he can. It is unbelievable. You need to be accurate in this league. The reigning Heisman trophy winner has solid arm strength, brought a Baylor program that was nothing into the national spotlight and is just awesome. Can you tell I’m in love? I’ve heard of a few boards that have him ranked higher than Luck. That might be a bit over the top but RGIII is the real deal. Stephen Ross, Jeff Ireland, whoever may the head coach, are you listening? DRAFT HIM! FIND A WAY!
Landry Jones- We still haven’t heard officially whether Jones is going to declare for the draft, but if he does, he would probably be on the board when the Dolphins select. He has the big arm that NFL scouts love, but he does make a lot of poor decisions and had some absolutely horrid games in 2011. His big year was 2010 with some big wideouts to help him out, so that raises some questions. I like Jones, but I don’t love him. He is 6’4, a good size for an NFL quarterback. A lot of scouting will need to be done with him in the upcoming months and I think he could be the biggest riser or faller, depending on how he does.
Ryan Tannehill- Heard some good things about this kid, but to be honest, I don’t know much about him. He made only 20 starts in his college career. He also has a big arm and the accuracy will come. He did run for almost 300 yards and four touchdowns on the season as well as throw for 28 touchdowns, so he is mobile, and efficient. Another guy who could very much help his stock with a good couple of months leading up to the draft.
Other names to keep an eye on:
Kellen Moore (Boise State), Case Keenum (Houston), Russell Wilson (Wisconsin), Kirk Cousins (MSU), Jordan Jefferson (LSU)
It is going to be a wild offseason for the Dolphins, and I am excited to see who they bring in. I’m not sure what happened to them in the first seven games of this year, but the final nine showed us who this team can really be and if they bring in the right head coach and make the right moves this offseason, they will be a playoff team in 2012. Mark my words.
Twitter – @notquiterosey