Playoffs? Dolphins history says you just can’t get there from 5-7

The Miami Dolphins looked great against Denver last Sunday. Now all they have to do is play great enough to win the last four games of the regular season, including a Monday nighter against New England, and they’re, what, a remote playoff possibility?

Truth is, the reality of the situation is even tougher than that sounds.

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) enters the field during pre game introductions at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 3, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

No Miami team has ever gone from 5-7 to a playoff appearance. The only thing that comes close to that is 1995, Don Shula’s final season, when the Dolphins were 6-6 after 12 games and rallied to claim the AFC’s final wild-card spot at 9-7.

It was a struggle all the way, with Bernie Kosar starting a couple of midseason defeats at quarterback while Dan Marino was dealing with an injured hip. Three wins in the last four games earned a playoff spot, but the spark was quickly snuffed by a 37-22 loss at Buffalo in the opening playoff round.

The Bills led that one 37-0 through three quarters, which is a fair indication of how these things usually go when a flawed team barely reaches the playoffs and is matched against one of the league’s best. Today’s Dolphins, in comparison, have more flaws than the 1995 version, so it really is silly expecting anything spectacular to happen for them now.

Since 2000, no AFC team has qualified for the playoffs with fewer than nine wins.

One of the most disappointing memories in recent franchise history was the 2013 season, when Miami was almost there but ran out of gas.

Wins over Pittsburgh and New England raised hopes for those Dolphins, who improved to 8-6 in the process. Then came a 19-0 loss at Buffalo and a 20-7 loss at home to the New York Jets.

Kerplunk, Joe Philbin missed the playoffs by a game at 8-8. The only good news is that Ryan Tannehill somehow got through it in one piece after leading the league with 58 sacks.

Adam Gase’s 2017 Dolphins have demonstrated the same tendency to curl up into a ball for long stretches, getting shut out two times and very nearly a third. Until there is mathematical elimination, however, there will be talk of turning things around.

You understand how hollow that talk is, but I just wanted to highlight what the echoes of the past say about this.

When a team is 5-7 and there are so many other teams bunched just above, you can’t get there from here.

[Rams’ Sean McVay has overtaken Adam Gase as NFL’s Next Big Thing]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen]

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good situation who wants to be great]

If you have the courage, here’s where Monday night’s lifeless defensive effort ranks in Dolphins history

I lack the precision to work for the Elias Sports Bureau statistical search team, and then there’s the  personal flaw of occasionally getting up from my desk to eat or sleep.

You can trust me, however, when I say that Monday night’s defensive showing by the Miami Dolphins was historically bad.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) chases Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Carolina rolled up a franchise-record 548 yards in total offense in a 45-21 victory that Cam Newton didn’t even bother to finish. By hunting through a half century of Dolphins stats, I could find only seven games in which Miami allowed more yards, and three of those were in overtime.

Here’s the list of deadliest defensive efforts in Dolphins history.

622 yards allowed, 38-24 loss to New England in 2011

597 yards allowed, 38-34 loss to New York Jets in 1988

593 yards allowed, 31-28 loss to L.A. Rams in 1976

589 yards allowed, 34-31 OT loss to Buffalo in 2016

582 yards allowed, 35-31 loss to Buffalo in 1991

581 yards allowed, 51-45 OT loss to New York Jets in 1986

564 yards allowed, 41-38 playoff OT loss to San Diego to end 1981 season

548 yards allowed, 45-21 loss to Charlotte in 2017

Every game but Monday’s was a shootout, a competitive game, an NFL happening.

This loss to Carolina, the 21st-ranked offense in the league, was a dud from the start. Poor tackling, including several total whiffs. Lousy coverage of receivers, who actually helped Miami quite a bit with some wide-open drops. Poor positioning and sluggish response to practically everything the Panthers presented, and it’s worth noting that Carolina was limited to a single field goal by Chicago a few weeks back.

I covered a couple of the games on the list above and they rank among the most compelling assignments of my career. The overtime playoff loss to the Chargers at the old Orange Bowl. The 51-45 video-game affair at the Meadowlands in which Dan Marino passed for a career-high six touchdowns and lost.

Today’s Dolphins have no one on offense to balance out big numbers like these, but I don’t want to hear about Jay Cutler being a turnover machine or Adam Gase trading Jay Ajayi away or anything else.

When the Miami defense is disintegrating like this, allowing the two highest yardage totals of the season in consecutive weeks, there is nothing to say except that the entire team is kaput, and the season with it.

Feels strange to say something like that about a 4-5 team, especially when the Dolphins turned the 2016 season around so rapidly and so well after a 1-4 start, but it is so.

You can’t win much of anything in the NFL playing Pac-12 defense. Things will get better against Tampa Bay this Sunday but then comes New England and Kansas City and all the rest.

Prepare to see more entries to the franchise’s list of Top-10 defensive demolitions. Prepare for the moment when things like these are no longer shocking.

Once the Miami defense lays down, and it appears to have happened, there’s just no getting up for this team.

 

 

Offensive line room, the source of Dolphins’ strength during Shula years, needs fumigating

The Miami Dolphins’ offensive line meeting room used to be where you went to find the grownups.

Pro Football Hall of Famers like Larry Little and Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson. Sturdy veterans like Norm Evans and Bob Kuechenberg and Jon Giesler.

And running the operation was the late John Sandusky, who spent 26 years coaching for Don Shula in Baltimore and Miami.

Former Dolphins assistant John Sandusky. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Since Sandusky left the Dolphins in 1994, the team has had nine coaches in charge of the offensive line. One of them was cut loose in the Bullygate scandal of 2013 and another resigned in disgrace this week.

The whole lot of them have come and gone in Miami just like the head coaches, two of which, Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin, first built their reputations in the league as offensive line coaches and are coaching that position now.

The new guy, Dave DeGuglielmo, is really an old guy. He was Miami’s offensive line coach from 2009-11, losing seasons all.

It makes a difference who has that job.

For all the flash that Dan Marino showed, it was his blocking that made it possible. For nine straight years in the 1980’s, while Sandusky was coaching Miami’s offensive line, the Dolphins led the league in fewest sacks allowed.

For all the changes that came to the league during Shula’s time, spanning Miami’s Super Bowl years to the wide-open passing attacks of the later years, the offensive line was the foundation of every game plan.

Today, it seems that Adam Gase ought to bring in an exorcist to cleanse the offensive line room of whatever has gone wrong. Even with three first-round draft picks as starters, the unit can’t function. Leadership is a constant problem, too. Chris Foerster, the man caught in what I’ll call the Coachcaine scandal, is only the latest and most troublesome example.

Until this gets fixed, the Dolphins have no core strength. The offense will remain out of balance. The head coach will continue to fight for first downs when he’d rather be fighting for a division title.

Sandusky wasn’t fully appreciated around here. He was stable. He was reliable. Most of the time, he wasn’t noticed at all.

Everything the Miami offensive line needs to be, in other words, but for a long time now it has seemed like too much to ask.

[Even UM’s national title teams proved how tough it is to run the table]

[Mood swing for Adam Gase, who was part of NFL-record scoring at Denver]

[Is it possible that Derek Jeter has rarely even seen the Marlins play a game?]

 

With 77 consecutive starts, Ryan Tannehill proved he’s tough enough to come back and do it again

 

Ryan Tannehill is a tough guy or he wouldn’t have started 77 consecutive games while absorbing a total of 213 career sacks.

Of course, that streak is over now, with knee trouble stopping the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback late last season and a training-camp relapse knocking him out for all of 2017.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) talks with Jay Cutler during warmups before pre-season game against Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on August 10, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Still, I wouldn’t bet against his return from a long and difficult rehab to take over again as Miami’s starter in 2018. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they consistently show up for work, and Tannehill would probably be out there right now if he had another chance to delay surgery. Gimpy but game, he was throwing pregame passes in shorts and a T-shirt before the Dolphins’ preseason opener last week.

Dan Marino is the only Dolphins quarterback with more consecutive starts than Tannehill. He had a string of 95 between 1987 and 1993, fourth-longest in team history behind Jason Taylor (130), Richmond Webb (118) and Jim Langer (109).

In NFL history, only 21 quarterbacks have topped Tannehill’s string of 77 consecutive starts. Brett Favre (297) and Peyton Manning (208), a couple of Hall of Famers, are No. 1 and No. 2 on the list.

The only currently active NFL passers with streaks longer than 77 at some point in their careers are:

Eli Manning (199, streak is active)

Philip Rivers (176, streak is active)

Joe Flacco (122)

Matt Ryan (115, streak is active)

Tom Brady (112)

Tom Brady (111)

Matthew Stafford (96, streak is active)

Drew Brees (82)

Russell Wilson (80, streak is active)

Drew Brees (79)

 

Crazy to think that Brees would have a couple of starting streaks that rank in the league’s all time top 25. He’s the quarterback Miami passed on as a free agent in 2006, thinking his surgically-repaired right shoulder wasn’t fully healed and might not hold up.

Brees came back strong, of course, with the New Orleans Saints. Maybe Tannehill will, too.

[Jim McElwain follows clumsy coaching norm in keeping Antonio Callaway]

[Is this waivers business anything to worry about with Giancarlo Stanton?]

[The two places in America where there is nothing but love for Jay Cutler]

 

The 1972 Dolphins put up entirely different stats in what was an entirely different game

Every now and again I pull out the box scores from the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl dynasty more than 40 years ago and marvel at how much the game has changed.

The perfect Dolphins of 1972, for instance, averaged 359.7 yards in total offense. That was tops in the NFL at the time but would have ranked 11th in the league last year.

Don Shula and Bob Griese. (Bill Reinke/The Miami News)

Bob Griese completed eight passes for 88 yards in Super Bowl VII, the game that completed that 17-0 season. Ryan Tannehill has been held under 100 yards passing three times in his 77 career starts.

The 1972 Dolphins had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, and that was in a 14-game regular season. Jay Ajayi was the only Miami rusher over 1,000 yards last year. Nobody else cleared 200, and that was over 17 regular-season games.

Don Shula’s No Name Defense allowed 10 touchdowns passing during the 1972 regular season and two during the playoffs. Last year’s Dolphins allowed 30 touchdowns passing and two long scoring bombs by Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter of their only postseason game.

Sure, almost everything about the NFL has changed. The game is more wide open now, more exciting.

Got to hand it to Shula, though, for finding a way to win across 26 seasons as the Dolphins head coach, and seven years with the Baltimore Colts before that. He made the transition from Zonk to Dan Marino., but here’s the most unexpected stat of all.

Johnny Unitas attempted 44 passes and threw for 288 yards in Shula’s first career victory. Marino threw it 35 times and totaled 290 yards in completions during Shula’s 347th and final career win.

Bottom line, Shula was better than bold. He was smart enough to let his best players win for him, however that needed to be.

[Here are the trap games for Seminoles, Hurricanes and Gators in 2017]  

[Jeffrey Loria says media should stop talking about Marlins sale]

[Astros and Nats could bring World Series buzz back to WPB next spring]

 

 

Even at the briefest glance, Mitch Trubisky looks like best QB in this draft

It made me real nervous in 2012 when the Miami Dolphins spent the No. 8 overall draft pick on Ryan Tannehill, a guy who had started just 19 games at quarterback in college.

Now there’s a guy with fewer college starts, 13, who could go even higher to some NFL team on Thursday night.

MIAMI GARDENS – Former North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky gets rid of a pass before Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Joe Jackson (99) and defensive lineman RJ McIntosh (80) can get to him on October 15, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina might just be that good. In the one game I saw him play live, the Tar Heels’ 20-13 October win over Miami at Hard Rock Stadium, he looked like a natural fit for the pro game.

He threw 46 passes against the Hurricanes that day and got sacked just once, casually stepping or rolling out of trouble on several occasions while keeping his focus downfield and delivering the ball with such uncanny accuracy that the Tar Heels converted 14-of-23 third downs.

Trubisky threw a couple of touchdown passes against Miami, too. Each of those came on third-and-goal, and one of them came with 18 seconds left in the first half.

Getting touchdowns and not field goals in situations like that is the sign of a decisive, intelligent quarterback and in this case it made the difference between North Carolina upsetting the Hurricanes or letting them off the hook.

Oh, and Trubisky is sturdy at 6-feet-3 and 222 pounds. That doesn’t hurt, either.

Throw in a sensational career ratio of 41 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions and a 67.5 completion percentage and you’ve got a quarterback who might go to the Browns or the 49ers or the Jets at the top of the first round, possibly ahead of Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, whose touchdown pass with 1 second remaining beat Alabama in January’s national championship game, and ahead of Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, too.

If that happens, Larry Fedora won’t be looking too sharp. He’s the North Carolina coach who liked another of his quarterbacks, Marquise Williams, a little bit more and made Trubisky wait until his junior season to become the starter.

Of course, college stats and fluid college situations don’t tell everything we need to know about a pro prospect.

Dan Fouts, for instance, threw 37 touchdown passes and 54 interceptions during his college career at Oregon.

Dan Marino was close to a wash with 79 touchdowns throws and 69 interceptions at Pitt.

Joe Montana threw 25 of each at Notre Dame.

Last, Tim Tebow was an absolute stats machine at Florida, throwing 88 touchdown passes and only 16 interceptons.

Trubisky doesn’t look exactly like any of those guys, but if he winds up with a decent team in a trade-down and not one of the pitiful outfits at the top of the draft, he could become a real star.

Think of Aaron Rodgers, who got just 22 college starts at California. He came there as a junior-college transfer who had received no major-college scholarships coming out of high school. Still, Rodgers decided to forego his senior season in college, just like Trubisky did, and wound up going 24th overall to the Green Bay Packers, a team that was set at quarterback with Brett Favre and could afford to work with the kid a while.

It’s a fantasy to think that the Dolphins, drafting 22nd overall in Thursday night’s draft, might get a similar chance to draft a talent like Trubisky.

If by some miracle, however, he fell that far, or even came close enough to make a draft-day trade feasible, Miami would be foolish not to take him. Can’t have too many quarterbacks on your roster with the potential to be great.

Tannehill’s potential will be played out in the next few years, it appears, and he’s coming off the first serious injury of his career.

Weird that I would be more excited about taking a quarterback with 13 college starts than I was about Tannehill with his 19 but, hey, people keep telling me that I’m a little weird to begin with.

 

Plucky Heat crew approaching some of the Big Three’s best streaks

 

A bit of perspective on the Miami Heat’s eight-game win streak, which might stretch longer but stretches the imagination either way.

The Heat only topped this streak five times during the Big Three era.

Miami Heat's Dion Waiters passes the ball in the first quarter against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Fla. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)
Miami Heat’s Dion Waiters passes the ball in the first quarter against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Fla. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

One of those times they absolutely crushed it, ripping off 27 wins in a row in February and March of 2013, but the rest of their runs were more in line with what Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic and the fellas are doing now.

Twelve in a row a couple of times for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and company, plus single streaks of 10 and nine games each.

I don’t have to tell you that those Heat teams were worlds better than this one. Four straight trips to the NBA Finals. Two championships. Yeah, worlds better than the 2016-17 crew, which against all odds has pushed the record all the way up to 19-30, still outside the wide playoff net.

That’s what blows your mind. Eight straight wins are exceedingly tough to get in any major sport. What’s needed is a highly talented group on a hot streak, not a roster running on fumes.

Here is a listing of the most recent streaks of eight wins or longer for South Florida’s other pro franchises.

Miami Dolphins – Eight wins in a row, 1985. That team was quarterbacked by Hall of Famer Dan Marino and played in the Super Bowl the previous season. The streak included seven in a row to end the regular season plus a playoff win over Cleveland.

Miami Marlins – Nine wins in a row, 2008. We’re going back to the old football-stadium days here and a Marlins payroll that was the lowest in the major leagues. Still, there was a talented group of players on the roster, like Hanley Ramirez and Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson and Dan Uggla, and the final record of 84-77 showed that.

Florida Panthers – Twelve wins in a row, 2015-16. According to Elias Sports Bureau, this streak was the longest ever for a team that didn’t qualify for the playoffs the previous season. The Panthers had plenty of talent, though, enough to win the Atlantic Division and reach the postseason for just the fifth time in franchise history.

Does Erik Spoelstra have a playoff team at the moment, or a team that should surpass .500 by season’s end, or a team led by a Hall of Famer? Certainly not, but the Heat have won eight in a row just the same.

South Florida fans have seen some astonishing win streaks, of course, like 34 in a row by the Miami Hurricanes from 2000-02 and 18 in a row by the dynastic Dolphins (17-0 in 1972 and a win to open the next season).

[Palm Beach County is state’s spring-training showcase now]

[A little candy to treat Dolphins fans sick of Patriots in Super Bowl]

[College football scoring average tops 30 points, and Gators aren’t close]

Can’t let this current Heat run get lost in the shuffle, though. It shouldn’t be happening. No matter the quality of the competition during the streak, from Golden State to lowly Brooklyn, it shouldn’t be happening. The franchise, left behind by LeBron and Dwyane, is making something uncommon happen with a fairly common cast of characters, a specialty of Pat Riley’s organization for some time.

A little candy to treat Dolphins fans who are sick of seeing the Patriots always in the Super Bowl

 

This time of year can be tough on Miami Dolphins fans, now 43 years removed from

1973 file photo. Don Shula.
Don Shula in 1973. (Post file photo)

the last NFL championship in franchise history, and that frustration goes double when the New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl again.

As a public service to the South Florida market we offer these proofs that it was not always this way (Patriots ruling the AFC East and, too frequently, the world) and it will not stay this way forever (in theory, at least).

