Would the Miami Dolphins have been better off had they kept Benjamin instead of Woodley in 1980?
When it comes to the franchise’s other more recent quarterback decisions (Brees/Culpepper, Fiedler/Huard) we can freely venture some educated guesses. But here we simply have nothing to go on. Benjamin threw exactly 63 passes in his professional career. That’s not any kind of meaningful sample. The one thing we can definitively say is that he lacked Woodley’s speed and in 1980 Don Shula wanted a mobile quarterback. We’ll never ever know what kind of player Benjamin might have been. We do know what kind of player Woodley was and while you can’t consider his NFL career a huge success he did lead his team to the playoffs twice, win three postseason games, and start a Super Bowl at the age of 22. That isn’t nothing. And Guy Benjamin may not have been able to come close to those achievements let alone better them.
But on a human level surely it would have been better for Woodley’s psyche had he never been anointed the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. Yes, as a loner and the son of an alcoholic it’s quite possible he would have died alone and broke from alcohol-induced liver disease had he never even put on an Miami Dolphins uniform. But the media spotlight and his on-field failures had to have taken their toll on the poor guy. He tried his best but was just not equipped to cope with the incredible pressures of the modern-day NFL.
David Woodley’s life lends itself to being written about (here’s Dave Hyde’s award-winning column for example). It’s got an arc. You can hit all the obvious chapters easily enough: The Late Round Draft Pick; The Surprise Starter; “The Youngest QB To Ever Start A Super Bowl”; Failure; The Bottle; Throwing It All Away; The Downward Spiral; The End. If it hadn’t all really happened it’d be your classic cliché, a bad made-for-TV movie.
Guy Benjamin’s life and career on the other hand isn’t so pithily summarized. Benjamin’s career lasted as long as David Woodley’s, six years. But where Woodley inexplicably walked away from an opportunity to keep playing and possibly start, Benjamin left the game without ever once getting that chance he kept hoping for year after year. On the field at least Woodley got the breaks that never seemed to come Guy Benjamin’s way. Benjamin just couldn’t catch a break. Three different teams gave up on him. Because he wasn’t good enough? Maybe. But as we’ve seen Benjamin kept getting stuck in bad situations beyond his control. Not once, not twice, but three times trapped behind star quarterbacks.
If Benjamin was drafted today he’d have an entirely different career. An All-American quarterback drafted in the second round today would without question get a chance to start. His salary (not to mention the fans) would practically force his team to give him a shot. If the team refused then that QB would be on the free agent market soon enough. But unfortunately Benjamin came into the league a decade before NFL players could exercise their right to free agency.
Guy Benjamin never started an NFL game. He made no headlines as an NFL player. He never earned any off-the-field notoriety either; no arrests, no feuds, no fights, no scandals, no stints in rehab. Nobody’s written any award-winning columns about him. If he’s bitter about his NFL days I don’t know it (though he’d be only human to sometimes wonder what might have been). What I have been able to find out is this: Guy Emory Benjamin’s led one hell of an exemplary life.
While still a young man Benjamin showed his civic-minded side early serving as executive director of Athletes United For Peace, a nonprofit organization that, according to their mission statement, is "committed to promoting peace, education and friendship through programs and events for young people." In 1987, after earning a master's of arts degree in higher education administration and policy analysis at Stanford, Benjamin served as a teaching assistant there before moving on to not just teach at New College in California in San Francisco, but to found the Sports In Society Institute there, directing the school’s degree completion program for former collegiate student-athletes.
In 1996, Benjamin moved to Hawaii to become the offensive coordinator for the University of Hawaii football team while also serving as an academic advisor to the athletes at the school. After that he taught special education at Campbell High School while again assisting with the football team. Benjamin also found time to do some head coaching at the professional level in the Indoor Professional Football League (winning a championship) and in the Arena Football League’s minor league. While coaching in Hawaii he became impressed with his stepdaughter’s development at Hawaii Business College and, clearly not content to teach only football skills to young men and women, Benjamin decided to become part of the Hawaii Business College community. Starting as the job placement director, he soon became the executive director, improving the school’s "retention, graduation and job-placement rates." As HBC then floundered under new ownership Benjamin made his greatest accomplishment in teaching to date. Along with two partners he established an entirely new school, Hawaii Medical Institute. HMI specializes in national healthcare certifications and Benjamin and his partners have made the programs at the school both practical and affordable while assisting the students at the school in finding jobs.
Denied the chance to contribute on an NFL field Guy Benjamin’s contributed far more to society than most professional athletes. We could use more human beings like him.
Guy Benjamin and David Woodley