Jaylen waddle, drafted No. 6 overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2021 NFL draft. (Criag Davis for Five Reasons Sports)

Pressure Point: Dolphins opt for athletic playmakers in Waddle, Phillips

The Miami Dolphins addressed a pressing need right out of the gate Thursday in the opening round of the NFL Draft when they selected Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 pick.

They rolled the dice for a big-play target for Tua Tagovailoa in his former Crimson Tide teammate.

Waddle made the point when asked on ESPN about his primary asset moments after the pick was announced.

“Playmaking ability,” he said. “I’ll do my best to try to showcase that.”

They got another playmaker, this time on defense, when they took University of Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips at No. 18. Phillips, who played one season for the Hurricanes, was the first pass-rusher selected.

Dolphins picks fill key positions on offense, defense

Both players are impressive athletes who come with some questions. They were both fan-pleasing picks, focused on glamour positions of both sides of the ball.

Regarding Waddle, the intriguing question will be whether the Dolphins made the right choice from a premium array of top-tier receivers.

The Dolphins clearly put their money on speed, which is never a bad bet.

Through pre-draft trades with San Francisco and Philadelphia that took them from the No. 3 pick to 6 by way of 12, they moved themselves out of the running for Florida tight end extraordinaire Kyle Pitts, who was the first non-quarterback taken at No. 4 by Atlanta.

LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase was then reunited with his college quarterback, Joe Burrow, with the No. 5 pick by Cincinnati.

Then came the Dolphins with the choice between speedy but slight Alabama receivers. They opted for Waddle over Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, who eventually went 10th to the Eagles.

The fun will come in comparing the careers of this group in the coming years. That is the measuring stick of the draft.

Similarly, Tagovailoa faces questions about whether the Dolphins erred last year in taking him over Justin Herbert, who went to the Chargers one pick later and had a record-setting rookie season. The final verdict is still on the horizon.

Waddle compared to Tyreek Hill

This time, Pitts was my preference for Miami, but the Dolphins opted for a receiver with explosive speed who can stretch the defense deep or turn a short route into a big gain. Waddle has the ability to create separation through acceleration, which was notably missing among Dolphins receivers last season.

A stat that stands out is Waddle averaged 9.8 yards after the catch during his career, the most among all Power 5 receivers since 2014, according to Pro Football Focus.

The popular comparison is with Kansas City Chiefs five-time Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill.

“I get a lot of comparisons to Tyree just because of our small size and being able to be a runner,” Waddle said in a conference call with South Florida media Thursday night. “But I want to be my own player and try to play the game that I play. … So I think I’m going to try to be the player I always have been and try to make plays for the team.”

Waddle gets a head start in that he already has chemistry with Tagovailoa, as would have been the case if Smith had been chosen.

Choice between Alabama teammates

Did Miami pick the right Alabama receiver?

If Waddle didn’t break an ankle in October, maybe he wins the Heisman. Through four games, he was putting up better numbers than Smith, averaging 139.3 yards a game and 22.3 per catch.

Which will become the better pro? The Dolphins saw enough to make a distinction in their evaluation.

Waddle can fly, and is a tremendous kick returner, aided by 4.37 (40-yard-dash) speed.

Give him bonus points for returning to limp through the national championship game and contributing three catches. He didn’t participate in a pro day but says he’s over the injury.

As with Smith, there are questions about Waddle’s size. He is 5-9 ½ and 182 pounds. Similar stature hasn’t hampered Hill or others like Hall of Fame receivers Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce.

Soon-to-be-teammate Phillips offered a defensive player’s view on Waddle, saying, “He’s a dog. I’ve been watching him for a little while now and he’s just electric, man. He’s a playmaker through and through. I was super-excited to get to know him. I know he’s going to contribute to this team greatly.”

Phillips overcame career-threatening injuries

Phillips, who expressed joy about remaining in the 305, comes with a troubling injury history while at UCLA and it appeared his football career was over before resurrecting it at Miami.

He showcased his pass-rushing skills last season and put on a dazzling performance at the UM pro day, which certainly elevated his draft stock.

“I had two concussions while I was at UCLA. I play football, man, it’s a physical sport. Ask anybody in the NFL, I guarantee they’ve had some concussions in their time. It’s nothing to be worried about,” Phillips said Thursday night.

The physical aspect of the game means nothing is a given beyond draft day.

The Dolphins added obvious talent at two vital skilled positions to start this draft. They have six more picks over the next two days.

The rigors of football will determine how it all plays out.

Dolphins remaining 2021 draft picks:

  • Round 2: No. 36 (from HOU)
  • Round 2: No. 50.
  • Round 3: No. 81.
  • Round 5: No. 156 (from DAL through PHI)
  • Round 7: No. 231.
  • Round 7: No. 258.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

The pressure is on Chris Grier to rebuild the Miami Dolphins through the draft.

Pressure Point: Dolphins may regret missing chance at Kyle Pitts

Through all the debate and speculation about the 2021 NFL Draft, the central question surrounding the Miami Dolphins boils down to: What is in Chris Grier’s mind?

What is the assessment of the Dolphins general manager and coach Brian Flores and their lieutenants concerning their options for selecting an impact playmaker in the first round to energize the offense?

They were positioned to land the best non-quarterback with the No. 3 pick and gave up that option in the interest of adding future draft capital.

Trades to move from No. 3 to 12, then back up to 6 have added more mystery and intrigue than usual.

It is puzzling because it has clearly weakened the Dolphins’ hand in Thursday’s opening round. That may well come back to haunt them if Florida tight end Kyle Pitts turns out to be the dynamic pro that many evaluators expect — for another team.

Kyle Pitts a rare talent

Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has called Pitts the highest-rated tight end in all the drafts he has analyzed. Gators coach Dan Mullen has referred to Pitts as a “unicorn.”

I’ve felt for weeks that I’d be thoroughly disappointed if the Dolphins don’t come away with Pitts, who possesses a rare combination of skills to give opposing defensive coordinators fits for years.

Disappointment has already set in because Pitts is almost certainly out of Miami’s reach now.

After quarterbacks are taken with the top three picks, the Atlanta Falcons are said to be set to snatch Pitts. And why wouldn’t they jump at the chance to add such a game changer for the twilight of quarterback Matt Ryan’s career?

Worse yet for Miami, the Cincinnati Bengals are likely to use the No. 5 pick to reunite LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with quarterback Joe Burrow.

Chase gets top marks on most rankings of the wide receivers in this draft.

Which would leave the Dolphins to go eeny, meeny, miny, moe with Tua Tagovailoa’s former Alabama teammates, wide receivers DeVonata Smith and Jaylen Waddle.

Dolphins’ plan shrouded in mystery

Unless they play the “highest rated player available on the board” card and take offensive tackle Penei Sewell. No matter how dominant Sewell was for Oregon (prior to opting out of 2020 for COVID considerations) that pick would surely spark mass outrage in Dolphinland.

Which brings us back to the initial question: What are Grier and Flores thinking going into this all-important draft?

If, as recent reports have indicated (ESPN’s Todd McShay among others), Pitts is the Dolphins’ preferred choice, why didn’t they stay at No. 3 when they had the pick of the receiver litter?

When the Dolphins made the trades that landed them at No. 6 there was conjecture that they were OK with any of the top tier wideouts or Pitts. I don’t believe any NFL team approaches any draft like that. Ever.

They evaluate. They prioritize. They have a list.

Grier and Flores have a plan. We just don’t know what it is.

It may be a winner. It may not.

Trades for draft picks get mixed results

Trading to stockpile high draft picks is a valid strategy for rebuilding teams. But there’s no way to be sure where those picks are going to land in future years or what return you’ll be able to get with them.

The Dolphins may have gotten a bit too clever for their own good in the trades with the 49ers and Eagles, which netted an extra 2023 first-rounder and a 2022 third-round compensatory pick.

But they gave up the No. 3 pick this year, which was part of the 2019 trade with Houston for Pro Bowl offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Consider that they essentially replaced Tunsil on the offensive line with Austin Jackson, who they took at No. 18 in 2020 with the pick obtained from Pittsburgh for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Jackson was so-so as a rookie, though he has potential and may yet develop into a stalwart on the line. Fitzpatrick has been outstanding in two seasons for the Steelers, and right now that trade is a net loss for Miami.

As much as I like Flores as a coach, and I do, the personnel side of the Grier/Flores partnership has had ups and downs.

Yes, they have greatly improved the roster over the past two years and banked a 10-win season in 2020.

The really difficult challenge in the NFL is the steep climb from nine or 10 wins to 12 or 13 and a team capable of going deep in the playoffs.

To make that leap requires a roster with genuine stars who move the ball and make a difference in big games. Those type of players are notably absent from the Dolphins roster.

Playmakers for Tua must be priority No. 1

They hope Tagovailoa will grow into that description. They need to give him high-quality resources to make it happen.

This week’s deal that sent veteran guard Ereck Flowers to Washington added more mystery and intrigue than usual. Some interpreted it as a preface to drafting Sewell, with 2020 second-round pick Robert Hunt moving from right tackle to guard.

What the Flowers deal primarily did was create some needed salary cap space and cut ties with a player who wasn’t worth the three-year, $30 million contract they gave him as a free agent last year.

Sewell may well prove to be a cornerstone offensive tackle in the NFL. Can’t help recalling that Jake Long was supposed to be that when the Dolphins took him first overall in 2008 rather than Matt Ryan.

Long is long retired due to injuries and Ryan is still compiling hall of fame credentials for the Falcons, and may soon have Kyle Pitts to help finish the job.

Offensive lineman won’t cut it

The Dolphins took Jackson, Hunt and guard Solomon Kindley in the first four rounds last year. It’s up to Flores the coach to make those picks pay off through development.

It’s up to Grier the GM to add playmakers in this draft who can create magic with the ball in their hands.

I suspect they’ll end up with DeVonta Smith with the first of two first-round picks.

Maybe the Heisman Trophy winner, paired again with Tagovailoa, will prove as dominant a force for the Dolphins as he was for Alabama.

Or maybe they’ll rue letting Kyle Pitts get away.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Twas the Night Before Draft Day

‘Twas the night before Draft Day, when all through the Rock
Not an analyst was stirring, not even a mock;
The draft boards were hung by the interns with care,
In hopes that at Six, Kyle Pitts would be there;
The Fins fans were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of Najee ran through their heads;
And Grier in his windbreaker, and Flo in his cap,
Are racking their brains if they need to trade back,
When on the TV there arose such a clatter,
I flipped on FS1 to see what’s the matter.
On Undisputed, there I saw a dumb clip,
Who’s that crazy old lady? Oh, it’s just Skip.
Saying go draft a QB on his tired old show,
As Dolphins Twitter answers, “nah bro, just no,”
Waddle, Chase, or Smith, it soon should be clear,
Which pass-catcher has the eye of Chris Grier,

Forgetting ’bout gasbags who only want clicks,
Dolphins fans remembered we have two first round picks.
Is it the o-line or weapons, who is to blame,
Tua’s needed help since Goodell called his name:
“Now, Sewell! now, Waddle! now Najee and Pitts!
On, Jenkins! on, Parsons! on, Creed and Smith!
At the top of the draft! to the agent, Grier calls!
To Dolphins’ Twitter’s chagrin, we can’t draft them all!”
Who doesn’t love Waddle, you know he can fly,
Sewell hasn’t played right tackle, but he said he could try;
A Heisman Trophy and a title with Tua,
Let’s not forget Devonta, who needs Cua Cua —
Watching the Bengals, in forever last place,
Praying they leave Pitts or at the very least, Chase.
Watching the centers, a drop would be nifty,
If Landon or Creed was there at pick 50.
We all know at some point, we’ll need a D-End,
But it’s just so tempting to think of Harris and Etienne;
A bundle of toys for the young quarterback,
Also some line help so he can avoid taking sacks.
Flo loves versatility, just look at Malcolm Perry!
We need a back who can catch, in addition to carry!
The Bears want us to trade back, but no that’s too low,
In the top 10 there’s groceries, for a dinner by Flo;
If you want to trade with Grier, just know he’s a thief,
“Add another first,” he says through gritted teeth;
I do love Creed Humphrey, like a young Ryan Kelly,
Gesicki’s the peanut butter, could Kyle Pitts be the jelly.
Will we see Greg or Jaelen, either end from the U,
Who’s the best of the edges, any one can be true;
Will there be a sleeper, found in late rounds,
With off-the-field problems, or too many pounds;
Saturday’s the end of a long spring of work,
GM’s are desperate not to be this year’s jerk,
Whatever will they do, almost no one knows,
Just please be better than the AFC foes;
Thinking of misses makes any fan bristle,
But a good draft haul steal, warrants any good whistle.
It’s finally here, and oh what a sight—
“Happy Draft Eve to all, and to all a good night!”

