Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Miami Dolphins and their Quarterbacks, Part Four

Since he already had Dan Marino, Jimmy Johnson didn't do much when it came to the quarterback position. But Dave Wannstedt didn't have Dan Marino. Marino retired. All Miami had left was Damon Huard and Wannstedt didn't see Huard as part of the team's future. So to address this desperate situation Wannstedt turned three decades of team history on its head. Previously, when the team needed a starting quarterback they used a number one pick to draft one. Wannstedt eschewed doing that in 2000. Miami didn’t do it in 2001 either. Or 2002. Or 2003. Or 2004. Or 2005. They didn’t spend any second-round picks on a QB either. Or any third-rounders. Or fourths. The team used just one draft pick on a QB from 2000 through 2005: a sixth-rounder on Josh Heupel, a never-was, in 2001. Rather than draft a QB, Wannstedt went the free-agent route. Now in previous years it was not uncommon for Miami to bring in free agents. Those free agent QB’s usually had two things in common: they were experienced older QB’s, brought in to back up the entrenched starter. (see Morrall, Jaworski, Kosar). By contrast, Wannstedt brought an INEXPERIENCED older QB, and he brought him in to START. Fiedler was 29 but he’d hardly ever played. As a group quarterbacks being to decline by age 32 so the move to Fiedler definitely went against the book. I don’t mean to rip Jay Fiedler here. I thought he handled the unenviable job of following Dan Marino rather well. And Fiedler wasn’t a bad quarterback (especially considering the garbage the team’s had since he left). He had an occasional flair for the dramatic, he was willing to sacrifice his body to make a play, and he worked hard. He just wasn’t accurate enough.

In case Fiedler proved not to be the answer, Miami brought in some other QB’s. As we’ve already seen, Miami used to bring in two kinds of QB’s to back up their Hall-of-Fame starters: (1) the aforementioned experienced older free agent QB’s; and (2) young draftees who could be groomed as the team’s QB of the future. Again, Miami jettisoned that strategy and used free agency and trades to obtain QB’s who were inexperienced and had already been rejected by other franchises as QB-of-the-future material. Ray Lucas, Sage Rosenfels, Brian Griese, and A.J. Feely were all brought in to back up Fiedler at various times. None of them had been top draft picks and none of them impressed (to say the least) when given their opportunity in Miami. Only Griese could remotely be said to have had some success prior to his Dolphins tenure yet Denver’s willingness to part with him while he was still in his prime was certainly a warning sign not to expect much. Griese's since become the very definition of a journeyman quarterback. Feeley was a far bigger debacle as he was not only terrible, but the Dolphins actually parted with a second-round pick to get him. (That was Rick Spielman’s brainstorm by the way). I admit to a soft spot for Ray Lucas though. I don’t know that in all my years watching professional football that I’ve ever seen a QB play as badly as Lucas did in his first three Dolphins starts. Just comically inept.

Even after Wannstedt’s departure and Nick Saban’s arrival, the organization continued to ignore what had once worked and instead kept following the same quick fix QB strategy that had repeatedly failed since Marino's retirement. Yet another failed QB, Gus Frerotte, was brought into start in 2005 and the team traded for the aptly named Cleo Lemon as well. Frerotte wasn’t half bad actually but clearly wasn’t the answer either. Still refusing to draft a QB, Saban at least recognized an upgrade was necessary and shopped for a star free agent to take over. He chose poorly. Duante Culpepper put up great number for Minnesota prior to his horrific knee injury but, post-injury and sans Randy Moss, Culpepper played just as badly as the other free agent bums Miami brought in after Dan Marino’s retirement and he was gone a year later. 2007 brought a new coaching change in Cam Cameron and he and Randy Mueller actually executed a partial return to the team’s old successful ways. Miami at last expended a high pick on a QB, a second-rounder for John Beck, the highest the team had taken a QB since, believe it or not, Marino in 1983. Still, Bob Griese and Dan Marino were blue-chip first rounders and Miami had a chance to take one in 2007, but they passed on Brady Quinn. Only time will tell if that was wise but I have to admit that from what we've seen so far I don’t have a good feeling about it. Camerson and Mueller did head down the free-agent route again for a short-term starter, and Trent Green had once been a very good QB, but his concussion problem reared its ugly head in scary fashion and after the injury he was lost to the team for the season.

As the 2008 season begins, the Miami Dolphins again turn to a new regime, this one headed by Bill Parcells, a man who certainly knows football and has a track record of success. For the second straight year the team spent a second-rounder on a quarterback, former Michigan star Chad Henne. Are either he or Beck the team’s future? Who knows? But given the team’s history, relying on one of them or spending a future top choice on a top quarterback prospect has to be preferable to relying yet again on another team’s castoffs to lead the team back to a Super Bowl.


sptrfn said...

Well, it looks like Miami's QB to start the season will be...Chad Pennington. Now that they have Chad, Beck should be gone. They need a veteran behind Penny to give Henne(that rhymed) time to develop in case of an injury.

John L. Hoh, Jr. said...

I would say Marino was pushed out rather than retire. Bad choice by the coach the Chicago Tribune dubbed "Death Spiral Dave."

sptrfn said...

I heard that Marino was thinking about going to Minnesota before retiring. I was watching the Top 5 Reasons special about him not winning a ring, and I was thinking that he should have went to Baltimore in 00. He might have won a few rings with that team.

Mike said...

Having lived in New York the past 10 years (ugh... hate the Jets) I think Pennington is an inept piece o crap. Remeber the comical press conference about how "lcky" journalists were to speak with him? Yeah right. Get ready for a lot of INT's from this "veteran". If Kellen Clemens beats you out, its bad news.