It’s always something with the Miami Dolphins. They’re on a treadmill of mediocrity or they’re tanking for tomorrow or their tank was torched by a coach who won too much. That last one is the latest narrative put out by the fired coach himself, Brian Flores.
Flores alleges team owner Steve Ross offered him $100,000 for each loss in 2019 so the team could get the No. 1 draft pick. Flores won enough to get the fifth pick. Ross loudly refuted the game-fixing claim. Everyone’s lawyered up.
This is the cloud over the franchise, just as it once was Bullygate, once was a cocaine-sniffing assistant coach. It always has been something during for Ross’ tenure. But let’s be clear about Tankgate. It’s not why the Dolphins’ football future was in doubt now or during Flores’ time. Keep your eye on the ball here.
The problem wasn’t the housecleaning.
It was the housecleaners.
It didn’t matter that the Dolphins whiffed and messed out on the No. 1 pick and quarterback Joe Burrow because of Flores’ winning. They still had a chance at another Burrow. They sat at No. 5 and general manager Chris Grier passed on Justin Herbert. And Miami took an injured Tua Tagovailoa instead.
There’s the central, on-field problem of the Dolphins for years, the one that keeps repeating itself with misses on Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Herbert when they had the chance. The Dolphins can’t recognize the one player who can change a franchise: The great quarterback prospect.
Maybe no team can. Maybe some just get lucky throwing darts. But look what happens to the talents who find those talents. Kansas City scout Brett Veach was a scout when he noticed Patrick Mahomes as a sophomore. He started sending video of Mahomes to Kansas City coach Andy Reid.
“He was as great then as he is now,” said Veach at the Super Bowl two years ago. By then he was the Kansas City general manager.
Buffalo assistant general manager Joe Schoen saw Wyoming winning with Allen before playing a winless San Jose team without Allen. Wyoming lost. And then won again when Allen returned.
“They were winning because of him,” Schoen said.
He pounded the table for Buffalo to draft Allen. It did in 2018. Two weeks ago, Schoen was named general manager of the New York Giants.
For the next decade, the AFC title looks like it will go through Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Jackson and Herbert. None is older than Mahomes’ 26. All but Burrow were available in drafts the Dolphins were looking for quarterbacks — or should have been.
Herbert was there for the Dolphins — no matter if Ross offered Flores $100,000 to lose for the No. 1 pick or not. The Chargers had the worst-rated offensive line and fired its coaching staff when he broke the rookie touchdown and completion records. It had the 30th-ranked scoring defense and a coach whose goofy decisions cost them the playoffs this year.
Herbert had some good offensive talent to direct the fifth-scoring offense this year. So Herbert isn’t in a dysfunctional organization like Tua is in the Dolphins. He’s just in a bad one.
Tagovailoa can be a good quarterback with more help. Can he be among those five quarterbacks? That’s what the Dolphins want to hear from coaching candidates Mike McDaniel and Kellen Moore this weekend. It’s the narrative they let leak to set this offseason before all the talk became about Flores and his flammable lawsuit.
The discrimination charges are the national headline of the lawsuit. The game-fixing charges against Ross are the local headline. They’ll be a story for months now, long after the Dolphins hire a coach, long after they start training camp with another rebuilt team.
Whether Ross made the $100,000 offer to Flores or not, the central fact doesn’t change: The Dolphins didn’t need the No. 1 pick that year. They had the fifth. Do they plead the fifth if asked this under oath?
It’s not the tank that went wrong.
It was Grier picking the wrong guy.