What Draft Precedents for Tight Ends Mean for Kyle Pitts

The 2021 NFL Draft is just 10 days away and while the top two picks appear to be etched in stone, the rest of the top 10 is still in flux. One of the more polarizing prospects in the mix is Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. The 2020 John Mackey Award winner is an enigma to a league that specializes in compartmentalizing its personnel.

Pitts is expected to be a candidate for the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 if they decide not to draft the heir-apparent to Matt Ryan, or trade the pick to a quarterback-needy time with stars in their eyes for Trey Lance or Justin Fields. If he falls past Atlanta, many think he could go off the board a pick later to the Cincinnati Bengals. No one appears to have a clue where Cincinnati is leaning, be it to protect 2020 No. 1 pick Joe Burrow with an offensive tackle like Oregon’s Penei Sewell, or support his development with an additional weapon like Pitts or Burrow’s former teammate Ja’Marr Chase. 

Then there are the Miami Dolphins at No. 6, who like the Falcons with Hayden Hurst already have a dynamic pass-catching tight end in Mike Gesicki. That has not halted speculation that Pitts is a top target for general manager Chris Grier & Co. due in part to 2021 being a contract year for Gesicki. Miami could opt to create football’s best two-tight end set, or could opt to take a receiver like Chase or 2020 Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith. 

The general consensus, however, is even if somehow Pitts gets past Miami at six, there is a snowball’s chance in hell he gets past the eighth pick, be it selected by Carolina, or due to a trade up from someone else. That is how special Pitts is as a prospect, embodied best by his college coach Dan Mullen’s description of him as a “unicorn.” If Pitts is drafted eighth, it won’t raise many flags seeing as how tight end TJ Hockenson was selected by the Lions at eighth overall just two years ago. Seeing as how eighth is the absolute floor, it’s more likely that Pitts will find himself in less precedented waters.

If Pitts goes sixth to the Dolphins, it will mark the highest a tight end has been selected since the San Francisco 49ers took Vernon Davis out of Maryland sixth overall in 2006. If Cincinnati snatches him up at five, that will mark the third time in history a tight end was selected fifth overall, joining Houston’s Riley Odoms selected by the Denver Broncos in 1972 and Pittsburgh’s Mike Ditka taken by the Chicago Bears back in 1961. That’s where the precedent ends, however, as no tight end has ever been taken higher than five, meaning Atlanta would set a new mark for the position should they go with the Florida prospect.

So where does that leave us with Pitts? The NFL’s positional valuation is an ever-changing dynamic. For instance, in five of the last 10 years, the first running back was not taken off the board until the 20s. In the 10 years before that, that only happened one time. The opposite is true for quarterbacks as 22 signal-callers were taken in the top 10 from 2011-2020. From 2001-2010, 15 quarterbacks were selected in the top 10. Elite quarterbacks have always been taken near the top of the draft, but the reaches have grown even for the second-best QB prospect. In the last 10 years, the average selection for the second quarterback off the board is 9.9, compared to 15.5 in the 10 years prior. 

So, how should the NFL gauge tight end value relative to the draft? A total of 14 tight ends have been drafted in the top 10, with seven coming since 1980. Those seven are Hockenson (eighth in 2019), Eric Ebron (10th in 2014), Davis (sixth in 2006), Kellen Winslow, Jr. (sixth in 2004), Rickey Dudley (ninth in 1996), Kyle Brady (ninth in 1995), and Junior Miller (seventh in 1980). Out of those seven, three (Davis twice; Dudley, and Brady once each) appeared in Super Bowls in their careers, a good percentage. Unfortunately, only Davis appeared in one for the team that drafted him. He had a monster game of six catches on eight targets for 104 yards in the 49ers’ loss to the Ravens. The other three appearances saw Davis (with Denver), Dudley, and Brady combine for one catch on two targets for a total of three yards.

*****

While that provides some historical perspective over the decades, let’s look back at recent history. Here are the first tight ends off the board over the last decade:

2020: Cole Kmet taken in the second round, 43rd overall

2019: TJ Hockenson taken in the first round, eighth overall

2018: Hayden Hurst taken in the first round, 25th overall

2017: OJ Howard taken in the first round, 19th overall

2016: Hunter Henry taken in the second round, 35th overall

2015: Maxx Williams taken in the second round, 55th overall

2014: Eric Ebron taken in the first round, 10th overall

2013: Tyler Eifert taken in the first round, 21st overall

2012: Coby Fleener taken in the second round, 34th overall

2011: Kyle Rudolph taken in the second round, 43rd overall

Out of those 10, not one them has made a single All-Pro team in their career. Additionally, none of them played in a Super Bowl. Howard’s team made it to the 2020 Super Bowl, but he was sidelined with injury, and found himself all year in a logjam at the position with Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate, anyway. The All-Pro list over the last decade features a significant amount of redundancy as a handful of tight ends have dominated the spots.

2020: Travis Kelce, drafted third round (63rd overall) and was the fifth tight end taken

2019: George Kittle, drafted fifth round (146th overall) and was the ninth tight end taken

2018: Kelce

2017: Gronkowski, drafted second round (42nd overall) and was the second tight end taken 

2016: Kelce

2015: Gronkowski

2014: Gronkowski

2013: Jimmy Graham, drafted third round (95th overall) and was the fifth tight end taken

2012: Tony Gonzalez won the AP, drafted first round (13th overall) and was the first tight end taken; Gronkowski won the PFWA; Jason Witten won the SN, drafted third round (69th overall) and was the fourth tight end taken

2011: Gronkowski

****

So out of the last 10 years of All Pros, there were as many fifth round picks as first round picks, with Gonzalez as the lone player who was the first tight end taken in his draft class. While being the best at your position is well-and-good, football is a team sport where winning is what ultimately matters. Now, no one is ever going to say wins are a tight end statistic, but let’s take a look at the starting tight ends in the last 10 Super Bowls and see where they were picked and how they stacked up statistically that season.

2020: Kelce (3rd:63rd) vs Gronkowski (2nd::42nd)

Kelce was first in the NFL for yards as a tight end; Gronkowski was 10th

2019: Kelce vs Kittle (5th::146th)

Kelce was first in yards; Kittle was second

2018: Gronkowski vs Tyler Higbee (4th::110th)

Gronkowski was sixth in yards; Higbee was 29th

2017: Gronkowski vs Zach Ertz

Gronkowski was first in yards; Ertz was third

2016: Gronkowski vs Levine Toilolo (4th:133rd)

Gronkowski was *20th in yards; Toilolo was 40th

*Gronkowski played in just eight games with Martellus Bennett ranking ninth among tight ends in yards in 2016.

