"Durability is an ability in the NFL, too."
Bill Parcells told me that a couple of years ago and when I repeated it to one of the Miami Dolphins new defensive coaches, his face lit up and said, "I like that. I have to remember that."
Yeah, let's hope there is a long memory of that within every sector of the Dolphins building as the personnel department, coaching staff and others go through the process of studying prospects, setting up the Miami draft board, and laying out a strategy for conducting the 2016 NFL draft.
The reason the Dolphins need that memory is because it would recollect how the drafting of injured players, or players with medical red flags, has significantly hurt the Dolphins in recent years and, indeed, even dating back decades.
Simply, it has not worked in the Dolphins favor. It has been a tremendous hindrance to what this team has ostensibly tried to accomplish with the draft and that is improve the team immediately.
Take the 2015 draft. First round draft pick DeVante Parker came to the Dolphins with an injury history, being that he had undergone foot surgery his final year at Louisville and missed part of that season as a result. The Dolphins knew this. Dolphins doctors checked this. And the Dolphins picked him No. 14 overall.
And I believe Parker will eventually live up to the expectations the Dolphins had when they made that selection. But he didn't his rookie year because of, what else, the injury.
Parker re-injured the foot in one of the Dolphins offseason programs. And he required another surgery. And that caused him to miss the start of training camp.
And once a rookie misses any significant portion of training camp, the writing is on the wall that he will not factor greatly for his team as a rookie. And so Parker fell behind and fell behind and by the time the regular season got going, he was healthy, but he was too far behind. And so he rarely played.
Now, I'm not even bringing up the fact Parker tore scar tissue in the same foot in October and missed practice time and two games as a result. (Well, I guess I am bringing it up. But that's my prerogative because it's my blog and it's a pertinent factoid).
The point is the injury set Parker back. And setting a rookie back in his first training camp is basically setting him up to fail much of that first year.
In 2014, fifth-round pick Arthur Lynch came to the Dolphins with some abdominal-hernia-groin issue the team never really clarified. And although he practiced, he mostly went half speed and was limited. And so he was placed on injured reserve. And that basically was the start and finish of his Dolphins career.
And then there is 2013 -- the poster child for NOT drafting injured players.
The Dolphins made Dion Jordan their first overall selection. And he came to Miami with a shoulder injury. And he wasn't ready to compete the first day of training camp. Or the first week. Or the first two weeks. And then Jordan was cleared and he promptly re-injured the same shoulder in his first preseason action against Jacksonville.
Dion Jordan was done for training camp. And as the team went into the regular season, the coaching staff got about the business of preparing players that were healthy and caught up -- which Jordan was not. And so the rookie fell further behind because there simply weren't enough practice repetitions to get the players who were indeed playing ready while also giving reps to Jordan so as to get him caught up.
And we all know Jordan's first year was a dud. Of course, his Dolphins career has been a bust, but that's another story.
Second-round pick Jamar Taylor came to the Dolphins with a sports hernia issue the team knew about before the draft. It was supposed to be nothing. It wasn't nothing.
Taylor had the surgery but had complications in his recovery. He said he got to the point he thought he was done playing football. Well, after much prayer from Taylor and his family, doctors finally figured out a course of treatment. But by then his rookie season was a washout.
And no, Taylor didn't do any better his second season in 2014 and was a total train wreck in 2015. But the man got off on the wrong foot and has never really recovered. You can't blame the last two years on drafting him despite a medical red flag, but it didn't help.
The Dolphins drafted Dallas Thomas in the third round of the 2014 draft. And he also came to Miami with a bum shoulder. (What as Jeff Ireland thinking?)
So Thomas missed most of training camp. He never really got off the ground his rookie year. What a shock, right?
The Dolphins drafted Charles Clay in the sixth round in 2011. It was a good pick in that Clay developed and improved and became a starter. It was not so great in that the Dolphins plucked him despite knowing one of Clay's knees was a question mark. And that same knee hindered Clay throughout his Dolphins career.
He played but often despite not practicing much during the week. And when it came time to decide whether to pay Clay or let him go to the Buffalo Bills as a restricted free agent in 2015, one of the factors the Dolphins had to weigh was that knee.
I don't want you to think this drafting of players with medical issues is merely a recent phenomenon. Back in 1997, Yatil Green gained a reputation at the University of Miami for being constantly injured. Hamstring. Groin. Ankle. It was seemingly always something.
But Green could run like the wind and was 6-3 and 207 pounds. So Jimmy Johnson got on the phone with Green when the Dolphins were on the clock and told him, "I don't want you spending all your time in the training room."
Green promised that wouldn't happen. The Dolphins picked him. And then Green blew out his knee in training camp. And then he recovered, came back the next year, and blew out his knee in training camp again.
The Dolphins picked Billy Milner No. 25 overall in 1995. They knew he had spinal stenosis, which is an narrowing of the spine. The team doctors said it would be fine, and Milner could play with the congenital disorder. Except two years later, after he'd been traded to the St. Louis Rams, Milner suffered a spinal (neck) injury and his career was over.
The point is picking talent in the draft is hard enough when the guys selected are healthy.
The Dolphins have not been shy about taking risks with injured players or ones with injury histories. And that leads me to this draft:
It contains various players with medical red flags. The most serious of those, in my opinion, is Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith.
He suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee. He also suffered nerve damage that at first he denied and later acknowledged while saying it was improving. Smith would be a sure-fire top 20 player if healthy because he would be a three-down linebacker. But he is not healthy. Indeed, it is quite possible he does not play in 2016.
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is an athletic freak and is a sideline-to-sideline tackle machine. Except that he, too, is recovering from a torn meniscus that required surgery in September 2015 and was supposed to take up to six months to recover from. Jack is scheduled for his medical re-check in Indianapolis on Thursday. Jack needs be cleared in Indy for any team at the top of the draft to pick him with little worries.
Well, what if he isn't cleared? What if he falls to No. 13 where the Miami Dolphins pick?
Jack told Sirius NFL radio this week that he had worked out for the Saints (picking No. 12) and Dolphins.
Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman (hernia surgery in December) also comes with a medical red flag. The Dolphins would like to add a receiver in the draft.
The Dolphins need a guard. And Boise State guard/tackle Rees Odhiambo comes with a history of being injured. He has suffered a broken ankle, which is never great for a 300 pound guy, and his history is not one of durability.
What was that Bill Parcells said about durability?
It is an ability.