  • Between 1964-75, the Boston/New England Patriots experienced a 12-season postseason drought. The Dolphins’ longest stretch without a playoff game is seven seasons.
  • During the sad period of Patriots history listed above, the Dolphins won a couple of Super Bowls, posted the only perfect season in NFL history and ran up a 13-6 record against the Pats.
  • Between 1963-82, the Patriots qualified for just four playoff games and lost them all. The last loss in that string was a first-rounder to Miami in 1982, and the Dolphins went on to play in the Super Bowl that year.
  • The Dolphins are 16 years without a postseason victory at the moment, but there’s still time to put one on the board before reaching the Patriots’ franchise worst drought of 21 years between 1964-84.
  • Three times in their history the Patriots have owned or shared the worst record in the NFL – 1970, 1990 and 1992. That has happened to Miami only once (2007).
  • The Dolphins lead the all-time series with the Patriots 53-50, playoffs included.
  • The Dolphins own the longest winning streak in the series, with nine straight victories over the Patriots between 1989-93. The Patriots have never won more than seven in a row against Miami.
  • The Dolphins have the most lopsided victory in the series, 52-0 in 1972.
  • When Tom Brady joines the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day, he’ll still be outnumbered by Bob Griese and Dan Marino.
  • Bill Belichick may have 262 career victories but he’s still 85 short of Don Shula.

 

Conclusions? This makes me feel a little bit better about the faulty concept that everything always goes New England’s way, and a little bit worse that it took so much work to find these Miami advantages.

Trust me, it does no good to dig further. Stop here, before counting up division titles, Super Bowls and such, and before recognizing that Shula was 65 when the Dolphins pushed him out of the way for Jimmy Johnson. Belichick is 64 and still working on his trophy case.

[Here’s a Miami Heat upset crazier than Monday’s win over Warriors]

[Gators fall a touchdown short of college football’s scoring average]

[Wondering if Dolphins’ No. 22 draft slot is haunted]

In playoffs, Gase has won with Tebow and lost with Manning so why put limits on what might happen now?

For all of his success as the NFL’s winningest coach, Don Shula’s overall record in the playoffs was barely above .500 at 19-17, and that’s with Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese and Dan Marino at quarterback for most of those games.

Jimmy Johnson, meanwhile, was 2-3 in the postseason in his time as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, with a 62-7 blowout loss at Jacksonville to kick him out the door.

What we’re trying to say here, and what every Dolphins fan should understand, is that the playoffs are an exceedingly cruel and unpredictable environment, and that goes for everybody.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross talks with Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase before game against the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on January 1, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross talks with head coach Adam Gase before game against the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on January 1, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Adam Gase will try to communicate that to the Dolphins this week as they prepare to face Pittsburgh in Miami’s first playoff game since 2008. Some things, however, just have to be experienced to be believed.

“It’s another level,” Gase said Monday. “They’ll know it. They’ll know it when they hit the field. Trust me. “

How could a rookie head coach be so sure? Consider how much Gase already has seen in his NFL career.

A playoff win in overtime with Tim Tebow, back when Gase was the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach.

Two sudden dead ends when Peyton Manning was quarterbacking the Broncos but they lost their opening playoff game just the same.

Or how about 2013, the first of two seasons for Gase directly collaborating with Peyton on play-calling? Denver rolled all the way to the Super Bowl that year with the league’s No. 1 offense in all the big categories only to get smashed 43-8 by Seattle.

Put it all together, counting Gase’s time as an assistant in Detroit, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago, and he has been a part of three postseason wins in seven tries. Those were good teams, and sometimes even great, or they wouldn’t have been in the playoffs in the first place. Still, it can get ugly in a hurry.

[Kiffin’s breakup with Bama before title game does FAU no favors]

[Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign drew some comparisons to Tebow’s]

[Might as well let ESPN directly manage the College Football Playoff product]

On the other sideline Sunday at Heinz Field will be Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. He’s taken Pittsburgh to a couple of Super Bowls, sure, and won one at the age of 36, but overall Tomlin is 6-5 in postseason games. What’s more, half of his playoff teams have lost their opening game.

It’s another level, all right, and with confidence levels rising and falling with each crucial snap. No reason Miami should be counted out of anything, whether there’s a ton of playoff experience on the roster or not.

 

 

Holding Rams’ Jared Goff on bench is mistake Miami didn’t make with Ryan Tannehill

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.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Quarterback Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams runs on to the field to play in the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – Quarterback Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams runs off the field after sitting out last Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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.

[In 2009, Dolphins burned Jets with TD returns even worse than Drake did]

[Running out of time to see Brad Kaaya at Hard Rock Stadium]

[Overtime TD vs. Browns is what kept Ajayi from being lost in the shuffle]

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?