2015: Owen Daniels (4th:98th) vs Greg Olsen (1st:31st)

Daniels was 17th in yards; Olsen was 2nd

2014: Gronkowski vs Luke Willson (5th:158th)

Gronkowski was first in yards; Willson was 24th

2013: Julius Thomas (4th:129th) vs Zach Miller (2nd:38th)

Thomas was eighth in yards; Miller was 30th

2012: Dennis Pitta (4th:114th) vs Vernon Davis (1st:6th)

Pitta was 11th in yards; Davis was 17th

2011: Gronkowski vs Jake Ballard (Undrafted)

Gronkowski was first in yards; Ballard was 17th

Out of the 20 appearances by starting tight ends, more often than not the tight end was in the top 10 in the league in receiving yards at the position. It has become increasingly important, however, as in the last four Super Bowls, only Higbee was outside of the top 10 for the season as Gronkowski, Kelce, Kittle, and Ertz have shown to be the class of the position. 

Ultimately, a lot of this has putting the cart before the horse. After all, Pitts is just three years removed from his Senior Prom and despite looking like a fully grown man, will begin his rookie season at just the age of 20. If he lives up to the ceiling set for him by others and does go down as one of the best to ever play the position, he has a precedent set before him. A total of nine tight ends have been enshrined in Canton, Ohio as part of the Hall of Fame for their playing careers: Ditka, Mackey, Jackie Smith, Kellen Winslow, Sr., Ozzie Newsome, Dave Casper, Charlie Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, and Gonzalez. Out of those nine, almost half (Ditka, Winslow, Newsome, and Gonzalez) were all selected in the first round. 

What, if anything, does this really conclude? If you are one to look at patterns, you should be able to surmise that vastly more often than not, the tight end that ends up becoming the best in the league or helping his offense to a Super Bowl is not the first tight end taken, nor is it usually even in the first round. 

Conversely, Pitts is not being trumpeted because he’s a tight end. His respect and hype is due to talk about him being unlike any tight end we have seen come into the draft in a generation. If that is indeed true, then nothing else that’s happened in recent history should affect that thinking. Gronkowski is the most dominant tight end of this millennium, appearing in six of the last 10 Super Bowls and earning All-Pro honors in five of the last 10 seasons, despite taking a brief hiatus from the league in 2019. If a general manager believes that Pitts can be as transcendent of a player as Gronk has, then he would be wise to do what he can to get him.

No matter what, in just a few years time, all of will know whether or not unicorns are real.

Will fuller

Five Takeaways from the Dolphins first week of free agency

The first week of free agency is officially in the books, and the Miami Dolphins have made several key acquisitions to improve in 2021 and beyond.

Here are five things we learned about the Dolphins after the first week of free agency!

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

“You can’t always get what you want.”

Maybe we should’ve listened to coach Brian Flores when he openly warned fans and the media that the team would more-than-likely miss out on a few key free agents. He even went as far as to reference the Rolling Stones’ song. And yet, we still failed to heed his warning.

Here were Flores’ exact words during his March 11th press conference:

“This is a very unique year, a very unique year. We do have some money form a cap standpoint that we can spend; but again, it’s an interesting year. I think I’m going to be playing the song ‘you can’t always get what you want,’ on Day 1 in free agency, to be honest with you, because we may get priced out on some guys we’re looking at that we’d like to have. They may just want to go elsewhere. So I think we’re going to try to do the best we can. We’ve had multiple meeting about this; and again, I would say just getting the cap number yesterday kind of sets the stage for us to at least say ‘we’re going to have this; we can do this, this, this and this,’ and kind of forecast and predict said player, we expect him to get this, which I’d say wipes out this amount or whatever percentage of cash we have to spend. I don’t know if that answers your question. You can’t always get what you want. I try to tell my kids that too. (laughter)”

The truth is, most of us will never know what Miami’s plan was in free agency. I’m not even sure some of those within the organization could honestly tell you. But while fans sat and wondered what was happening 48 hours into the legal-tampering period, Flores and general manager Chris Grier remained cool as a cucumber. They had a plan to improve the roster while continuing to use their resources (and money) wisely. CHECK!

Stone Cold Flores is going to continue to do what he wants when he wants. The sooner we all come to that realization, the better.

The Dolphins will leave no stone unturned in finding talent

Acorns may have been Jeff Ireland’s thing, but what we see from the NEW Miami Dolphins since Brian Flores’ arrival has been impressive, to say the least. Sure, the team traded for Isaiah Wilson, a swing-and-a-miss, but do you fault the Dolphins for trying? I don’t. And I don’t blame them for trying to get the most out of Josh Rosen, Mark Walton, Antonio Callaway, or insert player’s name here.

Those are only the misses. We don’t even talk about some of the guys they’ve been able to get the most out of. Players like Zach Sieler, Salvon Ahmed, Mack Hollins, the list goes on and on.

My point? Things are different in Miami. And good football teams will stop at no cost to acquire talent. For years we watched as the Evil Empire in New England followed this mantra. But now, Flores and his staff are starting to forge their own path. This is the way, and the future in Miami is much brighter because of it.

I love Zach Sieler.

Miami’s game-changing running back is in the 2021 NFL Draft

It became clear once Aaron Jones re-signed with the Green Bay Packers that the Miami Dolphins would not be overpaying for a free-agent back this offseason. Instead, the Dolphins chose to sign former LA Rams’ running back Malcolm Brown to a one-year deal. The 27-year-old RB combined for ten touchdowns over the last two seasons and should fill the void left behind by Jordan Howard. I kid, i kid. But Brown does bring the thunder in a way the Dolphins believed Howard could when they inked him last March.

Translation: He is mean AF, and it will be hard for any defensive lineman to stop in short-yard situations. 

Personally, I never wanted the Dolphins to go after Aaron Jones.

Especially when you consider what his contract will cost in comparison to one of this year’s top rookies. Sure, it would’ve filled a void on the roster and allowed the team to use those top draft picks elsewhere. And yes, Jones would’ve been the best RB the Dolphins have had since Ricky Williams himself. But when you think of adding a young talent like Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, or Javonte Williams to Miami’s current stable of running backs. Well, that to me always seemed like the Dolphins’ best, and most likely, option.

May I interest you in a soon-to-be 21-year old Javonte Williams?

