Not Tua, but Trevor: Why the Dolphins Should Build Toward Getting Clemson QB, Lawrence

Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

At this point of the season, it is already known what direction the Miami Dolphins are going in. 

Then again, you could make the case the Dolphins were going in this direction before the season even started. 

Linebacker Kiko Alonso, left tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Kenny Stills: All traded before the NFL regular season kicked off. And, of course, the trade of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the end of week two. 

The process is underway. The Miami Dolphins are building for the future and stashing up on as many draft picks as possible. 

The question arises, though. What should be done with them? 

Before this, one should keep score of what the Dolphins have to work with. With the trade of Tunsil and Stills to the Houston Texans, the Dolphins received a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, along with a first-round and second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. In the Fitzpatrick trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dolphins received another first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Together, this gives the Dolphins three first-round picks in the 2020 Draft and two first-round picks in the 2021 Draft as it stands right now. And this is not even discussing the plethora of other picks they received in smaller-tier trades over the past year. 

To put it simply, the Dolphins are hoarding draft picks. They have a surplus of them. 

Let’s get back to the main question and the reason for this article. What should be done with them? What direction should the Dolphins go in?

Not Alabama-phenom Tua Tagovailoa. But Trevor Lawrence. The long-haired Clemson superstar. 

One might be saying the obvious elephant in the room at this point: Lawrence is not eligible for the NFL Draft until 2021, whereas Tagovailoa is eligible in the upcoming draft. 

Well, precisely. 

Do the Dolphins need a quarterback? Of course. And they will get one.

Who, though? It should be Lawrence. The quarterback many are saying is the most sure-fire, electric and dynamic quarterback in college football since Andrew Luck at Stanford. 

Let’s start with how the Dolphins are built right now. Better yet, the lack thereof. After all of their trades, one could see the Dolphins now as an empty plot of land needing to be built from the ground up into a steady, sturdy and comfortable house that will become stable for years to come. 

To do this, the architect and corresponding construction workers do not start by putting the planks down and start building the house right away. Steps must be taken beforehand to make sure the material for the house stays upright and does not collapse into rubble. The foundation-laying of the land and cementing of the plot are ways to do this. 

In football terms, the quarterback is the material of the house. The cementing and foundation-laying? The offensive line. 

The Miami Dolphins should prioritize the offensive line in the upcoming draft over a quarterback such as Tagovailoa, and then go after Lawrence the year after.

With the trade of Tunsil, the Dolphins offensive line has been the worst in the entire league. They have allowed the most quarterback hits in the NFL with 23, while also being tied for first in sacks allowed with ten. Need I remind you that it is only week three of the 2019 NFL season. 

The good news for Miami is that the offensive line in the upcoming draft is deep, led by the likes of Andrew Thomas from Georgia, Trey Adams from Washington, Calvin Throckmorton from Oregon, Walker Little from Stanford, and Tyler Biadasz from Wisconsin, among many others. Whether looking at it from a guard, tackle or center perspective, the 2020 NFL Draft will have it. 

The Miami Dolphins have a golden opportunity that, in the annals of NFL history, does not come along often, if at all. With their overabundance of draft picks, they have the opportunity to completely transform their offensive line from a weakness to a sure-fire strength in one draft. 

When looking at the elite offensive lines in the league today, such as the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles or New England Patriots, they were not made elite in one draft. It took several drafts. Why? They did not have as many picks in a single draft as the Dolphins do right now.

Back to the house-building analogy. The cementing and leveling of the land are essential to the house staying upright and stable for years to come. Not doing so from the beginning can lead to catastrophic results and attempting to catch up and fix the area after everything is laid down could be too little too late. 

An example? Andrew Luck. 

Luck retired at age 29 due to the significant amount of injuries he had to deal with from being one of the most pressured and hit quarterbacks in the league during his time playing. The reason? The lack of a stable offensive line. Even younger quarterbacks in the league, such as Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray have seen and will continue to see constant pressure. Enough of it could eventually lead to injuries to the point of not being as effective as they could be. 

Building around and making a priority of getting a quarterback first, and then the offensive line second is risky. 

The Dolphins, with the trade of young players in Tunsil and Fitzpatrick, look to be undergoing a rebuild that will take not one, but perhaps two or three years. With this direction they seem to be going in, it makes sense to be patient and to not pull the trigger too early on netting a quarterback, even one of Tagovailoa’s caliber. Building other areas up first would make sense. 

It is the right play. Being patient in the rebuilding process makes sure the team does not attempt to do too much right out of the gate. Not rushing the process, so to speak. 

Being patient in the Dolphins case also makes sure they build a stable team that can challenge their division rivals. 

In particular, the New England Patriots. 

In two years, Tom Brady will be 44 years old. Building up the offensive line in the upcoming draft, and then getting Lawrence the draft after, gives the Dolphins a firm foundation to permanently give the Patriots a run for their money. Having an offensive line and Lawrence has a much better chance of unhinging Brady and the Patriots than Tagovailoa and an offensive line that could still be patchwork. 

It has a better chance of being able to win shootouts versus the Patriots and other AFC teams. The Chiefs. The Steelers. The Chargers. The Browns. AFC teams the Dolphins could be facing should they make the postseason.

Now, there are risks to gambling on going after Lawrence two drafts from now, and there is a valid reason the Dolphins should get Tagovailoa in the upcoming draft. To start, other rebuilding teams could end up being worse than the Dolphins to the point of poaching Lawrence before they have a chance to snag him. The Dolphins could also get Tagovailoa and use their remaining draft picks to get offensive linemen after him, while also supplementing the offensive line in free agency with the cap space they have. 

Perfectly valid reasons. 

But to permanently be a force in the NFL, to be able to consistently go to Super Bowls and win them, and to become a dynasty, risks have to be taken. 

For general manager Chris Grier, the architect of the house needing to be built, that is the next Dolphins playoff and Super Bowl team, risks will have to be taken. To become the best house in the neighborhood, decisions will have to be made. Grier’s legacy, and job, will depend on it. 

What direction Miami goes in has yet to be seen. 

But that firm foundation, and that shiny new house sitting on top of it, should be Trevor Lawrence. 

Advertisements

The LSU Tigers and Dallas Cowboys are Similarly Modernizing

A common theme among sports fans is the idea of the storylines that come out of it. 

Another common theme within sports that fans like to follow, especially among different teams in different leagues, is finding similarities.

A similarity at this stage of the early football season no one is talking about? The resurgence of offense and the similarities the change brings among two premier football teams: the LSU Tigers and Dallas Cowboys. 

When you look at these teams a year ago, they were coming off solid seasons. LSU came off its first 10-win season since 2013, along with un-hinging the then-undefeated UCF Golden Knights to win a New Year’s Six Fiesta Bowl. The Cowboys, meanwhile, after being 2-3 through five games of the season, won 10 games as well and beat the Seahawks in the Wild Card Game, only to lose in the Divisional Playoffs versus the would-be NFC pennant-winning Los Angeles Rams. 

Again, solid seasons. Solid seasons many other teams would gladly take any day of the week. But for teams with as much history and prestige as these two, winning a bowl or playoff game is not enough. 

For both, winning championships is the goal. Hoisting trophies. Wearing championship rings. Winning the biggest games on the biggest stage. That is what both are shooting for. 

The thing that has prevented them from reaching that goal? Offense. In particular, an explosive air attack. 

Let’s look at last season for both teams. Last season, LSU ranked 67thin the entire FBS in passing yards per game with 228.5 yards, while also ranking 95thin passing touchdowns per game, getting slightly over one in the end zone per game through the air. The Cowboys also had issues in the passing department, posting 221.1 yards per game, 23rd in the NFL. The Cowboys also ranked 23rdin the NFL in passing touchdowns, tallying only 22 on the season. 

The similarity is simple at this point. Both teams thrived last season off solid defense and an amazing run game, managing to get by their passing woes by pushing both strengths to their limit. A decent strategy to get to where they got, for sure. 

But to get to where they want to go in hoisting the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy or the Vince Lombardi? You have to be more three-dimensional. Especially in today’s Air raid-oriented offensive schemes throughout the sport. 

Enter the next similarity. 

In the offseason, both squads made an acquisition to fix this area of need. In January of 2019, the Tigers hired New Orleans Saints assistant Joe Brady as their passing game coordinator and right-hand man to offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger. The Cowboys parted ways with Scott Linehan and made Kellen Moore, the former backup quarterback, the new offensive coordinator after being the quarterbacks coach the season prior. 

The results of both hires in regard to passing, through the early part of the season for both teams, has been explosive. For LSU, they rank second in the entire FBS in passing yards per game at 436.3 and tied for sixth in passing touchdowns with 11. LSU, with 1309 passing yards through three games, is the most passing yards for the team through three games to start this season this millennium. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ passing game ranks third in passing yards per game with 333.0 and tied for second in passing touchdowns with seven. The Cowboys’ 666 yards of offense in the air through the first two games is the most since 2011. 

