The past week provides great insight into the anxiety that permeates the Miami Dolphins' every decision these days.
Or, to put it another way, think of Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland as a latter-day Nathan Thurm, that deliciously over-the-top character created by comedian Martin Short. Like Thurm, people close to Ireland say he is seemingly ready to jump out of his skin whenever he is questioned.
"Under pressure?" a source close to Ireland said recently, repeating the gist of the question for rhetorical effect. "Well, considering his entire future is wrapped up in how he handles this draft, yeah, I would say he's under pressure and you can see it.
"He has an owner telling him to get a quarterback and [an] angry, dwindling fan base telling him to get a quarterback."
Yes, the stories about owner Stephen Ross telling Ireland and the front office to get a quarterback are true. But Ross isn't going so far as to push NFL draft prospect Ryan Tannehill.
Ross wants "a" quarterback, just not a specific one. He wants somebody, anybody who can energize a fan base that is right now disappearing faster than LeBron James in last year's NBA Finals. Right now, the Dolphins are hovering at approximately 30,000 season tickets sold. That's not just a record low, it's a dip on the order of the Grand Canyon.
Considering that, give Ireland credit for not turning pressure into panic. At least not yet. Every team from the Minnesota Vikings at No. 3 to Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 7 has tried to work over Ireland regarding Tannehill, who the Dolphins are expected to take at No. 8.
Each one of those teams wants to play on Ireland's fear that some other team is ready to nab Tannehill. Sadly, those teams have oversold their weak hands. Moreover, they don't understand that for as much as Ireland and the Dolphins need Tannehill, the Texas A&M passer also scares them.
If Tannehill goes at No. 8 or higher, he will be a reach. A serious one. Yeah, he's a great athlete and, dare we say, even has some common traits with Dan Marino. Note the emphasis on the word "some."
Tannehill has a quick release and the ability to thread tough passes to deep parts of the field, two of Marino's greatest qualities. The rest? Not so much. At least not yet.
Tannehill is a project. It may be three years before the team really knows what he is. He may not play much, if at all, as a rookie.
While some fans hear that analysis and recoil in a Pavlovian fear created by years of watching the 17 quarterbacks go under center for the Dolphins since Marino retired (say the name A.J. Feeley to a Dolphins fan and watch that person go into the fetal position), those same fans need to understand reality.
[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Jason Cole says Dolphins won't trade up for Ryan Tannehill]
If you want to solve the quarterback position, you have to invest in it. Whether it's money or draft picks or whatever, quarterbacks aren't found at the Dollar Store. You can bring up Tom Brady as a sixth-round pick all you want to, but the counter is Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. They have combined to win six of the past seven Super Bowls. All of them were first-round picks.
The seventh? That was Drew Brees.
Dolphins fans know him well. He was the No. 32 overall pick (what is now a first-round pick was the top pick of the second round) by the San Diego Chargers in 2001. The Dolphins passed on taking Brees that season, instead taking cornerback Jamar Fletcher. The Dolphins passed on Brees again in 2006, this time as a free agent, only to watch him turn the New Orleans Saints into a winner.
[Michael Silver: Needy Rams willing to make more draft trades in effort to restock roster]
In other words, Dolphins fans need to overcome their fear. Likewise, Ireland needs to keep his under control as the final hours and minutes tick before the draft's first round Thursday night.
Taking Tannehill at No. 8 is maybe not the best pure football decision. There will be other players at other positions with higher grades.
Big deal. Look around the NFL, this is a quarterback-driven league. Yeah, the Dolphins could take another defensive end or offensive lineman, some much safer choice. And they'll still be mediocre, a team running on a treadmill and hoping that the end of Brady's career (and New England's dominance in the AFC East) comes sooner than later.
If Ireland doesn't get a quarterback in this draft, be it in the first round with Tannehill or somewhere else in the top three rounds, he's going to be out of a job in a year. Another 7-9 or 8-8 season with a half-filled stadium is going to be the end of his tenure.
Furthermore, if the Dolphins really want to give new coach Joe Philbin the best chance to succeed, they need to marry him to a quality prospect as soon as possible. They need to give him and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman (Tannehill's college coach) as much time as they can to get a new quarterback ready.
In all likelihood, that's going to be Tannehill. Even if it isn't, it has to be someone.
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