I was born in 1985, and I'm a life long Dolphins fan. This means that I grew up starry-eyed right in the middle of Dan Marino's career. It also means that right about the time Marino retired was also the time that I was old enough to really know what was going on with the Dolphins.
And just like everyone else, the 12 years since Marino retired right before the 2000 season have been painful. Watching Huard, Fiedler, Lucas, Griese, Feeley, Rosenfels, Frerotte, Harrington, Culpepper, Lemon, Green, Beck, Pennington, Henne, Thigpen, and Moore struggle to become franchise quarterbacks for the Dolphins has been frustrating. I'm ready for this team to finally make a move that gives us a great quarterback to match up with the young talent we have all over the field.
At first glance, Peyton really looks like that answer, but then I stop and think for a second...... What would it really do for us?
Learning From the Past - Part 1 - Acquiring QBs
Let's start by looking at how each of the previously mentioned failures of quarterback were picked up by Miami.
- Huard - Free Agency
- Fiedler - Free Agency
- Lucas - Free Agency
- Griese - Free Agency
- Feeley - Trade (2nd rounder)
- Rosenfels - Trade (7th rounder)
- Frerotte - Free Agency
- Harrington - Trade (5th or 6th rounder)
- Culpepper - Trade (2nd round)
- Lemon - Trade (Feeley + 6th rounder)
- Green - Trade (5th rounder)
- Beck - Drafted (2nd round)
- Pennington - Free Agency
- Henne - Drafted (2nd round)
- Thigpen - Traded (undisclosed)
- Moore - Free Agency
Ok so quick look - what's missing there? That's right! We haven't drafted a FIRST ROUND QB since, well, Dan Marino! But hey, that's not news to anyone, right?
Learning From the Past - Part 2 - First Round QBs
So then, let's look at QBs taken in the first round since 2000. By my count, there's 32 QBs. Now, rather then getting technical and grading them by who's a franchise QB or not, let's just grade them by a number I call BTATDHHSM. Also known as "Better Then Anything The Dolphins Have Had Since Marino." It's easy, either a 0 or a 1, with 0 meaning they are worse then anything the Dolphins have had since Marino, and a 1 meaning they were better then anything the Dolphins have had since Marino.
- 2000 - Chad Pennington  - Pennington ended up later being the best QB we've had since Marino, too bad we couldn't get him in his younger days.
- 2001 - Michael Vick  - Dog Fighting crimes withstanding, he was BTATDHHSM before his arrest, and still is now.
- 2002 - David Carr , Joey Harrington , Patrick Ramsey  - Carr could've been a much better QB if he spent more time looking downfield then at the sky.
- 2003 - Carson Palmer , Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller , Rex Grossman  - Palmer had a good career in his younger days, Leftwich is just another Lemon, Boller is another Huard and Grossman is like Brett Favre without the luck or skill.
- 2004 - Eli Manning , Philip Rivers , Ben Roethlisberger , J.P. Losman  - Three no brainers in this draft, and one with no brains.
- 2005 - Alex Smith , Aaron Rodgers , Jason Campbell  - I've said all along that Alex Smith can be a great QB if he has the right tools around him. This past season with the 49ers finally showed that.
- 2006 - Vince Young , Matt Leinart , Jay Cutler  - Before this draft I literally told everyone that Young and Leinart would both be busts and Cutler would be the best of the 3 QBs. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn everyone once in awhile, right?
- 2007 - JaMarcus Russell , Brady Quinn  - Ewwwwww, what smells so bad? Oh right, JaMarcus Russel's career.
- 2008 - Matt Ryan , Joe Flacco  - Neither may be the best QBs in the league right now, but both are well on their way.
- 2009 - Matthew Stafford , Mark Sanchez , Josh Freeman  - Honestly, Sanchez may even barely count, but I refuse.
- 2010 - Sam Bradford , Tim Tebow  - Both of these guys have bright futures.
- 2011 - Cam Newton , Jake Locker , Blaine Gabbert , Christian Ponder  - Some of these guys are still To Be Determined, but we just won't count them for now.
So, total all of those up and we get..... 16 QBs BTATDHHSM.
Fellas, that's 50%. Yeah, I know that first round QBs aren't always slam dunks, and if you look over the entire history of the draft I also know that they "bust" more then any other position. But if you look at this, and you look at the 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2010 drafts, and you see 4 drafts with 11 QBs that alone produced 9 QBs that are BTATDHHSM. That's a lottery I want to be involved with.
Learning From the Past - Part 3 - Franchise QBs that change teams
Finally, I want to look at one last statistic. Records of QBs that were formerly franchise QBs that move to other teams.
- Joe Montana - 49ers to Chiefs - Chiefs became playoff contenders, but no Super Bowl wins.
- Johnny Unitas - Colts to Chargers - Chargers still sucked
- Brett Favre - Packers to Jets to Vikings - Injury plagued, but made both teams playoff contenders, even took Vikings to NFC Championship game, but no Super Bowl wins, and Vikings are worse now then they were before Favre.
- Fran Tarkenton - Vikings to Giants - Took Giants from bottom into contenders, but again no Super Bowl.
- Kurt Warner - Rams to Giants to Cardinals - Lost job to Eli with Giants, took Cardinals to lose in Super Bowl and then to playoffs again, but injury ended it.
- Warren Moon - Oilers to Vikings to Seahawks to Chiefs - Injured with Vikings in 3rd season, Vikings remained playoff contenders that they were before Moon, Seahawks and Chiefs career basically non-existant.
- Drew Brees - Chargers to Saints - The one that got away. We all know this story by now.
- Joe Namath - Jets to Rams - 2-2 record with Rams before injury ended his career.
- Ken Stabler - Raiders to Oilers to Saints - Again plagued by injuries, nothing of note after his Super Bowl win with the Raiders.
- Y. A. Tittle - 49ers to Giants - Never really was the "franchise" guy for the 49ers, but he did have a decent career with the Giants after the trade, winning three straight Eastern Division titles, followed by 2-10 season before Tittle retired.
- Sonny Jurgensen - Eagles to Redskins - Actually did really well with the Redskins, but again was plagued by injuries and never won a Super Bowl, though he was All-Pro/Pro Bowl for 4 of his seasons with the Redskins.
- Norm Van Brocklin - Rams to Eagles - Improved the Eagles and eventually won the Champioship in 1960 before retiring.
- Drew Bledsoe - Patriots to Bills to Cowboys - Played well with the Bills and the Cowboys, but never accomplished anything of note. Bledsoe is most well known for being let go to make room for younger QBs Tom Brady, J.P. Losman, and Tony Romo.
- Bobby Layne - Lions to Steelers - Nothing of note with the Steelers
- Boomer Esiason - Bengals to Jets to Cardinals to Bengals - Mediocre play and more injuries, don't think he even went to another playoff, though I might be wrong.
- Doug Williams - Bucs to USFL to Redskins - Never won anything with the USFL teams, and was a backup with the Redskins CORRECTION: Doug Williams did win a Super Bowl with the Redskins after moving. Sorry about that :)
- Donovan McNabb - Eagles to Redskins to Vikings - Hasn't done anything since leaving the Eagles
- Roman Gabriel - Rams to Eagles - Took a 2-11 team to a 5-8 team, and went to Pro Bowl, but that was all.
- Randall Cunningham - Eagles to Vikings to Cowboys to Ravens - Great season in 1998 throwing to Cris Carter and Randy Moss, but that was all.
- Steve McNair - Titans to Ravens - Picked up the Ravens a bit and won the division, but nothing else of note.
- Michael Vick - Falcons to Prison to Eagles - Still doing pretty good with the Eagles, though you have to imagine he'd likely still be with the Falcons if it wasn't for the prison time.
Sure, there's a few championships in there from pre-Super Bowl era, and even a few Super Bowls, but not that many at all, and the vast majority of these moves ended with injuries and mediocre play.
But what does all this mean?
Peyton Manning coming to Miami would sell tickets. Lots of tickets. It would probably also make us playoff contenders.
But would it make us Super Bowl contenders? I don't know. Looking at this research you would say no, but we're also all painfully aware of what happened when we let Drew Brees slip away because of a hurt shoulder. Drew Brees was also 27 when he signed with the Saints, and it took him 4 seasons to win the Super Bowl. Manning is turning 36 this month, so 4 years would put him at 40. Oldest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl? John Elway when he was 38.
So if the past tells us anything, it's that we would likely see 3-4 seasons of playoff contender status because of Manning, but likely wouldn't win a Super Bowl. Then, when Manning leaves, we may be in even worse condition then we started, because Peyton wouldn't want to see us draft a first round QB during that entire time period.
Which brings me to my final point. I believe that picking up Manning in free agency is mortgaging our future for a few good years (and to sell lots of tickets). Yes, it would be nice. In fact, it would be very nice. The idea of having 3-4 seasons that aren't completely painful to watch is certainly enticing, but it's still a band-aid fix for a bigger problem that still needs to be addressed.
There is no easy fix in the NFL. We need to build this team the right way and start actually taking some risks with young players to build our future. Yes, Offensive and Defensive lineman are generally the safest pick in the first round. But as the old saying goes, a boat is safer in the harbor, but that's not what boats are built for.