Cutler move shows Dolphins still paying a price for past personnel sins

The Miami Dolphins’ desperation move to bring Jay Cutler out of retirement once Ryan Tannehill was injured is another example of how a team can be haunted for years by mistakes of past regimes.

That’s because neither Tannehill nor Cutler should be their quarterback.

Their quarterback should be Drew Brees, but the Dolphins bypassed him twice early in his career.

In the 2001 draft, they took cornerback James Fletcher with the 26th pick in the first round. Brees went to San Diego with the first pick of the second round even though Dolphins general manager Rick Spielman said before the draft that three members of his staff had looked at every college pass by Brees.

According to a story written in 2009 by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, who still covers the team, Spielman told him after the draft they didn’t feel Brees was that much better than incumbent Jay Fiedler. Later, the story changed that then coach Dave Wannstedt pushed Fletcher instead of Brees.

Flash forward to 2006: Nick Saban was the coach and Brees available because he was recovering from a shoulder injury.  Brees appeared to want to play for the Dolphins, and Saban appeared to want him, but the Dolphins wound up signing Daunte Culpepper, who had injury issues of his own.

So Brees went to New Orleans instead, and the rest — amazing durability, a bushel of passing records and a Super Bowl ring — is depressing history for Miami.

Saban later blamed the medical personnel for turning thumbs down on Brees even though Saban is noted for running the show.

Saban was soon off to Alabama, Culpepper wasn’t the answer and the Dolphins have been searching for a quarterback ever since.

According to a list compiled by, Cutler will be the 10th Dolphin quarterback since Culpepper left and 17th since Tom Brady became the Patriots quarterback in 2001. The Dolphins are 105-120 in that span.

One of the secrets of the Patriots’ success is that the other three teams in their division haven’t had an elite quarterback to face Brady if you don’t count Brett Favre’s one season with the Jets near the end of his career. The Bills have gone 90-135 with 13 quarterbacks in that span, while the Jets are 109-116 with 11.

There is some overlap on the list. Chad Pennington played with the Dolphins and Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick played with the Jets and Bills.

That’s why I don’t think it much matters whether Cutler or Tannehill or even backup Matt Moore is the quarterback. The Patriots with Brady still own the division, although the Dolphins split with them three years in a row from 2013-2015. Before that, the Patriots beat the Dolphins eight times in nine games.

One interesting fact is that the Patriots have beaten both Tannehill and Cutler without Brady.

Last year, Tannehill lost to the Patriots, 31-24, in the second game when Brady was suspended and Jimmy Garoppolo was the quarterback. In 2008, the Patriots beat Cutler when he was in Denver with Matt Cassel in a 41-7 rout. Moore quarterbacked the Dolphins in the season finale against the Patriots and lost, 35-14. The Patriots beat Cutler when he was in Chicago by a 36-7 margin in 2010 and 51-23 in 2014.

Cutler will have a lot of time to get ready for the Patriots. The Dolphins don’t play them until Nov. 26 and then meet again two weeks later on Monday night, Dec. 11.

But don’t look for Cutler to lead them to the division title. With Brady looming, the best the Dolphins can hope for is a wild-card spot — with or without Cutler.

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