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Saturday Playoff Recap: Dolphins, Coaches, Quarterbacks

The Miami Dolphins are not involved in the divisional playoffs, but they still had plenty of connections to what happened Saturday

As the Miami Dolphins again have to watch from afar, the NFL playoffs continue to roll on and Saturday gave us two exciting divisional playoff games that saw the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers each win on the road.

Though the Dolphins weren't involved, there were storylines everywhere that had connections to them.

GOOD 49ERS BAD NEWS

We'll start with the bad news, and that's the 49ers' victory against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, which drove the Dolphins' 2022 first-round pick further down the list.

With San Francisco now in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers first-round pick that now belongs to the Dolphins will be either the 29th, 31st or 32nd overall — 29th if the 49ers lose in the NFC title game, 31st if they lose the Super Bowl, 32nd if they win the Super Bowl.

Had the 49ers lost at Green Bay on Saturday night, the pick would have become the 25th pick overall,

As a reminder, the Dolphins' 2022 first-round, which went to the Eagles in the move up from 12 to 6 in the 2021 draft, ended up being the 15th overall.

COACHING CHATTER

If we're using playoff games to evaluate coaching candidates, then it was 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans who really shined in that game at Green Bay on Saturday and not so much offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel — understanding that it's actually head coach Kyle Shanahan who calls the offensive plays.

McDaniel is the only one of the two who has been identified as a candidate to interview for the Dolphins head coach position, but SI Fan Nation Al 49ers publisher Grant Cohn made the point that maybe it's Ryan who should have been the target all along, and the 49ers-Packers game certainly supported that argument.

In fact, the past two weeks have been great testimonials for Ryans, whose defense shut down both the Cowboys and Packers.

As for McDaniel, the 49ers offense certainly was less than overwhelming against the Packers, finishing with only 212 total yards and converting only 4 of 11 third-down situations. But there was the one clutch drive at the end to set up the game-winning field goal.

The 49ers running game, which is McDaniel's baby, produced 106 yards on 29 carries for a sub-par 3.7-yard average and Elijah Mitchell was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 run in the fourth quarter — shortly before the blocked punt that tied the score 10-10.

Three of the other candidates who reportedly have interviewed with the Dolphins will be in action Sunday: Bills coordinators Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier, and Rams offensive coordinator Thomas Brown.

The other three identified candidates all lost in the wild-card round: Dallas coordinators Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore, and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

One more coaching note, and this one has nothing to do with what has happened in the playoffs, and that's the Sunday morning report about Saints coach Sean Payton apparently not having given indications he's going to return to New Orleans in 2022.

Payton has three years remaining on his contract, per the Ian Rapoport report, meaning that if Payton were to coach another team next season, that team would have to give up some draft pick compensation.

SI Fan Nation sister site Saints News Network broke down the situation very well Sunday morning.

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And, because of Payton's success with Drew Brees and because of the comps of Drew Brees when it comes to Tua Tagovailoa's potential as an NFL quarterback, of course the idea is going to be thrown out about the Dolphins making a move for Payton.

But while that's an intriguing idea and Payton clearly is a good coach, to assume he would come to Miami and automatically turn Tua into Brees might be overly optimistic.

Of course, there is precedent for the Dolphins giving up a first-round pick for a head coach, which happened back in 1970 when they hired Don Shula away from the Baltimore Colts and Commissioner Pete Rozelle ruled they would have to give up that No. 1 pick as compensation.

That obviously worked out very well for the Dolphins, but it also was more than 50 years ago.

There's a more recent precedent around the NFL, which happened in 2002 when the Raiders traded head coach Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay for two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million. The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in Gruden's first year, but it should be pointed out he inherited a championship-caliber team.

The Dolphins are not that, and it says here giving up a first-round pick to hire a coach essentially bailing on his team isn't the right approach.

TANNEHILL, RODGERS AND QB CONVERSATIONS

The two starting quarterbacks eliminated Saturday involved a former Dolphins players and another one who could be a future Dolphins player if some fans had their wish — and there were lessons to be learned as it applied to each.

We'll start with Ryan Tannehill, who threw three picks in Tennessee's 19-16 loss against the Bengals.

Tannehill has had a great regular season record since the Dolphins traded him to Tennessee during the 2019 offseason with a 30-13 mark. But he's 2-3 in the playoffs, the Titans have lost their first playoff game each of the past two years and Tannehill's modest 220 passing yards on Saturday actually represents his playoff high in five career postseason games.

The moral of the story when it comes to Tannehill is that, yes, when put in the right circumstances with the right talent around him he can win in the regular season and get to the playoffs. But can his team win big in the playoffs (translation: get to the Super Bowl) with him at quarterback?

And, of course, we bring that up because the argument so often is made when it comes to Tagovailoa that all he needs to succeed is better talent around him.

Well, it's pretty obvious that ANY quarterback can succeed with a great team around him and that doesn't make that quarterback special.

Of course, the counter argument could be that Jimmy Garoppolo went to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season and is headed back to the NFC Championship Game and probably nobody would call him elite. And that's fair, except does anybody really believe that Garoppolo will win the Super Bowl this year?

As for Rodgers, he spoke after the game Saturday night about needing to think about his future and also not wanting to be part of a rebuilding situation, so the possibility of him requesting a trade in the offseason certainly exists.

Rodgers very well might win the MVP award for a second consecutive season, but he was less than stellar in the loss against the 49ers, fully understanding the 49ers defense overwhelmed his offensive line and the Packers special teams cost them the game.

That said, Rodgers wasn't entirely blameless, his lowlight being a really poor decision to throw deep to a double-covered Davante Adams on the third-and-11 that preceded San Francisco's game-winning drive when overhead replays showed a wide open receiver downfield beyond the first-down marker.

If Rodgers indeed becomes available via trade, the Dolphins absolutely should investigate the possibility of acquiring him if they feel comfortable he'll be playing at least for a few more years, though his comments Saturday night certainly didn't seem to suggest that level of commitment.

The last thing the Dolphins want to do is give up a hefty package of picks just to see Rogers retire after one year. So this is one situation that would bear investigating with a mandate to proceed with caution.