Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier is not afraid to make trades. He made 28 trades the first 28 months as the Dolphins GM from the time he assumed the role in 2016. Grier has even managed to maneuver the Dolphins to get two first round picks in 2021 and managed to get first round picks in 2022 and 2023 from the San Francisco 49ers. That was a deal with both Philadelphia and San Francisco that allowed Miami to get draft rights for one of the most talented wide receivers in college football in the 2021 draft in Jaylen Waddle.
Despite the naysayers, Chris Grier and the Dolphins’ management used their number one draft pick (5 overall) in 2020 to draft Tua Tagovailoa because they knew what Tua’s ability was. Grier and Dolphins head coach Brian Flores already knew it would take some time for Tua to mend after a college career ending hip injury that required hip surgery. They knew he would not be able to participate in OTAs and pre-season games his rookie year due to Covid-19 regulations. They knew he would not start the beginning of the season and would gradually and slowly work his way into the position of becoming Miami’s starting quarterback. They knew the ONLY time Tua ever performed poorly in college was due to playing with an injury, which made them fall in love with his perseverance to keep pushing as a tough player until he couldn’t play anymore.
[On a side note, before being injured, eight games into a 12 game 2018 college football season, Tua had thrown no interceptions and had the highest quarterback rating (238.8) up until that point in the history of college football’s existence since the year 1869. And by the end of the 2018 season, Tua set a college record with the highest rating (199.4) in the history of college football only to be barely broken the following year by Joe Burrow (202) in 2019 and subsequently by his former teammate, Mac Jones (203.1) in 2020. In fact, before his college career ending hip injury in the 9th game of the 2019 season, he was beating Burrow’s, Jones, and his own record with a passer rating of 206.9 up until that point. However, Tua was disqualified from the single season record books because he didn’t play a full 2019 season, awarding the rating leader to Burrow. The numbers don’t lie. Mac Jones holds the single season record for the most efficient quarterback in college with his 203.1 rating, but Tua holds the college career record for the highest quarterback rating. He holds the career record for being the most efficient college quarterback in the history of college football with a career rating of 199.4, the ironically same number as his single season 2018 rating. Yes, nobody has statistically been better at passing the ball in college football than Tua Tagovailoa in over 150 years; and both Chris Grier and Brian Flores knows it. Among efficient college quarterbacks, Tua Tagovailoa, in July 2021, is still the G.O.A.T.]
CHRIS GRIER AND BRIAN FLORES HAVE WORKED IN TANDEM
Both Chris Grier and Flores, along with the Miami Dolphins’ trainer, also knew that Tua wasn’t going to come in to play at being 100% healthy in 2020 due to recovering from hip surgery. And according to Tua’s trainer, he was only playing at 60% in 2020. They knew if Tua could beat former Heisman winner Kyler Murray in college he could beat him head to head in the NFL, and he did. Even when Grier was criticized for drafting Tua instead of Herbert, they were more concerned about winning games than quarterbacks with personal stats.
What counted for Miami when it came to playing the Chargers was beating them, not if Tua had better numbers than Justin Herbert. So when it came to playing a 100% healthy Herbert head to head, Tua, playing only at 60%, did beat the Chargers, with a better quarterback rating (106.9) than Herbert’s (86.3) with no sacks and no interceptions thrown compared to Herbert’s two sacks and one interception in that game. Despite the 2020 number one draft pick, Joe Burrow, not playing in the game, Flores and Grier also wanted Tua to win the game against the Cincinnati Bengals who overlooked Tua in favor of drafting Burrow.
And when Tua played the Bengals, he did beat the Bengals. And while many fans already have Tua losing the first game to Cam Newton and the New England Patriots in 2021, Tua has already beaten the Patriots and Newton last season. Tua did so by beating the scrambling Newton at his own game, with two rushing touchdowns of his own. They even know that Tua was the second most efficient quarterback in the NFL to evade a pass rush in 2020. Unless there is some freak injury prior to the 2021 season, Grier is depending on Tua to be on the same level of efficiency as he was in college this NFL season.