Will Fuller is the wide receiver the Dolphins needed

Heading into free agency, three wide receivers were being talked about most among NFL fanbases. It wasn’t until after Curtis Samuel signed with the Washington Football Team that people started to remember Will Fuller V was still available. Some joked that maybe Fuller would reunite with Deshaun Watson, but never for a second did a source or expert mention Fuller as a target–despite his skill-set being everything the Dolphins needed at wide receiver.

Maybe I was blinded by my long-lasting admiration for Curtis Samuel. I don’t know. Whatever the reason may be, Fuller has all the tools to not only take the top off a defense but take Miami’s offense to another stratosphere. Best of all, Fuller has sure hands and has shown the ability to go up and high-point the football. When you slowly start to peel away the layers, it becomes much more clear; William Fuller is everything the Dolphins needed at wide receiver.

The biggest question mark surrounding Fuller and the Dolphins’ wide receivers now, is whether they can stay healthy for a full 17-game season.

In Tua Tagovailoa, We Trust

I can’t sit here and tell you if the Dolphins tiptoed into free agency with one eye focused on a certain Houston quarterback. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. But what we can agree on is that right now, Watson is too toxic to touch. And whether the plan was “Tua Tagovailoa, no matter what!” or “tUa TAgOvAilOa NO mAtTer WhAt,” the Left Arm of God is the Miami Dolphins franchise quarterback NOW and for the immediate future.

Obviously, things can change at the drop of a hat. But what we’re seeing is a Dolphins team-building around their 23-year-old signal-caller, as they should. They brought in Matt Skura to slightly upgrade the offensive line. And as we discussed previously, they added a playmaking wide receiver that does everything the team needed in 2020. Last year, we all knew Ryan Fitzpatrick would start and eventually hand the reigns over to Tagovailoa.

This year it is Tagovailoa’s team. And with a full offseason to get bigger, faster, and stronger, you can bet your ass we’re going to see the same Tagovailoa we all fell in love with at Tuscaloosa.

This article was written by me, Josh Houtz. Follow me on Twitter

Dolphins coach Brian Flores discussed free agency, the draft and Tua Tagovailoa.

Pressure Point: Flores ‘excited’ about Tua as Dolphins prepare for free agency, draft

All of the speculation so far in this NFL offseason about the Miami Dolphins is focused on the possible pursuit of elite quarterback Deshaun Watson through trade and what they may do with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft.

None of it has altered the view of coach Brian Flores, at least publicly, regarding Tua Tagovailoa.

Asked his reaction to conjecture about the quarterback position, Flores said Thursday, “My reaction is I’m excited to work with Tua.”

Flores was addressing South Florida media ahead to the free agency signing period beginning March 17 and the draft to follow April 29-May 1.

The coach did the usual gingerly dance around how the Dolphins will approach those two crucial offseason roster-building tools. His remarks on the draft indicated that the Dolphins aren’t necessarily locked in on holding onto the third pick.

“Our scouting staff, I think they’ve done a really great job as far as narrowing down who the top players are in this draft,” Flores said. “We’ll have an opportunity to grab one of them, at least in let’s call it the top 10. But having that type of pick, there’s a lot of other avenues we can go. We’ll explore those also.”

Dolphins can’t get everything they want in free agency

Meanwhile, he offered a realistic assessment on what the Dolphins will be able to achieve in pursuit of veteran free agents:

“I think I’m going to be playing the song, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ on that Day 1 of free agency, to be honest with you.”

The NFL announced Wednesday that the 2021 salary cap will be $182.5 million, down from the $198.2 million last season.

The salary cap tracker Spotrac.com projects the Dolphins’ available cap space at about $33.1 million, including a $15.2 million rollover from last year and $4.6 million in dead space (that includes dead space from releasing linebacker Kyle Van Noy).

The Dolphins have been linked to interest in Packers running back Aaron Jones and Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay, among others. But they are not set up for the sort of spending spree as a year ago.

Miami’s available cap space is tied for ninth-highest in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.

“We do have some money from a cap standpoint that we can spend,” Flores said. “We may get priced out on some guys that we’d like to have. [Or] they may just want to go elsewhere. …

“We want talented players but we want a good cohesive unit, guys that fit well together. That’s not always 11 stars.”

Elevating Tua’s development vital to Dolphins

Flores reiterated his commitment to Tagovailoa, who he called “a talented player,’ and made it clear he has been in close contact with the second-year quarterback.

“Tua and I had lunch yesterday,” Flores said. “He’s doing well, he’s confident, I’m confident in him. I’m looking forward to his offseason [work].

“I’m really excited about that Year 1 to Year 2 jump, being more comfortable. … I’m all about the development of players and helping them develop and get better. I think an offseason is going to be really helpful for him and I’m really excited about working with him this offseason.”

None of that rules out the possibility of the team taking a different approach to advancing the quarterback position, depending on what opportunities may be available to them — the Texans still say they’re not trading Watson.

The Dolphins will have to address the back-up quarterback role. Retaining veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is viewed as unlikely.

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Fitzpatrick unlikely to return as backup QB

“We’d love him back but I think this is a very unique year from a cap standpoint,” Flores said, adding that if Fitzpatrick doesn’t return Miami would be seeking someone with similar characteristics in veteran savvy and competitiveness. “There’s a few guys out there. We’ve taken a look at them all.”

The other notable topic Flores touched on was the decision to elevate assistants Eric Studesville and George Godsey to offensive co-coordinators.

“I think continuity was a big thing in making that decision, Flores said. “I wanted that for Tua and really for a lot of the young players we have offensively.”
However, the game-day process of calling plays is still being worked out.

“George has called plays in the past. Eric, with COVID [contingencies in 2020], was preparing to call the game if something happened to Chan [Gailey] the entire year. We’ll figure out a way that’s collaborative but that at the end of the day puts our team in the best position to have success.”

So Flores is preparing to move forward with Tagovaila as quarterback, as well he should. Tua carries all Dolphins hopes at the onset of the NFL year.
Whether that remains the case or changes radically by the time the season begins in September, the dramatic potential remains to be played out over the coming months.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Canes announce Aristide as new LB coach following T-Will Departure

Travis Williams’ tenure as linebackers coach at Miami was short-lived and as a result, head coach Manny Diaz found himself yet again searching for a candidate that would assist with coaching up Miami’s poorest unit in 2020. The Canes officially announced on Monday that Ishmael Aristide would take over the reigns as the new outside linebackers coach.

 

Aristide spent the last two seasons as a defensive analyst for Texas A&M, where the Aggies defense allowed 317.3 yards/game, 9th-best in the country and tops in the SEC.

