The hard part was listening to the answers. What you want, what the Miami Dolphins need, what this past year of football sacrifice offered was some Simple-Simon decision on what to do at quarterback.
But three former NFL general managers once charged with measuring talent, running drafts, building rosters and weighing risks like Dolphins general manager Chris Grier listened to the heavyweight questions of this team’s draft outlook and suggested no sure way out.
Should the Dolphins draft Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in the NFL draft?
The three former GMs said they wouldn’t due to his fragile health — though one gave a qualifier.
Would you trade three first-round picks for Cincinnati’s No. 1 pick to land Joe Burrow?
The same three said they wouldn’t — though, again, one provided a similar qualifier.
What’s the answer at quarterback for the Dolphins?
No consensus, again.
“Those are kind of scary propositions — both of them,” one said of drafting Tagovailoa or trading for Burrow.
There’s no telling where Grier takes this quarterback decision. He has more information and spent more time investigating the question more than any of us on the outside yodeling about it. But at the very least — these three GMs can relate to the decision Grier faces in ways you or I can’t.
Only Jimmy Johnson wanted to lend his name to his opinion. The other two former GMs still work in football front offices. Johnson changed the way the NFL thinks of the draft through his trades, his building of the Dallas Cowboys and, in other way, his value chart putting points to trade positions.
While Johnson said he wouldn’t make the moves for Tagovailoa or Burrow, he provided an asterisk.
“Not having sat down and knowing them personally, I wouldn’t make that kind of decision,” Jimmy said of both drafting Tua and trading for Burrow.
Johnson, you see, always thought the value to the NFL combine wasn’t the performance events put on TV for fans like shuttle runs and broad jumps. Those merely confirmed what scouts typically thought. The value was the interviews and medical reports. They gave information into who a player was — or wasn’t.
Without such insight, Johnson wouldn’t make the bold move to acquire either.
The health risk is the primary reason the two other former GMs have a stay-away sign attached to Tagovailoa at the fifth pick. It’s not just the surgically repaired hip he’s recovering from now. It’s the constant injuries throughout his career.
“Tua’s health/size scares me,” one texted. “I don’t see the Steve Young-like comparisons. I think he’s going to struggle to stay healthy.”
“You could hit a home run or get nothing out of it,” the other former GM said. “That’s not the way I want to frame the fifth pick in the draft. That needs to be as sure a thing as possible with the hope of getting five to 10 years.”
The question with Burrow is less his talent than his price tag.
“Joe Burrow is a one-year phenom,” one said. “Might be solid, but I’d rather have three really good players I can count on to build my team for the next 5-7 years.”
“I like Burrow, but I like three first-rounders better,” the second said.
Yep, it was hard to listen to this. It wasn’t surprising. Tagovailoa’s surgically repaired hip on top of two minor ankle surgeries suggest there could be health problems ahead. My thought is the talent of Burrow is worth a few first-round picks for a team that accumulated them just for this idea. These more experienced minds disagreed.
So what’s the answer? One said to take the top-rated quarterback out there. He liked Jordan Love — “but it’s not a slam-dunk of him over (Justin Herbert). That’s something you have to decide as a GM and coach.”
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