Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores doesn't even like to hear the word "tank." So when the question was brought up about the common link between the 2019 Dolphins and tanking, he was emphatic that he wouldn't stand for it.
"The term tanking, I think it's disrespectful to the game," Flores said, while talking to reporters at the NFL owners meeting Tuesday morning. "I really do. I don't like that term. I don't like when people use it. This game has done a lot for me, personally. Football has really leveled the playing field for me as a person. It's really the one thing that leveled the playing field so to disrespect the game and use that term, it stirs something up inside of me, to put that nicely."
There have been several reports over the past few months that the Dolphins were planning to tank, or lose as many games as possible in 2019, in order to get a top pick in the 2020 NFL draft and select their future franchise quarterback.
The 2020 NFL QB class, which has a lot of hype and promise, could be led by Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa. #TankforTua began to build momentum as a social media rally cry for supporters of the Dolphins tanking.
But Miami's top brass has double downed on multiple occasions that the team isn't tanking in 2019.
"There's no tanking. You can write that over and over and over again," Flores said.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier expressed that sentiment at the NFL combine, and on Monday said that the team is building the right way, not tanking.
"There's no tanking," Grier said. "It's hard when you say you want tough, competitive guys who love ball and you bring them in and say, 'Hey, let's not do it this year. Let's just relax and enjoy this year and we'll come back next year and be tough and competitive.'"
Miami has avoided making significant free-agent signings and they let several veteran starters leave in free agency. They've aggressively sought the trade market to acquire 2020 draft picks, shed salary-cap space in 2020, valued compensatory picks in 2020 and talked a lot about long-term vision.
The dynamic between rebuilding and tanking appears to be the discrepancy here. Flores and Grier say they are trying to build a strong foundation in their new roles, and neither believes that can be done by starting with a culture that encourages losing in Year 1.
Grier pointed to the signing of Ryan Fitzpatrick, a player who has a propensity for leading the NFL in passing over a short period as he did in the first three weeks last season, as an example of a team not tanking.
Flores and Grier say they are on the same page with each other and with owner Stephen Ross about how to build this team correctly without tanking.
"My conversations with him have been about rebuilding the roster. He knows, and everyone knows, that I'm going to go out there and try to win every game we go out there and play," Flores said. "So yeah, it struck a nerve and it'll always strike a nerve because I think it's disrespectful to the game.
"Quite honestly, I won't stand for it. That's where I'm at."
Flores and Grier said priority No. 1 for the Dolphins is finding a franchise quarterback, with offensive line and defensive line being the biggest needs after that.
"It's imperative that you have one that you can win with in this league. If we get to this year's draft and we feel it's him, we'll be aggressive in trying to get him," Grier said. "And if we feel that it's not this draft -- which we're still in the process of going through that -- maybe there's someone down the line here that may have potential that we like and then we'll focus on 2020."
The Dolphins haven't decided on taking a quarterback in 2019 or 2020, but Grier raised the possibility Monday of taking one in each of the next two NFL drafts.
"Whether it's this year or next year. Or maybe we could take one both this year and next year," Grier said. "But I think at that position, you can never be satisfied until you have the guy you really feel can give you a chance to win a championship."
Flores seemed to support the idea of drafting two quarterbacks, adding: "Any time you can create competition at a position, you do it. That's how you get the best out of yourself."
For 2019, Fitzpatrick is headed into offseason workouts as the Dolphins' starting QB. Grier said Fitzpatrick knows he's a bridge QB to their eventual franchise guy, and he's willing to mentor that player whether he comes in 2019 or 2020.
Grier described longtime starter Ryan Tannehill's tenure in Miami as "inconsistent" and said he felt it was the right organizational decision to move on from him via trade this month. He admitted the franchise made a mistake in not developing quarterbacks behind Tannehill.
Now, there will be a different era in Miami with a new young QB coming in 2019 or 2020, or both.