 

Before College Station, Aristide had stops at Ole Miss (player personnel analyst in 2017-18) and Auburn (GA in 2016). He played collegiately at Purdue from 2009-12.

 

Per a UM press release: “We’re excited to welcome Ishmael to the Hurricanes program,” Diaz said. “He is a sharp defensive mind and relentless recruiter who will be a great addition to our coaching staff.”

 

ANALYSIS

 

Now I know Aristide’s name might not ring a bell at first. This is because it is Aristide’s first gig as an on-field coach so he’s definitely not proven in terms of player development and relationships with current roster players.

 

This leads me to my next point on why Aristide is a big get for the Canes. Aristide made 247Sports’ most recent “30Under30” list, which notes the top 30  up-and-coming coaches under the age of 30. Here’s what 247’s Chris Hummer had to say on Aristide:

 

“Take a look at any member of Texas A&M’s 2020 recruiting class, and there’s a pretty good bet Aristide had a role in helping to land that player. Considered an elite recruiter, Aristide aided the Aggies’ pursuit of players like Donell Harris and one of the deepest defensive back classes in the country. He’s also been a big asset for Texas A&M’s defensive back room, working alongside defensive coordinator Mike Elko. Aristide came to College Station from Ole Miss, where he served as a senior defensive analyst from 2017 to 2019. Before arriving in Oxford, he was a GA at Auburn. The former Purdue Boilermaker is someone we expect to have an on-field role sooner rather than later. Those around the Aggie program are very high on him.”

 

It’s clear that Diaz jumped on the chance to get Aristide on his staff knowing that he is held in high regard, a great recruiter, and a Miami native.

 

Let’s start off with his recruiting prowess. Texas A&M has compiled top-7 classes in the past two recruiting cycles  and a big catalyst for both classes was Aristide.Fisher counted on Aristide to land a lot of the big fish that would eventually make their way to College Station, including former longtime Miami commit and four-star DE Donell Harris. If you don’t (or don’t want to) remember, Harris was a highly-rated defensive end that was initially in the 2021 class but switched to 2020.

 

He did graduate from an Orlando-area high school but his Miami roots do run deep outside of changing one recruit’s mind. If the Canes didn’t already build a fence around Miami Northwestern High after the 2021 recruiting class, it’s interesting to note that Aristide’s father Wallace is the principal.

 

All in all, it’s definitely far from a given that he will provide exponential growth to the linebacker room. But Manny Diaz recognizes that the next two recruiting classes are flooded with South Florida prospects and adding a fourth coach with major South Florida ties (TRob, DVD, Stephen Field, Aristide) should pay major dividends.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the opening night event for Super Bowl 54. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports Network)

Veterans vs. Newbies: The NFL Playoff Story

The playoffs in the 2020-2021 NFL season holds a special matchup. While the NFC has 3 starting QB’s over the age of 36, the AFC has 4 starting QB’s under the age of 26, and the youngest QB in the NFC is older than the oldest QB in the AFC.

After Wild Card Weekend, the Bills, Ravens, Chiefs, and Browns are left in the AFC, while the Buccaneers, Packers, Saints, and Rams are left in the NFC.  Here’s how I view the battle of the Veterans vs. the Newbies.

The NFC has over 200,000 total passing yards and 1600 total passing touchdowns between the 4 QB’s competing for the divisional title.

Between the 4 teams in the NFC, there is a lot of talent but the division title will only go to one of them.

Here is where I rank each of them throughout the playoffs:

4. Rams: I think that the Rams will lose their game to the packers next weekend. The Rams showed promise against the Seahawks, and beat that very talented team, but I can’t see the Rams stopping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

3. Buccaneers: The Buccaneers probably have the best offense in the NFC. Between the GOAT, Tom Brady, and his explosive receiving core, that offense is amazing. Unfortunately for Brady and the Bucs, it seems like the Saints have been their kryptonite. I think that the Buccaneers will lose to the Saints next weekend to be the 3rd best team in the NFC.

2. Packers: This is a risky placement for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams have been unstoppable, and while they should definitely make the divisional game, I think that the Saints(or Buccaneers) will be able to take down the Packers to grab the divisional title.

1. Saints: I really believe in Drew Brees to make it to the Super Bowl. He has an amazing defense, and an unstoppable offense on his side, along with an extra desire to get in, due to his past 3 years in the playoffs, as he got knocked out by the Vikings twice, and the Rams once, stopping him from making the Super Bowl. I think Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and the Saints defense can bring a divisional title to New Orleans.

 

The AFC is a fully different story. Every quarterback is age 25 or under. Between the four QB’s, they have less than 45,000 passing yards and under 300 total passing TD’s.

These young quarterbacks are easily some of the best in the game already. While Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson have won an MVP, Josh Allen was a top 3 contender this year for sure, and Baker Mayfield is starting to play much better.

Out of the 4 AFC teams, here are my bets for the playoff standings:

 

4. Browns: The Browns portrayed a shocking performance against Steelers. While the defense played amazing, and Baker mayfield carried the offense to a 48 point showing, I can’t see them holding the Chiefs offense enough to win.

3. Ravens: Lamar Jackson is terrifying to play against. His arm, along with his speed and agility, make the perfect dual threat QB. I think they will be close but, I think the Bills will come out on top in this game.

2. Bills: Josh Allen just played the best year of his life and has been leading his dominant team. Stefon diggs led receivers in yards in the regular season, and has also been playing amazing, earning them the number 2 spot in the AFC

1. Chiefs: I’m sorry, but I don’t see a world where anyone beats the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce are unstoppable in the passing game. The Chiefs offense along with a pretty skilled defense shouldn’t lose to anybody in these playoffs.

Overall, I think the young group of the AFC will beat out the veterans of the NFC, and the Chiefs will beat the Packers in the Super Bowl.

Can experience win, or will the new guys be able to take the ring.

This Dave Hyde Article About Tua Tagovailoa Sucks

Dave Hyde is a sportswriter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. And this Dave Hyde article sucks. We’re not saying that he’s incompetent and should lose his livelihood (he’s won major awards!). What we are saying is that, like his colleagues in the South Florida sports coverage community, he tends to fall back on lazy hot takes and cliches and Tweets. Well, no more. This aggression will not stand, man. Because that’s enough with that shit, already. He and his buddies should do better. And until they do, we’ll be here to call them on it.

LET’S GET DAVE’S ASS and his Sunday Dolphins article.

