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The Miami Dolphins have a big decision to make at the quarterback position.  Ryan Tannehill enters 2018 as the presumed starter based on commentary from the owner, GM and head coach.  It does not appear he will be competing for his job unless Miami surprisingly swings a trade or signs a free agent in March.  Regardless of your opinion of Tannehill, this conversation is much deeper than just the quarterback discussion.

The Dolphin's Brass has to answer two very important questions for their team:

1. Are we close to a deep playoff run or are we another mediocre pretender in need of a rebuild?

2. Should we unload assets via trade to comb Heaven and Earth for a potential franchise quarterback, or, should we continue to build other positions to create a better core?

The answer to the first question is unknown, despite what local beat writers or talking heads will tell you.  No one knows if young players like Kenyan Drake, Laremy Tunsil, Xavien Howard, or a host of others will take it to another level.  The answer to the second question may surprise you a bit.

This is what the folks at MyTopSportsbooks.com see it coming for the Dolphins next season:

With Ryan Tannehill expected to make a full recovery from the season-ending knee injury he suffered early in Training Camp last season, it’s very likely he opens the 2018 season as the Miami Dolphins' quarterback: 1/3 odds. In his lone season with head coach Adam Gase (2016), Tannehill posted a career-high 93.5 passer rating en route to the Dolphins making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.


Although Gase defended Jay Cutler throughout the 2017 season, it’s very unlikely the Dolphins bring back the 34-year-old to compete for the starting job, or to serve as the backup. The odds of Cutler being a Dolphin in 2018 sit at 49/1.


The Dolphins may be happy with Tannehill under center for the 2018 season, but they are not sold on him as a franchise QB yet. As a result, look for Miami to try and acquire one of the top-four QB prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. Possessing the 11th-overall pick, and all the buzz surrounding the quartet of pivots, Miami may need to move up the board if they want Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield, leaving their odds of drafting a QB in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft at 5/3.

 

Make no mistake, this is a quarterback league.  But, if you look at the four teams in the conference championship games this year you should note that at least two had serviceable quarterbacks (Minnesota and Jacksonville) while the third, due to how well built it was, survived a devastating injury by relying on the play of a well built supporting cast.  Heck, even Tom Brady's early success was as a game manager assisted by a phenomenal arsenal of teammates.

"But you are just using anecdotal evidence!!!  You are delusional!  Trade Tannehill and move up!!!"

Look, if the brass has a conviction on a top quarterback I'm all for it.  But a little study of history supports the notion that a team may be best served by creating a comfortable landing spot for a young quarterback.  In 2008 Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were first round picks.  Both enjoyed early success due to strong defenses and a good ground attack aka the pressure for them to carry a team was reduced.  Look at every quarterback back drafted from that point forward and you'll notice that most who succeeded had comfortable environments and great coaching to assist them.  Does Miami currently have that for a rookie signal caller?

As to the notion Miami needs a first round quarterback consider the following: in 2011 Cam Newton was the first overall pick, Andy Dalton was a second rounder.  Both have the same amount of playoff seasons under their belts.  The three other first round quarterbacks selected that year are either unemployed or barely backups.  Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, and Kirk Cousins were drafted on Day 2 in 2012 and have more collective postseason success than Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden (first round quarterbacks that year) combined.  But Andrew Luck is the real deal!!!  Well...

Luck's career record is 43-27.  He is 20-5 versus the AFC South, which has been incredibly weak.  That leaves him 23-22 versus the rest of the league.  That isn't necessarily a knock on him because we all recognize how poorly his team was constructed and what was asked of him to compensate for that weakness.  You can destroy a talented quarterback by putting him in a rough situation and asking him to do too much.

So why such a long winded narrative?  Well, Miami may want to consider whether or not they can develop long term success by avoiding a first round quarterback selection this year.  This quarterback class appears to be much deeper than any of us anticipated.  There very well could be another Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr or Dak Prescott sitting there on Day 2 or 3 just waiting to be stolen.  It also means that if teams rush to draft the Big 4 - Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield - in the top 10 selections it is possible an elite talent at another position falls right into Miami's lap.  Conversely, if one of those quarterbacks is still on the board when Miami picks then they must at least consider it.

My guess is that head coach Adam Gase, who is fiercely loyal to the guys who buy into his program, wants to see Ryan Tannehill succeed.  He is also aware that his team needs help in a lot of other areas so if an elite linebacker, safety or even offensive tackle is available at 11 he will ask Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier to better the team with that avenue.  Gase was present at the Senior Bowl for Day 1 to watch and interview quarterback prospects.  The name that keeps popping in the Twitterverse is Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White with a 3rd or 4th round grade.  Local beat reporter Omar Kelly compared him favorably to Kirk Cousins when the latter competed at the Senior Bowl.  Accuracy, awareness, and most importantly, leadership are things that Mike White exudes.  Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko has been trumpeting White for a long time and after a little research I can see why.  Rumor is he caught the brass's eyes and spent time with Miami during Senior Bowl week.  Also note that GM Chris Grier emphasized leadership as the key quality he looks for in a quarterback.

With all of that said, if I were a betting man I'd say that Miami is going into next season with Ryan Tannehill starting, David Fales as a "break in case of emergency" backup, and will attempt to get Mike White on the roster as someone who can compete with Tannehill in a year or two.  Best case scenario is that White would pick up the system so fast that he overtakes Fales as the primary backup.  In rounds 1 and 2 of the draft Miami can focus on grabbing the best players available to strengthen their roster so that Tannehill and a drafted quarterback have a more favorable atmosphere to succeed.  They also would not have to overpay for a backup.

Final notes are that this is the NFL, crazy things happen and Mike Tannenbaum loves to wheel and deal.  With the Alex Smith trade to Washington and Kirk Cousins having a host of suitors, teams that need a competent quarterback may be willing to overpay for a guy like Tannehill.  His contract is a series of one year deals that a team could easily get out of after 2018 or 2019.  Should Miami love one of the Big 4 prospects then it would make sense to use Tannehill as a trade chip to build assets.  Will it happen?  Probably not.

As I previously mentioned, Gase is loyal to "his guys."  Also, one of the conditions of hiring Gase was agreeing to get the best out of Tannehill.  They are incredibly high on him despite what you read in the media, but they learned a valuable lesson by ignoring depth at the position last year.  That lesson extends beyond quarterback which is why I think they will fortify other areas early on rather than reaching for a first round quarterback.  When the value is right on Day 2 or 3, they will get a guy like Mike White who can be groomed to take over while also having the talent to start a few games should his name be called.

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