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The NFL gave out its season
senior superlatives "honors" the night before the championship game. The Miami Dolphins won the coveted Bridgestone Cluch Performance Play of the Year... for a trick play touchdown in the second quarter of a game against the Eagles that would see the two teams combine for forty-one more points after the "clutch" play. Hrm. It feels like a participation award. Thanks, Bridgestone.
But that wasn't the only trophy to go to someone still on the Dolphins' payroll. The award for the nebulously defined "comeback player" of the year went to Ryan Tannehill (who accounted for $18 million against the Dolphins salary cap despite not playing a single down for the team).
In 1972, Miami Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for playing an integral role in leading the Dolphins' to the NFL's only undefeated season. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Morrall had been discarded by the Baltimore Colts who preferred instead to give 38-year-old Johnny Unitas yet another chance.
In 1994, Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for passing for 30 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards on the way to a 10-win season. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Marino had torn his Achilles tendon in the fifth week and ruined what was projected to be a division-winning season.
In 2008, Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for surviving an 11-win season without suffering further injury. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Pennington had played in only nine games for the New York Jets, losing the eight of them that were not against the Miami Dolphins.
In 2019, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for coming off the bench mid-season to ultimately lead his team to the AFC Championship game. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Tannehill had been a Miami Dolphin.
Congrats to Tannehill for successfully getting out of the talent-sucking tar pit. And thanks to Friend Randy for passing along news that Tannehill was finally a winner. I'm sure he wasn't gloating. (Randy's a Dallas fan.)
I haven't mentioned the Miami Dolphins in over two months and for good reason. They're bad. They're even bad at being bad. Their best achievement in 2019 was having Dan Marino named as one of the 10 greatest quarterbacks of the past century. Too bad Marino retired 20 years ago. The team hasn't had a consistently decent quarterback since.
To solve that problem, the team started the 2019 season with the intention of losing more than anyone has ever lost before to secure the first pick in the 2020 draft. They ultimately finished fifth in the race to be worst, meaning they won't get the best available quarterback. They might not even get the second, third, or fourth.
The best option, according to just about everyone, is Joe Burrow, whose LSU team mastered the art of having offensive linemen get away without being called for holding. He is followed in some order by Justin Herbert, Jacob Eason, and Jake Fromm. Two of them are/were Georgia Bulldogs, so I'd be fine cheering for them as Dolphins. On the other hand, Herbert is slow to make decisions, but is a nearly seven-foot-tall giant. Given that NFL scouts are size queens and Herbert is the one I like least, I figure he's the one most likely to be the Dolphins' eventual pick.
If there's any good news for the Dolphins, it's that their original target QB, Tua Tagovailoa, has fallen from his early projections and should still be available at five. (Maybe even at twenty.) Why? Because he's fragile. Would the team that famously passed on Drew Brees' wounded wing draft a player who's the real-life equivalent of a mid-80s G.I.Joe figure with a busted rubber band? We'll see.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins' last quarterback project, Ryan Tannehill, refuses to lose with his new team. Two games into the playoffs, two wins. That's two more than Ryan won in seven years with the Dolphins. Given that the Dolphins are still paying Tannehill against his last contract, they deserve at least some credit for those wins, right?
It remains possible, maybe even likely, that last year's starting QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick will return under center in 2020. In 2019, playing for his 8th team, Fitzpatrick became the oldest player (37) to lead his team in rushing yards (243) and rushing touchdowns (4) in a season, which implies that the Dolphins running game might be a bigger problem than whoever they've got under center. (Tannehill, for example, is now winning largely thanks to the legs of Derrick Henry.) I won't be surprised if the team decides to try losing another year's worth of games to address that problem in 2021.
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No sooner do the Dolphins trade one Ryan than they pick up another.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald has been signed as the Dolphins' starting signal caller. The Dolphins will be Fitzpatrick's 8th team in his 14-year career. He'll set a record if he completes a single pass for the 'Fins in 2019. Long-term marginal competence has to count for something, and that something appears to be about $5 million, the price of Fitzpatrick's new contract. The team paid Jay Cutler twice that in 2017. He won 6 games. I guess they're expecting Fitz to manage only 3.
This will be Fitpatrick's third tour of duty in the AFC East. He's already passed through the locker rooms of both the Bills and the Jets. All totaled, he's managed a career 6-5 record against his new team. The only team in the division that hasn't hired him is the New England Patriots. He has a 2-9 record against them.
It's probably worth noting that during Fitzpatrick's entire career, the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins have had at least 13 starting quarterbacks — each — while the Patriots have had essentially one. (Technically, they've had 4. Tom Brady missed all of 2008 with a knee injury and served a 4 game suspension in 2016 because he likes saggy balls. But there was never any doubt who the team's starting quarterback was.)
