The Miami Dolphins will make Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin their next Head Coach, replacing Tony Sparano. Chris Kouffman called it earlier in the week, suggesting Philbin would also be joined by Tom Clements as offensive coordinator and eventually Matt Flynn as the team’s quarterback. Whether this proves to be a wise move or not, the Dolphins are at least committing to a defined route forward. So how will this impact the draft?
If the Dolphins do eventually sign Flynn (no guarantee) to work in an offense akin to what he’s used to in Green Bay, it seems unlikely they’ll make a bold move up the board to draft Robert Griffin III. Having committed to Flynn, spending a first round pick on a quarterback would be counter productive unless they want to start with a consistent quarterback controversy. Although many people assume a team will trade into the top-three to draft RGIII, I always felt Miami were the most likely candidate if it was going to happen. They need an identity, a spark on offense. Now it appears that spark will be dependant on trying to emulate the scheme in Green Bay rather than a ticket-selling playmaker to galvanise the franchise.
This could be Miami’s only real option. Can they really coast through free agency investing in the possibility that nearly two months later they can work out a deal for Robert Griffin III? Considering they will own the #8 or #9 pick, the Dolphins front office may simply feel they can’t risk it. By appointing Matt Flynn’s offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach, they not only have a strong bargaining chip for his services in March, but they aren’t pinning their hopes on a deal that’ll be out of their hands. At least by going the Green Bay route they can control this situation.
We could see something very similar in Washington. It seems likely that Peyton Manning will be a free agent soon and if he’s healthy enough to play in 2012, why wouldn’t the Redskins show interest? Dan Snyder would surely love that move, the franchise is desperate for a legitimate quarterback to contend in the NFC East and while Manning isn’t the usual Shanahan prototype, it’d buy the coach some time to groom a long term replacement such as Ryan Tannehill, who’s a more obvious fit. Manning-to-Washington makes a lot of sense and the Redskins also cannot afford to risk getting a deal done if they are interested in Griffin, knowing they could be left with another year of mediocre quarterbacking from a guy like Rex Grossman.
Suddenly, the trade options dry up. If this scenario played out, why would Cleveland move up and bid against themselves? What if Mike Holmgren decides he’d actually rather take Trent Richardson with the #4 pick and draft a quarterback later on? After all, he’s avoided a big splash on a quarterback so far and invested a degree of faith in third-round pick Colt McCoy. Is it totally unrealistic to think the Browns might pass on Griffin even if he’s available with the fourth pick?
I’m a fan of RGIII, but this is the kind of scenario I’ve talked about a few times on this blog - a not completely far-fetched way in which Griffin could suffer a slight fall. I suspect someone would eventually bite and move up - just like Jacksonville did with Blaine Gabbert. However, once he gets beyond Cleveland at #4 it becomes a little easier for a team like Seattle at #11 or #12 to make a cost-effective move if they so wished. It’s important to remember that while not owning the same level of hype, not many people expected Gabbert to drop to #10 last April. In many ways Griffin is the perfect off-field quarterback - he’s intelligent, has the right look, says the right things and is a marketing dream. But let’s not forget that team’s may not be totally convinced with the tape.
I still expect Griffin to go as early as most people and Cleveland at #4 makes a lot of sense given the Browns also have another first round pick to draft a skill-position player, possibly a talented receiver (a position with a lot of strength in this class). However, it’s not a total shoe-in that the Baylor quarterback is out of Seattle’s reach and while the league will act shocked if the Seahawks are able to draft Griffin (should they wish to do so), it won’t be a miraculous set of events.
See this as a proposal rather than an assumption on what will happen over the next three months, but Philbin’s appointment in Miami will create a new dimension to the draft discussion and it could have a significant impact.