A bad Dolphins day, an ugly finish — and now an offseason riddle about Tua’s future at QB (published on Sunday, January 3, 2021)

If I’m Miami Dolphins owner, Steve Ross…

We’re simpatico like that. I call him Steve. Sometimes I call him Stevesy. Sometimes he calls me Davey Bean Dad.

I give general manager Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores a few days to decompress…

THE SUMMER OF FLORES.

… before sitting them in a room…

I’d sit Chris Grier and Brian Flores in a room. Like an Escape Room where they have to solve their own murders!

…and asking: Do they still trust their careers with Tua Tagovailoa’s future?

I’d sit them in a room and ask them questions like: Do you still trust your careers with Tua Tagovaiola’s future? Have you ever seen your father naked? Do you own a My Pillow? Have you ever ordered a cheeseburger at a Wendy’s drive-thru and then immediately driven to a McDonald’s drive-thru to order fries? Have you ever walked in on cats doing it and then just let them finish? Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party? How much money would it take for you to spend the night in a cemetery? Why do old people like to grasp your arm with a grip-of-death when they talk to you? What’s the deal with that Megan Thee Stallion? Have you ever visited the Chinatown section in a major city? Isn’t it sad that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs? What the fuck IS a Bean Dad?

Yes or no.

Black or white.

In or out.

Day or night.

No hemming, no hawing…

No shenanigans! No tomfoolery! No ballyhoo!

No talking of dropped passes or assertions about needing better players around him.

No talking about the actual real problems this team has! Fuck that.

Shove your excuses and assertions about Tua having no weapons up into your asshole, Dolphins! Even though Dave Bean Dad Hyde made this exact argument for Ryan Tannehill back in 2018 when he had better weapons than Tua. He quoted Bill Walsh and everything!:

“[Tannehill’s] good enough, in other words, if the team around him is good enough. “Organizations make quarterbacks,’’ the great Bill Walsh said, and he should know, as Joe Montana and Steve Young had a great system with Hall of Fame talent around him in San Francisco. Update that to the last Super Bowl, when Philadelphia’s Nick Foles moved in for injured Carson Wentz and won. That’s why of all the odd moves the Dolphins made this offseason –– ridding themselves of talent, signing four free agents over the age of 32 by the first kickoff — hoping on Tannehill should be the most logical one.”

I can write inconsistent shit like this because I have no accountability. PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO SUN SENTINEL ONLY NINETY NINE CENTS FOR FOUR WEEKS.

Is Tua still The Guy or not?

Tua was forced to throw the ball to a guy not good enough to make the Patriots this year and two running backs you literally never heard of until last month who were statistically the worst at breaking tackles BUT IS TUA STILL THE GUY OR NOT COME ON ANSWER THE QUESTION.

And, beyond that, after Tua’s unimpressive rookie year…

An unimpressive 64.1 percent pass completion, and a passer rating of 87.1 — which are better numbers than what Josh Allen put up his first two seasons.

Moreover, according to non-Dolphins beat writer and overall cool dude, @BaseyCrock, Miami’s receivers had the third most drops and were 27th in yards after the catch while, as mentioned above, their running backs were dead last in yards after contact — and third lowest yards per carry. But I remain UNIMPRESSED WITH THIS PISSANT HAWAIIAN BOY.

…Ross should ask why the Dolphins (10-6) wouldn’t be in the market for another top quarterback with their third-overall 2021 NFL draft pick.

No, he shouldn’t ask that. Because this is real life and not fantasy football where Dave Hyde’s Pussyhammers finished first in his 12 team redraft Yahoo! Fantasy League this year after taking Aaron Rodgers with his fourth round pick. A draft day steal! DAVE HYDE’S PUSSYHAMMERS WILL FUCK YOUR SHIT UP!

The fact last January’s question remains this January’s question says the Dolphins drafted the wrong quarterback last spring.

This sentence makes no goddamn sense. Please consider subscribing to the Sun-Sentinel for more sentences like this one.

If there was a re-draft today, the quarterback the Dolphins passed on, Justin Herbert, would be taken over Tua. It’d be a slam-dunk, too.

DeVante Parker and Isaiah Ford would be dropping passes left and right with even more GUSTO with Justin Herbert in there. Slam dunk and other obscure 1970s sports idioms slap me some skin oh yeaaa!

For that matter, if we’re doing hypothetical replays, the quarterback the Dolphins passed on a few years back, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, would be drafted before anyone except Patrick Mahomes.

Once again, Tua had a better rookie season than Josh Allen’s first two seasons in the league. Google is a thing you can use for your own edification.

In fact, Allen’s number one receiver, Stefon Diggs, finished this season as the best receiver in the NFL across the board in all major stats (look it up). Entering his third season as a pro this year, Josh Allen was dismissed as an “athletic QB with accuracy issues.” Then Diggs, a Pro Bowl wide receiver with great hands and wheels, arrived from Minnesota via a trade. And now Allen is in the MVP conversation and being mentioned with the likes of Patrick Mahomes. Weapons fucking matter. But who are we to question the wisdom of Dave Hyde, virtual GM of Dave Hyde’s Pussyhammers?

Allen, a certified star….

Josh Allen, A CERTIFIED STAR, has Stephon Diggs, the NFL’s number one receiver according to Pro Football Reference. Tua, a rookie who has played in a total of nine pro football games in his life, has DeVante Parker, the 48th ranked receiver according to Pro Football Reference.

Do you see a pattern with quarterbacks here?

YES! One quarterback has Stefon Diggs, a man with bear paws for hands, and the other has DeVante Parker, a man with shoe horns for hands.

Haven’t you seen it for 20 years?

Six of those years we’ve seen you defend Ryan Tannehill for the same exact stuff you’re now spraying your Dave Hyde shit all over Tua about.

It’s why for this latest rebuild to be a success, the quarterback has to be a success. Until then, all conclusions are on hold.

ALL CONCLUSIONS ARE ON HOLD. EXCEPT FOR MY CONCLUSIONS WHICH IS THE DOLPHINS SHOULD THROW AWAY THE NUMBER 3 PICK ON ANOTHER QUARTERBACK BASED ON… checks notes…. NINE GAMES.

This looks to be a quarterback-rich draft again. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the seeming sure thing at No. 1. Brigham Young’s Zach Wilson is the rising commodity, and Ohio State’s Justin Fields just dissected Clemson in the college playoffs.

Tua was a better draft prospect than Justin Fields and Zach Wilson BUT GO ON.

It wouldn’t look good to take Tagovailoa with the No. 5 pick one year and his potential successor with the No. 3 pick the next draft.