Will Fitz bring his Fitzmagic to Miami in 2019? My Magic 8-ball says no. So does Vegas. Even before dumping Tannehill, sports books were down on the 'Fins. Last week, if you bet a dollar on them to win the Super Bowl, you could pocket $300. That's three times longer odds than are being given to any other team. Comparatively, the never-going-anywhere Detroit Lions are 100-1. Those were Friday's odds that the Dolphins could win their division. I'm sure the addition of Fitzpatrick isn't bringing them any closer.
Ye gods. It's going to be a long season.
One year ago, I wrote, "Sadly, it looks like another rebuilding year is in the cards for the 'Fins." I shouldn't have acted so surprised. Ever since a real estate baron bought the team in 2008, the rebuilding never stops in Miami.
It was pretty clear that 2019 was going to be a rebuilding year when Coach Gase was fired (with cause). And then Yesterday, the Dolphins traded starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the Titans. Ryan was a first-round pick (8th overall) in 2012. After 6 years — though only 4½ on the field thanks to some very questionable medical decisions concerning his oft-injured knee — he's now worth something less. (The Dolphins essentially gave away Tannehill plus $5 million for a 2020 4th round pick. That feels about right. He should have been a 4th round pick in 2012.)
With Tannehill gone, there are zero quarterbacks on the roster who have played a single snap in the NFL. That's a step up from 2017, when Jay Cutler filled in.
The question now is whether the Dolphins hire a cheap free agent to fill the void or will some rookie from the draft get the call? Neither of those seem like great options. I can't say as I'm very excited about the prospect of Jacksonville wash-out Black Bortles taking snaps, and there's no phenom like Andrew Luck coming out of college this year. 'Suck for [Drew] Lock' doesn't have the same ring.
Maybe I can find something else to do on Sundays this fall.
As if playing for the Miami Dolphins wasn't bad enough, wide receiver Jarvis Landry — the 2017 NFL leader in receptions — has been traded to the Cleveland Browns. Ouch.
Yes, Landry has a tendency to be a diva, but not more so than other players at his position. Yes, Landry has a tendency to commit penalties, but other players on the team were much worse. Yes, Landry's yards per catch were low, but his quarterback was Jay Cutler. The team's second leading receiver, Kenny Stills, had almost twice the average yards per catch on half as many receptions, but it's not Landry's fault that every-other pass to him was thrown behind the line of scrimmage.
Landry's true sin was wanting to be paid what he was worth. That's something the Dolphins' front office won't tolerate. That's why they got rid of Jay Ajayi last year. (Poor Ajayi was booted straight to the Philadelphia Eagles who only managed to go on to win the Super Bowl. What a bust!) That's why they'll soon be unloading Ndamukong Suh. Rumor has it that Ryan Tannehill — the team's highest-paid remaining player — will soon be shown the door for a similar reason. Ye gods, it's a housecleaning!
Sadly, it looks like another rebuilding year is in the cards for the 'Fins. Current GM Chris Grier must believe that when players say they love the game so much they'd play for free, they really will play for free. He certainly wasn't willing to open his wallet for either Ajayi or Landry despite both far outperforming their rookie contracts. That sets a pretty bad precedent for future rookies.
Don't get too attached to Miami, draft class of 2018. If you play well, you'll only be asked to choose between taking a pay cut or packing your bags. If you're lucky like Ajayi, maybe you'll get traded to Super Bowl-bound teams.
The Miami Dolphins have made the NFL playoffs! They play the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1PM EST on Sunday.
The last time the Dolphins played a playoff game was January 4, 2009. They lost that game 27-9. I'm not convinced that this year will be any better.
In 2009, the team lost mainly because NFL Comeback Player of the Year Chad "Noodle-Arm" Pennington threw four interceptions. That can't happen again, right? I mean, Pennington has long retired, but starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is still out with a bum knee, leaving backup Matt Moore in his place. Moore has a fair arm, but he can be a bit reckless. Surely he won't be four interceptions worth of reckless. Right?
If the Dolphins do manage to get past round one — they did beat the Steelers 30-15 back in October — they'll head into a second week rematch against the New England Patriots. They've played the Patriots twice already this year, losing 31-24 (with Tannehill) and 35-14 (with Moore). Yeesh.
So go Dolphins! (And better luck next year!)
The Miami Dolphins are guaranteed a winning season for the first time since 2008. It's an unusual sensation. I'd forgotten what it felt like to cheer for a winning NFL team.
If the Dolphins win on Christmas Eve in Buffalo and on New Year's Day versus the New England Patriots, they'll definitely make the postseason. There are scenarios in which they could lose one or both of those games and and still have a shot at playing for the league title. Given the Dolphins' history of poor performance in the snow and against teams much, much better than they are, I'm not holding my breath.
(It doesn't help that starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill busted his ACL in week 14 and may or may not return before September 2017. Great timing, that.)
