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Miami Dolphins right path to finding an elite QB is taking multiple paths

It is way, way too early to talk about the NFL draft. The conference championship games are coming in a few days. The Super Bowl is coming after that. The Senior Bowl will be sandwiched in between those two. And the Indianapolis Combine will be further down the road.

So the draft, 99 days away, is only a speck on the horizon.

But as the Miami Dolphins aren't in the conference championship games, or the Super Bowl, and the only hope of one day getting to those is the next few drafts, plural, then I figure this is as fine a time as any to get this off my chest:

The Dolphins need to draft a quarterback.

They need to do it this draft.

And next draft.

And every draft, if they must, because there are myriad reasons this approach is the right thing to do.

And I'm not talking draft a quarterback in the sixth round -- perhaps maybe around the 199th selection (for those of you that get where I'm going) -- or as an afterthought in the final round. I believe the Dolphins should set their draft board and if a quarterback is the best player on that board in any round, they should pick that quarterback.

That means second round ...Third round...Fourth round.

Even in the first round.

Yes, in the first round. And I'm talking about in the 2016 first round, if necessary.

(Peanut Gallery: But Mando, we have a quarterback. And he has a big contract, and we just hired Adam Gase to be his Sherpa to stardom. And Ryan Tannehill has gotten a raw deal, working behind bad offensive lines and under impossible circumstances, which you've been awesome in reporting to the masses.) 

Yes, Gallery, I agree with all of that, and I do mean all of it. All of that is true.

But that doesn't change this fact: Ryan Tannehill is the Dolphins starting quarterback and almost assuredly will be that in 2016, but there is nothing wrong with competition. Indeed, competition might do Tannehill some good. There is also nothing wrong with adding the best players possible at every position, including quarterback. And drafting a quarterback might just find you the next great Miami Dolphins quarterback.

Because Ryan Tannehill has not proven he is that guy just yet.

Now, let me say for clarity's sake, I believe Tannehill can be a good quarterback. I think under the right tutelage and in the right system, he can be a championship quarterback. In that regard, I agree with the Dolphins front office that has invested heavily in Tannehill. So I'm an optimist about Tannehill to some degree.

But I'm also a realist. And the realist in me isn't projecting everything is about to turn peachy and keen and all sorts of wonderful. Things can go wrong. Projections can be wrong. And maybe, just maybe, Tannehill, at age 28 in July and four years into his career as an NFL starter, is who he is and that is all that he will ever be.

I don't know. Nobody knows -- least of all the "journalists" who say they know.

And so to hedge the bet, to guard against a significant and potentially franchise crippling possibility that Ryan Tannehill is just a middle tier NFL QB who cannot really raise the play of those around him, the Dolphins should draft his potential replacement. This year. Every year.

Until they get it right.

And I can imagine the pushback in the comments section already. I suppose the narrative that the Dolphins cannot spend a valuable draft pick, much less an early pick, on a quarterback because they have so many other needs will be popular.

This is a fair consideration. You spend your first-round pick on Jared Goff (he won't be there at No. 8) or Paxton Lynch (who may be there at No. 8 and the Dolphins like) and suddenly you didn't land that cornerback or defensive end you badly need. And that QB you just drafted might not start for you right away. So not only did you not improve the team by adding a player at a need position, you didn't immediately improve the position you drafted for -- quarterback.

I get all this.

And I still use the draft pick on the quarterback, if he's the best available player, even in the first round.

Or any round.


Because, let us be plainly honest: The Dolphins can add a cornerback in the next draft's first round. Or they can add a defensive end in that round. Or they can fix their middle linebacker problem.

And they're still not going to the Super Bowl next year.

They're not. They're not making that climb from 6-10 to the Super Bowl. They're not going from winning only one game against the division to winning the division. And regardless of what they tell you, they should know it.

They know they have a 37-year-old rookie head coach and a rookie defensive coordinator and as many holes as a slice of Swiss cheese on the roster. They know they're a long-term fix in the making rather than a one-year turnaround. The Dolphins gave Gase a five-year contract for a reason. This is a three-to-four-year fix, my friends.

"I think in Adam Gase we have found that person that will lead us to many, many Super Bowls in the future," franchise owner Stephen Ross said last week. "I am not predicting this year. It will take time and so there is no big prediction here because I know what you guys want (me) to say."

And so if the idea is to build a great foundation and compete for Super Bowls that are well off in the future, the assignment today needs to be to get the quarterback position absolutely correct. Because, as you see in this week's conference title games featuring Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton and Carson Palmer, a team does not get that far with middling QB play.

So assignment No. 1 must be to figure out if Tannehill can be much more than a middling QB -- something that definitely will happen in 2016. But assignment No. 2 should be to always be looking and trying to acquire a QB with the potential to be the answer if Tannehill isn't. Simple as that. Inarguable. Not up for debate.

This, by the way, should not be an insult to Tannehill. This should not be an upset to team chemistry or the dynamics of the quarterback room.

This is business.

Done right.

This is setting the Miami Dolphins on a course to finding a championship quarterback and doing so while plotting multiple paths for success rather than just one.

(Tomorrow afternoon: What QBs might just fit the bill if not Tannehill)