There hasn’t been much for Miami Dolphins fans to cheer about lately. Miami hasn’t posted a winning season since 2008 and they haven’t tasted the sweet nectar of a postseason victory since 2000.
Aspirations seem fairly moderate for the Dolphins heading into the regular season as the team is coming off a 6-10 campaign with a first time head coach in Joe Philbin. Although Miami spent the eighth-overall pick in the 2012 draft on quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a few later round selections upgrading the offense, Miami seems to be hell bent on playing veterans who are way past their prime.
When the Dolphins released their first depth chart of the summer, journeyman David Garrard was listed as the top quarterback with Chad Johnson and Legedu Naanee. Although this means very little in terms of who could start when Miami opens the season at Houston, Miami appears to be leaning on their veterans early on.
“I talked to the team and I told them that we’re releasing a depth chart,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “It by no means means any final decisions have been made.”
Although every franchise would like to believe it’s in their best interests to play the very best players at the time, that serves the present much more than it does the long-term future in the case of the Dolphins.
To put it bluntly, if the Miami Dolphins play the 2012 season with either David Garrard or Matt Moore at quarterback they really have to ask themselves what they’re trying to accomplish. David Garrard has had one winning season as a full-time starter in his career and at 34 years old his best days however mediocre they were are clearly behind him. Matt Moore is in his prime at 27 years of age, but he’s proven little more than to be a dependable backup. Despite going 6-6 as a starter in 2011, the Dolphins spent a first-round pick on Tannehill to be their signal caller of the future.
If Miami plays one of the veterans and everything seemingly goes right, the Dolphins are still the least talented team in their own division. At best they could be looking at an 8-8 season. That would allow them to have a middle of the road draft pick as they still wonder if Ryan Tannehill can be the face of the franchise.
Ryan Tannehill was criticized harshly in the months preceding April’s draft as a player who wasn’t first-round quality, much less Top 10 pedigree. Clearly the Dolphins saw something in him as they selected the former Texas A & M Aggie eighth overall after hiring his former head coach Mike Sherman to be the offensive coordinator.
Time will tell if the critics or the team will be correct but the only way Miami will find out is by playing the young, athletic signal caller. The quicker Tannehill gets on the field, the quicker Miami will find out whether he can be the guy to lead the franchise back to the postseason. Worst case scenario is that he shows nothing this season and the team is that much closer to finding out the complete story about Tannehill.
This offseason the Dolphins signed Chad Johnson….Ochocinco….now Johnson again, as they needed to find a number one receiver. Instead they got an outspoken, outlandish 34 year old who caught all of 15 passes a season ago. If their depth chart holds true, Miami will be playing Johnson above youngsters such as Clyde Gates and B.J. Cunningham.
Miami needs to embrace where they are as a franchise, which is clearly in rebuild mode. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette and if playing rookies like Ryan Tannehill, B.J. Cunningham and Lamar Miller means a few more losses and a high draft pick, so be it. Head coach Joe Philbin’s job is not on the line this season and the sooner that Miami gets the future started the better off they’ll be.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for SportsTalkFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie