The Miami Dolphins have been searching for a suitable replacement for Dan Marino since he retired after the 1999 season. They are still looking for what has become known as a "franchise quarterback."
The last time the Dolphins took a QB in the first round of the draft was 1983 when No. 13 fell into their lap. By most accounts the Dolphins will end that streak Thursday and take Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first round.
Tannehill is an athletic, quarterback project. He is 6-4, 221 pounds and ran a 4.6 40-yard dash. He also didn't start playing quarterback full time until midway through his junior year at A&M. He is smart and mature, turning 24 in July and was married three months ago. He graduated college in 2011 and was planning to be an orthopedic surgeon before his football career began to take off.
Opinions on Tannehill range like the summer weather in San Francisco. Wait 15 minutes and both will change.
There have been 30 quarterbacks taken in the first round of the last 10 NFL drafts. Four were taken in the first round last year. While it's too early to declare any of them "busts," it doesn't seem too early to declare Cam Newton a franchise QB.
The jury is still out on the two taken in 2010, Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow.
That leaves 24 QBs drafted in the first round from 2002 to 2009. How many are busts? At least eight: David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Kyle Boller, JP Losman, Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn.
How many are franchise QBs? At least eight: Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford.
How many have been all points in between for varying reasons? The other eight: Carson Palmer, Rex Grossman, Jason Campbell, Alex Smith, Vince Young, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and Byron Leftwich.
So based on the past decade, the cold reality is taking a quarterback in the first round brings no better chance for success than a flip of a coin.
I don't think Tannehill will be remembered as a franchise quarterback. My best guess is he'll be above average. A poor man's Tony Romo. But the real question is not whether Tannehill will make it, but can the Dolphins afford not to take him?
So what if he is average or worse? The Dolphins QB depth chart reads soon-to-be 28-year-old career backup Matt Moore and 34-year-old journeyman David Garrard. In a quarterback-driven league, there won't be many playoff games won by these two in the coming years.
But what if Tannehill is the answer? What if he is a franchise QB and you pass him up like you did the last decade to Drew Brees (twice), Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan? Just imagine if they had gotten one of those four decisions correct?
A fan base will forgive you for trying and failing. They will get angry and apathetic if you do not try to find a QB.
How about this Sweet 16 since Marino: Jay Fiedler, Dante Culpepper, Damon Huard, Cleo Lemon, Ray Lucas, Trent Green, Brian Griese, John Beck, A.J. Feeley, Chad Pennington, Sage Rosenfels, Chad Henne, Gus Frerotte, Tyler Thigpen, Joey Harrington and Matt Moore.
This is not trying.
This is pretending.
In three years you'll know whether Tannehill is the answer. If he is, great. You'll be ready to contend when Brady is 37 years old, Peyton is 39 and Big Ben is even more beat up.
If he's not the answer, draft somebody else in 2015 and keep trying until you get it right (five years after Kyle Boller the Ravens took Joe Flacco, and seven years after Joey Harrington the Lions took Matthew Stafford).
Two winning seasons in the last eight. No playoff wins since 2000.
What do the Dolphins have to lose?
(Contact David Moulton at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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