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Dolphins are also-rans without elite QB. They have only one sure way of having one in 2021

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 2/2/2021 Armando Salguero, The Miami Herald

Feb. 2—Without everyone getting all in their emotions about the direction of their favorite team or the fate of a player whose jersey they just bought, let's agree on this right from the top:

The Miami Dolphins would be dumb not making a strong, legitimate effort to trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson if he becomes available in a few weeks.

Can we all agree on this?

It seems a lot of Dolphins fans cannot. And, bless you all, maybe that's because the Dolphins haven't won a Super Bowl since 1974 so you've simply forgotten that should be the organization's goal every year.

Friends, the goal isn't to take a baby step from coaching the Senior Bowl while other teams prepare for the Super Bowl.

That phase of the Stephen Ross-Chris Grier-Brian Flores rebuild that started in 2019 is over. That's simply not good enough anymore.

The goal going forward must be to win it all.

And I get it, Flores is a one-day-at-a-time person. His stated vision is the next five minutes. But while the coach can rightly plot the next step of his day, the Dolphins organizationally need to chart an expanded vision of the future.

The Dolphins need to set sights on championships for the years ahead and admit such true greatness is measured by a calendar rather than a watch.

So how can the Dolphins do this?

The most obvious way is still to find an elite quarterback.

To be clear, that's not a developing quarterback. Not a promising quarterback. Not even a good quarterback.

Elite, people.

An NFL team without an elite quarterback is all but in rare instances a team that is going to spend its season not winning the championship.

"In this day and age in the NFL if you don't have a generational talent at quarterback, you're going to struggle," said ESPN NFL analyst Marcus Spears on air Monday afternoon.

"We have to start [putting these guys in tiers] and ask yourself who can really compete because now we're entering the Patrick Mahomes era. So you have to ask yourself as an organization and a franchise, 'The guy we have behind center, is he good enough to overcome certain situations in order to beat that guy?'

"And Deshaun Watson has shown he has that ability. Very few guys have that ability."

I don't know if Tua Tagovailoa will have the ability in two, three, or seven years. But I know he didn't show it last year as a rookie.

The Dolphins, indeed, had a choice of what quarterback to pick in the 2020 draft and selected Tagovailoa believing he'd eventually show that elite level play. But after one season, it seems Miami picked the wrong quarterback because Justin Herbert, selected one pick later by the Chargers, blew Miami's quarterback out of the water.

Herbert threw 31 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 15 games and is probably going to win the offensive rookie of the year award. Tagovailoa threw 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 10 games and on SiriusXM's Mad Dog Sports Radio on Monday said he "would describe my rookie season as below average.

"This past season wasn't up to the expectation that I have for myself," Tagovailoa added.

And now Dolphins fans will rise to Tagovailoa's defense — which he doesn't really need — by arguing he's going to be great if the team puts great talent around him. He's going to be great once he gets a full offseason behind him.

Tagovailoa will be great once the Dolphins land an offensive coordinator in a week or so that will let him be like he was at Alabama before he came to Miami.

The problem with this is it's all a projection. And projections are often wrong.

Tagovailoa, you see, might be great some day. But he might not.

Watson is great now. That isn't an opinion but a tangible fact because he averaged 301 passing yards per game in 2020, completed 70 percent of his passes for the first time in his career, threw a career-high 33 touchdown passes with only 7 seven interceptions — only two interception his final 11 games.

So, great.

And, yes, the Texans had a 4-12 record. But to blame Watson for that record is like blaming Dan Marino for the Dolphins never winning a Super Bowl during his career.

It's nonsense.

Watson will be the source of a blockbuster trade if the Texans part ways with him. Because in all NFL history, teams don't typically trade a 25-year-old elite quarterback signed to a contract for the next five seasons.

So this is a grand opportunity for the Dolphins.

It's the chance to exchange a possibility of quarterback greatness for the certainty of quarterback greatness.

Who says no to that?

There are, of course, mitigating factors that give some pause. Let's address those:

The most common argument against acquiring Watson is the price tag. Because Dolphins fans, and all fans really, think giving up anything is too much.

I chuckle at this thinking because those same people who argue giving up multiple first-round draft picks to acquire Watson is too much were fine with the Dolphins giving up an entire season to acquire Tagovailoa.

About the draft picks it will take to acquire Watson: It might take three first-round picks.

No way, right? That's enough to build a very strong team around Tagovailoa and his as yet unfulfilled promise.

Well, please recall Grier's first-round draft record since he's been Miami's general manager.

He's drafted seven players in the first round. They are Laremy Tunsil, Charles Harris, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Christian Wilkins, Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson and Noah Igbinoghene.

Tunsil was traded.

Harris was a bust.

Fitzpatrick was traded.

Wilkins is solid but unspectacular.

And the three first-rounders last year might or might not be good eventually. It's uncertain.

So someone is going argue the Dolphins cannot give up three first-rounders for an elite quarterback and should instead roll the dice on adding to that mediocre first-round draft history?

Honestly, if there's a truth-teller in the Dolphins personnel department, that person should be telling Grier to trade for Watson because their history suggests they will not land someone of that caliber with their next two or three or 10 first-round selections.

And have I mentioned Watson is a quarterback?

Elite quarterbacks are most special when they're coached well and surrounded by good talent. But even in tough circumstances they make average offensive lines better. They make average receivers better. They make running games better.

To understand this just consider the Dolphins offense the last two years with Ryan Fitzpatrick as opposed to Tagovailoa or Josh Rosen. Fitzpatrick is a journeyman and yet he made the offense hum compared to the other two, despite dealing with the same holes at receiver and along the offensive line.

Imagine what Watson, who is light years superior to Fitzpatrick, would do with that unit.

Trading for him is a no-brainer.

I know Grier named Tagovailoa his starter for 2021. I know the Dolphins have insisted Tagovailoa has their full confidence.

I also know a Deshaun Watson trade is something the Dolphins better pursue if they want a chance to win championships.

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