During the past seven seasons, the Dolphins have bet on Ryan Tannehill as their undisputed franchise quarterback. But in 2019 -- under Flores and headed in a different direction while embracing a rebuild -- Miami is expected to move on without their first-round pick from 2012.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said it's not "fair" to say with certainty that Tannehill will be released this offseason, because Flores just got to Miami and he hasn't even completed the hiring of the staff that will evaluate the 30-year-old, oft-injured quarterback. Grier left the door open if the new coaching staff believes they can fix Tannehill, but he made clear that the Dolphins are in the market for a new franchise quarterback.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported last month that the Dolphins were eyeing and trying to land one of the quarterbacks expected to be in the 2020 draft, such as Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert. NFL scouts and football fans in general have been impressed by the playmaking ability, accuracy and potential of those college underclassmen.
But Grier said on Monday that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of Miami selecting a quarterback this April. He mentioned there is still plenty to learn about the prospects in what has been considered by many scouts as a weak quarterback draft class.
"We might get through the process and fall in love with a couple guys," Grier said. "Last year, we liked two guys a lot, and they both had good success this year. It could be at that point we may say, ‘We feel this is the guy.’”
The two quarterbacks whom Grier spoke of last season -- one was Baker Mayfield -- were drafted before Miami's No. 11 pick, and the Dolphins decided to select defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. This year, they might face a similar decision: Trade up to get your guy or take the best player left on your board at your No. 13 pick.
The Dolphins don't have much in the quarterback stock room. Outside of Tannehill, Luke Falk (a 2018 sixth-round pick, originally with the Tennessee Titans, who spent most of the season on injured reserve in Miami) and Jake Rudock (a 2016 sixth-round pick of the Detroit Lions, who signed with Miami on a futures deal last month) are the only two quarterbacks under contract for the 2019 season. They have combined to throw five passes in NFL regular-season games.
Miami could decide to draft a quarterback in both the 2019 and 2020 drafts, maximizing their chance of finding a franchise quarterback and increasing the long-term depth behind that guy. As we've seen with Nick Foles in Philadelphia, a backup role is a crucial spot to fill.
Grier was promoted a month ago, and he now holds full football decision-making power. Flores received the only five-year guaranteed contract among head coaches hired in this cycle, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported, showing the Dolphins' faith in him. Flores and Grier mentioned shared "core beliefs" as a key reason that their new power duo will excel through a rebuild. The two believe they have the organization's patience in finding their QB and making Miami a long-term contender.
The Dolphins are expected to hire New England Patriots receivers coach Chad O'Shea as offensive coordinator. O'Shea was the Patriots' red zone coordinator with a reputation of maximizing his position group. One of O'Shea's biggest supporters is Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, whom O'Shea helped mold from a college quarterback and a seventh-round pick to one of the NFL's best slot receivers.
Jim Caldwell, who has had two stints as NFL head coach and a history of getting a lot from his quarterbacks, is also expected to join the staff. He'll provide a respected, veteran voice for Flores in his first head-coaching gig.
O'Shea and Caldwell will each bring perspectives on what they want in a quarterback.
Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins and Oklahoma's Kyler Murray are currently considered the top quarterback prospects in this draft. Murray is in a similar mold as that of Mayfield and he might be the more obtainable of the two, given Miami's draft position. The Dolphins would have to be OK with Murray's size (listed as 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds by Oklahoma) and his commitment to football, given he was an Oakland Athletics first-round pick in June. Grier also mentioned being impressed with some of the Senior Bowl quarterbacks, and selecting a second-tier QB could make it easier for Miami to double dip in the 2019 and 2020 drafts and then going with the more promising quarterback as the franchise signal-caller.
The Dolphins aren't close to competing for championships. They have many holes to fill, notably rebuilding the offensive and defensive lines; that will be a huge priority over the next two seasons. But nothing will be as essential and draw as much attention as finding a quarterback.