Chris Grier and Brian Flores know that the only thing that will stop Tua this year will be an unforeseen injury, which is their hope in avoiding.
To build around Tua, Grier began to build one of the best receiving corps in the NFL during the offseason. Adding to Miami’s top receiver, DeVante Parker, Chris Grier signed free agent Will Fuller to a one year contract prior to the 2021 NFL draft. Parker has already made the 1,000 receiving yard mark in his career and Fuller was on his way to a 1,000 yard year in 2020 before being suspended due to the use of an unauthorized prescribed medication by a doctor.
To complete the receiving trio, Grier drafted Tua’s former college teammate, Jaylen Waddle, whom was one of the best wide receivers in college football during his tenure at Alabama. The Dolphins also get an added value in Waddle as a special teams player, whom was the best returner in his draft class. That receiving trio build was an addition to an already dangerous tight end, Mike Gesicki, whom Grier drafted in 2018. Gesicki was among the top 5 tight ends in the NFL with the most receiving yards and among the top 10 tight ends for touchdowns in 2020.
Gesicki also was the only tight end that had the longest reception last year. Chris Grier also added a familiar face for Tua when he signed former teammate Robert Foster, whom caught Tua Tagovailoa’s first collegiate pass. To prove that his rookie season with Buffalo was no fluke, Foster was one of the most impressive receivers in the Dolphins mini camp last month.
As impressive as the Dolphins receiving corps looks for the 2021 season, Grier hasn’t always been perfect. He got burned on trading away a Dolphins’ seventh round 2021 draft pick for offensive lineman, Isaiah Wilson. The Dolphins waived Wilson three days later for tardiness and being a no show. He was charged with a felony four days after he was let go from the Dolphins.
To atone for the Isaiah Wilson trade, Grier signed veteran offensive tackle, D.J. Fluker, and drafted two offensive tackles, Liam Eichenberg and Larnel Coleman. Additionally, former Baltimore Ravens center, Matt Skura was signed to the Dolphins this offseason.
Miami had the opportunity to draft Heisman candidate, running back Najee Harris, but chose a different direction because they already plan to use Myles Gaskin as the starting 2021 running back. Grier already knows that if Gaskin can reach 584 yards in 142 attempts he can reach 1,000 yards in 245 attempts. So instead of drafting Harris, Miami chose to draft college football’s best edge rusher, Jaelan Phillips.
This is building on to Miami’s 2020 defensive picks with Noah Igbinoghene, Brandon Jones, Jason Strowbridge, and Raekwon Davis. Continuing to build on the defense, Grier also drafted in 2021, college football’s best safety, Jevon Holland. Although the best cornerback in the NFL can’t be replaced with the same quality of skills, Grier did pick up Trill Williams as insurance to Xavien Howard’s holdout.
Another one of Chris Grier’s draft picks, Jason Sanders has already become one of the best kickers in the NFL.
With the building process for the Miami Dolphins, Chris Grier is smart enough to know that football is a physical game where players get hurt. But Grier somehow has managed to put together a motley crew tough as nails players that knows how to survive through adversity and injury.
That tough as nail group of players have survived misforutunes such as, Tua Tagovailoa coming into the NFL fresh off of hip surgery, Raekwon Davis playing in a college game and recording a sack the same week after he had been shot, Jaylen Waddle breaking his ankle in college and playing in a national championship game before being completely healed, Robert Foster surviving a shooting in high school on his way to football camp that killed a teammate and Foster being struck by a car while on a motorcycle in college, Myles Gaskin spraining his MCL in 2020 and returning later in the season in a game to rush for 87 yards, receive 82 yards, with two touchdowns, and Gerrid Doaks returning to play college football with impressive stats after a sports hernia surgery. The list could keep going on but by now, the point has been made about the level of toughness the players have that Chris Grier has put together this season.
Despite sports media downplaying the Miami Dolphins potential to compete in 2021, Chris Grier would beg to differ. Compared to the past few Dolphins teams, the 2021 team is ready to make an impact and become legitimate playoff contenders.