The Dolphins are in Southern California the next couple of Sunday’s, facing teams that started out the careers of a couple of first-round quarterbacks far differently than Miami did with Ryan Tannehill.
First comes a game at San Diego, which in 2004 wanted to take Eli Manning first overall in the draft but couldn’t convince the Ole Miss star to come without a fight. The result was a trade with the Giants and the arrival of Philip Rivers in a Chargers uniform.
Rivers, built for the NFL at 6-feet-5 and 230 pounds, was the No. 4 pick in that draft. He didn’t start right away, though. Didn’t start until his third pro season, as a matter of fact, because Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer preferred to have the kid learn the ropes behind veteran Drew Brees.
Seems crazy now, but maybe it wasn’t. By the time Brees was gone to New Orleans and Rivers got his chance everything was synched up for a 14-2 season for the Chargers. Rivers was great then and he’s still pretty good, hitting 24-of-33 passes with a couple of touchdowns in a 43-35 shootout win over Tennessee last week.
Next on the schedule for Miami comes the Los Angeles Rams at Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 20. The Rams are 3-5 with Case Keenum at quarterback and due to be a free agent after the season.
Never mind that the franchise had the No. 1 overall pick in the last draft and used it on Cal quarterback Jared Goff. Gave up a ton of draft picks, too, in order to move into that spot.
Goff hasn’t thrown a pass in the first half of his rookie season, and if he’s in the lineup by the time Miami gets to town, it will be a surprise.
“As I say consistently, repeatedly, week after week, I’m pleased with Jared’s progress,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said following Sunday’s 13-10 loss to Carolina.
Fisher is the coach many South Florida fans hoped would agree to coach the Dolphins in 2012 instead of Joe Philbin.
Is he being stubborn or smart in not moving toward the future of the Rams franchise and turning the offense over to Goff?
Probably overcautious is the answer, taking a page from a 20th-century playbook for coaches and organizations. That’s really not the ticket in L.A., which just got the Rams from St. Louis and needs a reason to fall in love with pro football again.
The Dolphins, on the other hand, didn’t wait with Tannehill, the No. 8 overall draft pick in 2012. He started the season opener of his rookie season, got intercepted three times in a 30-10 loss at Houston and just kept going. The idea was to let him learn under fire rather than letting some caretaker quarterback hold the spot until Tannehill was completely ready.
I had my doubts at the time, in large part because Philbin was a rookie head coach that year, too. It was the right move, though. When and if the Dolphins decide they have had enough of Tannehill, the experiment of drafting him will have been given every opportunity to succeed.
He may not be the elite quarterback that fans hoped, but he wouldn’t have gotten better by wasting time on the bench. And what would have been better in 2012, a 7-9 finish with Tannehill the potential savior or 8-8 with some guy everyone is booing?
Don Shula struggled with the same issue when the Dolphins took Dan Marino late in the first round of the 1983 draft. The future Hall of Famer didn’t start until the sixth game of this rookie season, and it was about time. Marino went 9-2 the rest of the way and got the Dolphins a division title.
David Woodley, even with a prior appearance in the Super Bowl, was never going to be a dominating franchise quarterback like that. Knowing that and acting on it were just matters of timing.
When you invest a first-round pick in a quarterback, the payoff may not come soon enough to please everyone but the collection of real-time data on that decision should be immediate. At least, that’s how it feels in the 21st-century NFL.
Here’s hoping that Goff will be in the lineup against the Dolphins in a few weeks. Makes it more interesting and besides, what’s Hollywood without a star?