For the similarities, both hires have transformed two ground-oriented offenses into the modern game with more emphasis on dynamic routes for long yardage, deeper throws, and perhaps most significantly, setting up the passing game first to set up the run later. 

These are different offenses. Scarier offenses. Offenses that can go toe-to-toe with any team they are facing this season whether in the regular season or potential postseason. 

The similarities between the two teams are endless and, to a degree, eerily coincidental. As the season progresses, more similarities could arise. 

Sports fans should be here for it. 

Dave Dombrowski: A Victim To His Own Process

The Boston Red Sox were a well-oiled machine last season. They won 108 games and pummeled their way to win their fourth World Series title in the last 15 years. 

The mechanic that made the machine run effectively over the past few seasons? Dave Dombrowski. 

No more, though. 

After the Red Sox 10-5 loss to the New York Yankees two nights ago, Dombrowski was relieved of his duties, with senior vice president Raquel Ferreira and assistant general managers Eddie Romero, Brian O’Halloran and Zack Scott all being promoted to jointly lead the baseball operations together. 

A shocking turn of events, to say the least. However, one major factor can be seen as to why this happened. But what, exactly? 

Unfortunately for Dombrowski, that culprit was his own blueprint that shaped the Red Sox into a consistent playoff and World Series contender over the past three seasons.

Let’s wind the clocks back to four years ago. The Red Sox, in the middle of another down season after winning the World Series two years prior, announced Dombrowski as new president of baseball operations. In the offseason, Dombrowski got to work. He traded for young closer Craig Kimbrel in exchange for four prospects and signed left-handed ace David Price to seven years and over $200 million. 

The Red Sox record in 2016? 93-69 and a division title. Unfortunately, the Red Sox would promptly get swept by eventual American League pennant-winning Cleveland Indians. 

Back to the drawing board. 

In the corresponding offseason Dombrowski traded for Chris Sale, and in the trade gave up the number one overall prospect in baseball at the time in Yoan Moncada. 

Yet again, the Red Sox would finish 93-69 but suffer another loss in the division series against the would-be World Series champion Houston Astros. 

Back to work again. A brand-new coaching staff was brought in, spearheaded by the addition of World Series-winning bench coach Alex Cora. Mitch Moreland was re-signed to a two-year deal for $13 million. And then there was the splash in netting J.D. Martinez for five years and over $100 million. 

And so, the 2018 season unfolded. We all know the story. Great starting pitching, a solid bullpen and an electric offense, led by MVP Mookie Betts, carried Boston to another successful postseason run, with them hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy. 

Then, this season. Contract extensions for over $100 million were given to Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts over the past six months, further showing the Red Sox were spending to keep the World Series core together. 

Back to Dombrowski. He implemented the plan he wanted. He got the coaching staff and players he wanted. He gave Boston another ring. How could his own blueprint be seen as his downfall? 

To get the players he wanted he had to make some trades; big trades. A farm system that was deep in high-ceiling prospects several years ago is now super thin due to getting the likes of Sale and Kimbrel. Sacrifices had to be made, and Dombrowski made them. 

Then, there is the payroll. From 2016 through 2019, the Boston Red Sox were top three in payroll, varying from $209 million to nearly $230 million. The luxury tax threshold is worse with the Red Sox being over it during Dombrowski’s entire tenure, thus forcing the organization to not only pay fees to offset this but also having to give up draft position. With the money tied up to big-time players such as Price, Bogaerts and Sale, along with arbitration raises to Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., the Red Sox have had and will continue to have little room to maneuver financially.  

Everything comes to fruition in September, with the Red Sox having to bite and claw their way to even get a sniff of a playoff spot. For other teams in this position, they could trade for a player to hopefully take them over the hump, but the Red Sox have neither the prospects to trade for such a player, nor do they have the payroll flexibility to even take on the salary of one. 

When you add this to David Price not performing to his contract, Chris Sale having injury issues and narrowly missing Tommy John surgery, a bullpen which has not been able to adjust with no Craig Kimbrel, a competitive division in having to deal with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, along with having to deal with the pressure of the Boston market expecting their sports teams to compete for championships year after year, you have a blueprint that is coming back to bite. 

Dave Dombrowski should be celebrated by Boston fans for being the mechanic that assembled another championship season for their city. The process to get there was all him. The blueprint had his fingers all over it. 

Despite this, that process would, for better or worse, make him lose his job. 

Photo via AP/Michael Dwyer