Dolphins general manager Chris Grier assured fans that finding a quarterback is on their mind this offseason, but he stressed their own evaluations -- not those assumed when the #TankforTua narrative gained steam -- will determine the player.
"All of us would like to find the right guy to be the quarterback. You see how important it is around the league," Grier told reporters last week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. "We think it's important to find the right guy to be a leader and the quarterback here for a long time."
One piece of the 2020 Dolphins quarterback picture that appeared to gain some clarity recently is the status of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Grier, again in Mobile, said he "fully expects" the 37-year-old journeyman to return and play for Miami in 2020. At the end of the 2019 season, Fitzpatrick said he would decide between retirement and returning for Year 16. Basing it off of Grier's expectation, the Dolphins will have at least one more year of FitzMagic.
Fitzpatrick's expected return combined with the Dolphins' interest in finding a franchise quarterback sets up the most intriguing quarterback situation in recent history for Miami. The most talked-about quarterback prospect for the Dolphins is one who wasn't at the Senior Bowl -- Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa.
Many draft pundits, including ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., have identified Tagovailoa as a perfect fit for the Dolphins and the most likely player for them to select with their No. 5 pick.
"We're still so early in this process. We haven't met him, sat down with him, talked with him, our doctors haven't seen him. We know as much as you do," Grier said. "To say one player was attached to us, you can't control what fans and people in the media say. There's no pressure for us. The pressure for us is finding the right guy to be the quarterback for the Dolphins, whether it's him or someone else."
Tagovailoa was considered a contender to be the No. 1 pick before he suffered a serious hip injury in mid-November. Questions about Tagovailoa then turned to the uncertainty over the health of his hip and his injury history. Teams might be able to get some answers at the NFL scouting combine, where Tagovailoa is expected to have medical exams and attend meetings. He's also expected to hold a pro day to show his post-injury abilities on the field prior to the draft.
Grier has heaped praise on Tagovailoa, the sort of praise that fits perfectly with what the Dolphins are looking for in a franchise quarterback. Grier and coach Brian Flores seek certain attributes in their players, including intangibles, the ability to overcome adversity, a team-first attitude and overall leadership capabilities. Tagovailoa checks all of those boxes.
"He's been a winner. He won the Elite 11 [high school QB competition], he goes to Alabama and has the storybook coming off the bench in the national championship," Grier said. "Everybody always talks about his accuracy and they talk about the person as well -- the intangibles. Looking forward to meeting him."
Of course, Tagovailoa and Fitzpatrick aren't the only ones in the Dolphins' quarterback discussion.
Josh Rosen remains on the Dolphins' roster as an enigma without much certainty regarding his future after his first two seasons in the NFL were full of change and struggle. Grier continues to defend the trade for Rosen last April as a "way to upgrade that position with a young player who had some talent" at a great value and promises the Dolphins have seen huge strides in Rosen's play during practices. However, Miami clearly doesn't see him as a viable starting quarterback option at this time.
While at the Senior Bowl, Grier saw two other first-round quarterback contenders up close in Oregon's Justin Herbert and Utah State's Jordan Love. He liked that both wanted to compete in Mobile and both helped their draft stock by having a good week.
Assuming LSU QB Joe Burrow is drafted No. 1 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, the Dolphins will have their choice of multiple quarterbacks available. Plus, Grier also promises Miami has "more than enough" ammunition to trade up if it needs to get its guy.
"When you're talking about the quarterback position, a lot of the intangibles are what separates a lot of guys," Grier told reporters. "You hear stories now even when they talk about, like, Tom Brady coming out didn't have great arm strength or Drew Brees, but those guys are some of the all-time best to ever play the game. You look at everything, everyone's skillset. At the end of the day, do they win games? Are they leaders? Are they football smart? The intangibles, the character and stuff plays a big part at the position."
Those characteristics all fit the incumbent Fitzpatrick and the possible newcomer in Tagovailoa.