From 1983-1999, the Miami Dolphins employed one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. When Dan Marino retired, the franchise started a decade long tradition of not investing a first round pick into the most important position in football. Instead they chose to sign other teams’ former first round picks that flamed out in those cities or to spend lower round draft picks on rookies. Here’s what happens when you don’t invest a first round pick into a rookie quarterback.
Jay Fiedler, Ray Lucas, Damon Huard, Brian Griese, AJ Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Dante Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Pat White, Tyler Thigpen, and last but not least, Chad Henne.
Some say that the Dolphins didn’t want to invest another draft pick into a rookie quarterback after spending three second rounders on John Beck, Chad Henne, and Pat White. Drafting quarterbacks isn’t the problem. Not going after a franchise guy in the first round is the problem.
As we stand today, 21 of the 32 NFL franchises are having their offenses led by first round draft choices. Only one other round has more than 2 quarterbacks coming from its ranks (that’s the 3rd round if you count Charlie Whitehurst). The Dolphins can’t say that they haven’t had the opportunity to take the right guy. They just seem to place more value on other positions or fear failure and go the “safe“ route. The latter is what happened in 2008.
Since 2000 only 3 teams have had the number 1 overall pick and not drafted a quarterback. In 2000 the Cleveland Browns drafted Courtney Brown (DE) with the first pick because they took quarterback Tim Couch #1 the year prior. In 2006 the Houston Texans drafted Mario Williams (DE) with the first pick, because they took David Carr #1 overall in 2002 and new coach Gary Kubiak believed that he could change Carr’s bad decision making. In 2008 the Miami Dolphins selected Jake Long (OT) first overall because they felt they needed a franchise left tackle and believing quarterback was too risky of a pick. The Dolphins were scared of spending big guaranteed money on a quarterback first overall, after seeing one of the biggest bust of all-time, JaMarcus Russell get drafted #1 the previous year.
The excuse is that there is huge risk on drafting a quarterback with the first pick. The belief is that if you spend that much money on a player and he fails at that prominent of a position, that you’ll set the franchise back for years. But that’s the case with selecting any quarterback. You can’t let fear dictate decisions or you will have already lost.
Is the risk really that high? If you look back at the first quarterbacks selected from 2000-2010 you’ll see the success rate is tremendously higher than any other place in the draft. Would you take a 70% success rate or take your chances on back-to-back-to-back second round talents that every team passed on at least once.
The name that sticks out to Dolphins fans on that list is Matt Ryan. Ryan is one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s also the quarterback that Miami passed on for Jake Long. While Long is a great offensive lineman, he’ll never lead the Dolphins to the playoffs, throw a game winning touchdown, or stop an elusive pass rusher that comes off the right side of the line. The quarterback is the most important player on the field and the Dolphins need to understand that. When the new decade began, Miami fans hoped that 10 years of a failed plan would change, but it didn’t.
I’ve been singing the praises of 49ers’ rookie quarterback, Colin Kaepernick since January. Despite the early emails, twitter messages, and comments from “draft experts” guys that called for my resignation, because Kaepernick was “not being worth anything higher than a 4th round pick”. I had Kaepernick slotted to the Dolphins with the 15th pick overall. On draft day several teams attempted to move into the 1st round to acquire the young gun. They weren’t able to work out a deal so, Kaepernick slipped to 36th overall.
Colin fits perfectly with what the Dolphins need from a quarterback. They attempted to get a guy that could pass and run the wildcat in Pat White. Kaepernick has the accuracy, arm strength, and size that would effectively run the wildcat and get the ball to a weapon like Brandon Marshall. He would take the pressure off the running game as well and keep the defense honest a la Mike Vick.
While all that sounds well, the Dolphins chose to instead go the exact same route as 2008 and draft an offensive lineman in Mike Pouncey over a franchise quarterback. Pouncey was over hyped because of what his brother did as a rookie. But even if he can perform at the same level, who’s he going to protect with Jake Long and the gang? Chad Henne? Oh wait, this is the part where you tell me they go after another free agent QB that was a 1st round pick for another team, but didn’t pan out there. Then you will tell me why he’ll work in Miami. No thanks, I’ve seen this movie, “How to Lose a Franchise in Ten Years” repeatedly for the last decade and I’m not up to watching it for another.
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