However, don't let my pessimism about the future fool you into thinking that I'm not excited about the present. I am, indeed, very happy that the Dolphins won't finish the season as losers, something I predicted before the season started.
That's the best thing about being a pessimist. It's always a pleasant surprise when you're wrong.
The train wreck that was the 2015 Miami Dolphins didn't end today with the season's closing bell. Even before even taking the field to play (and defeat!) the New England Patriots, the team had fired Dennis Hickey, its General Manager of the past two years. Hickey is the same man responsible for overpaying Ndamukong Suh and Ryan Tannehill. Too bad he won't be taking the balance of those contracts with him.
To be fair, Hickey was also responsible for bringing in two players I like, Brent Grimes and Knowshon Moreno. By any metric, he was a far better judge of talent than his predecessor, "Blind" Jeff Ireland. I don't think its any coincidence that in the past two years that Ireland has been scouting for the New Orleans Saints, they've fallen to the bottom of the talent hole in the NFC South.
Hickey is being replaced by Mike Tannenbaum, the man who brought superstar Darrelle Revis into the league when Tannenbaum was working for the Jets. However, Tannenbaum also drafted Mark Sanchez, a quarterback bad enough to ride the bench for the snakebit Philadelphia Eagles. In the five years Tannenbaum was guiding the Jets, the team went only slightly better than .500. In the Dolphins' case, that would be an improvement.
Speaking of drafting talent, the Patriots have won the AFC East for 7 consecutive seasons in part because at draft time they have plenty of picks they've hoarded from trades with other teams. It's no coincidence that they keep reaching Super Bowls with players no one has ever heard of. As a general rule, you should emulate the best teams, not do the opposite of what you see them doing.
Tannenbaum has a pronounced history of giving away picks, averaging about 4 per Jets' draft compared to the Patriots' 8. It's hard to find talented players to fill the roster when your already-talented opponents have twice as many picks as you do. I hope Tannenbaum has learned that lesson. Given that the Dolphins think so highly of him, I'm pretty sure he hasn't.
UPDATE 2016-01-04: Tannenbaum will apparently remain in an executive role ("Executive Vice President of Football Operations," whatever that means), as the Dolphins have announced that the new General Manager is the previous Director of College Scouting, Chris Grier. I am not going to pretend that I understand the difference between an EVPoFO and a General Manager. My guess is that it just gives Tannenbaum someone else to fire before he feels any heat himself. Grier has been with the Dolphins since 2000, which means he's seen just about every possible wrong way to build a team, including the draft busts of Ted Ginn, Dion Jordon, second-round quarterbacks John Beck and Pat White, and many, many other questionable decisions that didn't pan out. I hope Grier has learned his lesson. Given that he's still with the organization, I'm pretty sure he hasn't.
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NFL preseason kicked off on Sunday, and the league seems to think I should be excited about that. I'm not.
Maybe I'd be excited if I was a fan of a team that didn't look like the same mediocre club that's gone 8-8 the past 2 years. Maybe I'd be excited if we weren't going into year 4 with a coach who has still lost more games than he has won. Maybe I'd be excited if we didn't have the most boring uniforms in the league.
In the offseason, the Dolphins gave Ryan Tannehill, an unproven quarterback, $96 million. They also gave Ndamukong Suh, the league's dirtiest player, $114 million. You get what you pay for, and what we've got is mediocrity and dirt. Hooray.
Of course you can't win games without receivers and running backs, and I challenge anyone who hasn't been paying attention to the Dolphins to name one of either on the current roster. Hell, I've watched every game for decades, and I can only name a couple. (Poor Knowshon Marino has to take the year off for his bad knee and might not ever return to the 'Fins. There goes even that reason to watch.)
So, no, NFL, I don't care that your football is coming back right now. Try me again when the wins and losses start counting. I'll want to know just how bad my Dolphins really are.
All week long, Miami Dolphins'
rocket scientist head coach Joe Philbin has refused to name the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders (in London!). Tired of waiting for his coach to state the obvious, Ryan Tannehill went ahead and made the announcement for him.
I suppose that Philbin was trying to light a fire under Tannehill after a weak start to the season, but seriously, who else is he going to start? Matt Moore? Not only hasn't Moore started a game in 3 years, he wasn't healthy enough to play in the preseason.
Where else is Philbin going to find a new quarterback 4 days before kickoff? The NFL has flown mediocre — and that's probably too generous a term — teams from Miami and Oakland across the Atlantic Ocean for this glorified exhibition game, leaving any potential replacement quarterbacks stateside. Where in London can Philbin find a rocket-armed wife abuser at this late date?
Of course, this whole debate is moot. Even if Philbin had a replacement who could complete a pass, Mike Wallace would just drop it anyway.
Tannehill called your bluff, Philbin. Your move.
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