It’s the day after Super Bowl LV and the conversation, not surprisingly, still centers around quarterback Tom Brady and his seventh ring.
We’ve also been taken back to last offseason after it became clear that Brady was moving on from the New England Patriots and the discussion turned to which teams would make a pitch for his services.
It was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who went for it and their reward was the franchise’s second Super Bowl title, and that obviously brings us to the Miami Dolphins. Specifically, is it fair to wonder what the 2020 Dolphins might have looked like had Brady somehow ended up in Miami?
Multiple reports have suggested the only team other than Buccaneers to really go after Brady were the Los Angeles Chargers, many no doubt hesitant to bring in a 43-year-old quarterback in the final stages of his career.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that the Dolphins had made a hard pitch for Brady — remember, Brian Flores was in New England for most of Brady’s time there.
First off, and this needs to be stressed, it’s not likely that Brady would have chosen the Dolphins over the Buccaneers because Tampa Bay was much closer to a Super Bowl at this time last year.
But let’s put Brady on the Dolphins for 2020 and imagine the possibilities. You can stop before the Super Bowl, though, because while they were much improved from the previous in terms of their personnel they still couldn’t match what Tampa Bay had across the board.
The biggest differences: You can start with the O-line, where the Dolphins would love to have either center Ryan Jensen or guard Ali Marpet in the middle or rookie first-round pick Tristan Wirfs, who shined at right tackle.
Then there’s the linebacker corps, where Tampa Bay has a trio about as good as any in the league with Devin White, Lavonte David and edge rusher Shaq Barrett.
And the Dolphins also couldn’t match Tampa Bay’s wide receivers with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. So what can the Dolphins take from Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl title: a great quarterback can put a team over the top but he still needs help around him.
• This, of course, is going to be the argument for those Dolphins fans who are against making a mega-trade for Deshaun Watson should that possibility present itself. But there’s a difference between giving up a bunch of established players as opposed to a bunch of future draft picks because — like it or not — those future draft picks are not necessarily guaranteed to become stars. The other important point to note is that Brady is still a very, very good quarterback, even if he’s probably been passed these days by Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and maybe one or two others — yes, including Watson. The bottom line: Trade or no trade, Watson or Tua, the Dolphins need much better production out of the quarterback position to become legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
• This isn’t necessarily related to the Dolphins, but the Brady love fest — while understandable — can get a little over the top. For one thing, he had no business winning Super Bowl MVP honors. Tampa Bay won that game because of its defense, point blank. Yes, Brady threw three touchdown passes, but there wasn’t really any great throw made there and two of them came after either bad or questionable Chiefs penalties. As I tweeted Sunday night, the MVP easily could have been split among a combination of the aforementioned linebackers — Barrett, White and David — who all had a big impact on the game.
• Super Bowl LV once again reinforced the idea that the best way to stop dynamic passing teams is to generate pressure with a four-man rush. It’s how the New York Giants defeated Brady twice (yes, it wasn’t really about Eli Manning) and it’s how the Bucs stymied Mahomes. Of course, it helped that the Chiefs were missing their two starting tackles after Eric Fisher tore an Achilles tendon late in the AFC Championship Game, and that made it all the more surprising that the Chiefs didn’t help out their tackles more. The Dolphins were able to get a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2020, but it often came with more than four rushers. But Getting an elite pass rusher who can consistently win up front should be among the top priorities in the offseason. Emmanuel Ogbah had a good year rushing the passer, but a good amount of his sacks came when he was allowed a free path to the quarterback.
• It was interesting to see that Tampa Bay’s four touchdowns Sunday were scored by high-profile veterans who joined the team after Brady wSas signed: Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette. We mention this just to fight this notion that Brady got the Bucs the Super Bowl title single-handedly. Again, with the talent already in place and the post-Brady additions, this became a loaded roster.
• What should serve as a lesson to the Dolphins and other teams around the league is just how well Tampa Bay has drafted in recent years. Since 2018, these are among the players the Bucs have added through the draft: DT Vito Vea, RB Ronald Jones, CB Carlton Davis, S Jordan Whitehead, LB Devin White, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, CB Jamel Dean, WR Scotty Miller, T Tristan Wirfs, S Antoine Winfield Jr., WR Tyler Johnson. Eight of those players were in the starting lineup Sunday: Davis, Whitehead, White, Murphy-Bunting, Dean, Miller, Wirfs and Winfield. This illustrates that maybe the most important factor for the Dolphins moving ahead will be the continued development of their recent draft picks, such as Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene, Robert Hunt, Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins, Andrew Van Ginkel, Mike Gesicki and Jerome Baker.