You JUST literally wrote this sentence!: “Ross should ask why the Dolphins wouldn’t be in the market for another top quarterback with their third-overall 2021 NFL draft pick.” GAHHHHH.

Perhaps the only one to do it was former Dolphins general manager Joe Thomas.

Ah the Joe Thomas era where you can draft a quarterback who wore spectacles and threw the ball seven times a game because you had MANTANKS for running backs.

He took Rick Norton with the top pick in 1966. When that didn’t work out, he took Bob Griese with the fourth pick in 1967.

Bob Griese, the Trent Dilfer of the 1970s!

The moral: Keep drafting a quarterback until you have one.

Ok, yea, sure. But the crux of this entire article has been about how the Dolphins should tell Tua to fuck off after nine games of throwing to Isiah Fucking Ford and that they should have drafted Justin Herbert instead so he could throw passes to Isiah Fucking Ford rather than, say, I dunno, perennial Pro Bowler Keenan Allen.

Do the Dolphins have one now? That’s the question of the offseason.

But the bigger question of the offseason is who will Dave Hyde’s Pussyhammers take with their first pick in 2021? Derrick Henry? Dalvin Cook? Christian McCaffrey? STAY TUNED. SLAM DUNK.

 

Chris Joseph (@ByChrisJoseph) is a host of the Five Reasons comedy podcast, Ballscast. He’s written about sports and movies for Deadspin, Miami New Times, CBS Sports, and several other outlets.

Tua Tagovailoa left the final game of his rookie season with a bitter taste after the Dolphins were routed by the Bills.

Pressure Point: Dolphins shift focus to vital offseason with No. 3 pick

The crash-and-burn of the Miami Dolphins’ unexpected playoff run shouldn’t leave a lasting sour taste or taint a truly exceptional season.

Though rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said he and his teammates were left with “a bitter taste in our mouths” in the immediate aftermath of the 56-26 debacle Sunday at Buffalo. “That’s not the way we wanted to go down.”

As unpleasant as it was to watch, the cold dose of reality did provide an honest gauge to take into the offseason.

The Browns, Ravens and Colts did the Dolphins a favor by winning their games to bump Miami out the playoffs. At this point the Dolphins aren’t ready to compete with the teams like the Bills in the postseason.

The objective is to build a team that can.

Coach Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier are working on something that has a chance to be special, and this 10-6 season was a significant step in that direction. The offseason will offer opportunities to add much-needed talent, particularly on offense.

Who will Dolphins pick at No. 3?

The next few months will bring considerable debate about what to do with the third overall pick in the draft, the main spoil of the Laremy Tunsil trade with the Houston Texans.

The Dolphins can thank Ryan Tannehill and the Titans for clinching it for the Dolphins with Sunday’s last-second win over the Texans, 41-38. Tannehill’s 52-yard pass to set up the winning field goal was another Miami Miracle.

The hot topic will be, do they take Oregon tackle Penei Sewell or Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith?

Sewell is regarded as a generational talent, evoking comparisons to Hall of Famer Orlando Pace. Smith would Tagovailoa a familiar target from their time together at Alabama.

Sewell will become an instant force on someone’s offensive line. But the Dolphins have a crying need for receivers — more than one.

That was painfully obvious Sunday with 10 or 11 catchable passes that were not caught. It has been evident all season.

Debatable if is to high for Smith. Maybe the answer is to trade down with a team that covets Sewell in order to draft two premier playmakers.

The Dolphins will also have their own pick at No. 18, as well as No. 36 and No. 50 in the second round, so they have options.

Pick QB or stick with Tua?

There are some voices clamoring for the Dolphins to draft another quarterback, already sour on Tua. Despite a respectable first season with a limited offense — he came into the season finale with 65 percent completions, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

His three interceptions in the second half at Buffalo give them more fodder. The first, a pick-six, happened  because DeVante Parker fell down, the other two were on Tua.

I’m sticking with Tua. Tough to draw a conclusion on whether or not Tua is worthy of the franchise quarterback tag when he’s running the junior varsity offense.

Do Dolphins receivers ever get as wide open as the Bills’ crew was all day? Do Dolphins quarterbacks ever have all day to sit in the pocket like Josh Allen and Matt Barkley did all day Sunday?

And what of the play calling, which offensive coordinator Chan Gailey acknowledged last week has been more conservative for Tua than when Ryan Fitzpatrick is in the game?

Will Chan Gailey return as OC?

Whether Gailey, who turns 69 on Tuesday, is retained or retires is one of the key offseason questions.

Regarding Gailey and the play calling, Tagovailoa said: “I think me and Chan’s relationship is really good, and our partnership with what I kind of want called and the communication between us I think is really good.

“Just today, I don’t think I put us in a really good situation. With the defense giving us a turnover on the first series and not going down and punching it in, there was a lot of miscommunication on that first drive for us. …

“We need to be better in that aspect of opening up games. First drives, we’ve got to go down and give our team some spark.”

Inexplicably, Gailey waited until the Dolphins fell into a huge deficit to take the reins off Tagovailoa with more uptempo and downfield throws. The change brought an impressive 75-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, but the spate of interceptions followed.

It wasn’t just the shortcomings of an offense short on playmakers that led to the drubbing. The Bills torched Miami’s highly regarded defense and special teams too, producing touchdown in all three phases of the game.

Interceptions by Byron Jones and Xavien Howard (his 10th of the season, tying the franchise record) were the lone highlights for Miami.

“We didn’t play well as a team,” said Flores, who avoided criticism of Tagovailoa while distributing blame, but said, “That includes Tua. He’s got to play better as well. But everyone’s a part of that.

“Look, he’s played well over the course of the season. We as a team have played well. We didn’t have it today.”

Flores, Grier face vital offseason decisions

As much as you want to see your team make the playoffs, it was difficult to root for that after the Dolphins turned in their poorest performance of the season.

On the surface the season-ending shellacking goes down as another in a long line of Dolphins dreams that have died at Buffalo. But the circumstance are different this time.

These Dolphins came farther and faster than was reasonable to expect in the second season of a complete roster reconstruction.

Next season expectations will be higher and the offseason will be about putting talent in place to meet them and avoid bitter endings like this one.

My gut feeling is Tagovailoa will be back as the starter and he will have more weapons at his disposal and a different OC calling the plays.

But as Tua said after the game, “I don’t think I have control over any of those things. I think all I can do is to continue to grow, continue to get better.”

Right, Grier and Flores will make those calls. Their jobs depend on it. They can’t afford not to get it right.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns