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  Silence Keeps Ryan in Play
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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This is how Bill Parcells wants it.


I’m talking about the guessing, of course. No one is pretending to know what the now-silent Dolphins are thinking relative to the 2008 NFL Draft, especially when it comes to the all-important quarterback question.


John Beck doesn’t know, and he works for Parcells. Ditto the newly signed Josh McCown.  


While Parcells may be silent, the supposed Beck-McCown battle to come speaks volumes. Surely the Dolphins can’t be comfortable in starting the below average McCown. It would be suicide.


So why don’t the Dolphins just name Beck the starter and be done with it?


The reason is that John Beck is not the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback of the future.


Not yet.


Why? Because Bill Parcells hasn’t said he is and Beck hasn’t proven it.


So, who is?


Matt Ryan.


There’s no other possible conclusion until Parcells says otherwise.


For those of you who don’t know, Ryan is the top rated quarterback in this year’s draft. At least one scouting service has him graded at the same level as Eli Manning, better than Beck and Brady Quinn in 2007, with a Top 5 general consensus. Some are already convinced that he is the next bonafide franchise quarterback. Ryan’s recent pro day workout at Boston College, attended by the Dolphins’ Chris Grier (Director of College Scouting) and David Lee (Quarterbacks Coach), reinforced his elite status.


"The thing this guy has is his ability to win. And that's what you like in a quarterback”, said Kansas City’s Herman Edwards. “Some guys can do a lot of things. But, in the end, can he win?”


"He's very levelheaded. The players believe that if he has the ball in his hands at the end of the game, that you have a chance to win the game. He has that demeanor about himself. He's fiery, but he keeps himself under control."


All of what Edwards says about Ryan is true. There’s no question that BC won a lot more games with Ryan, the reigning ACC player of the year, than they would have otherwise.


Parcells and his pals (namely GM Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano) will pour over Ryan’s college career and form their own collective opinion. They’ve already scheduled a private evaluation with Ryan.


This is what you do when you are considering one of the riskiest decisions in all of sports, drafting a quarterback with your top overall pick. You have to become reasonably convinced that he’ll really be a franchise-caliber quarterback.


Alas, there is no magic formula for making this determination. What’s between a quarterback’s ears, and his ability as a difference-maker, matter more than how tall he is and how far he can throw the football.


This is why the safest pick for the Dolphins is Virginia DE Chris Long, son of Hall of Famer Howie Long. Everything about this kid, his ability, his coaching, his maturity, and his pedigree, smacks of a Parcells-type player. Furthermore, if you are going to invest close to $30 million in guaranteed money, you want to have a player that you know will be a difference-maker at a cornerstone position.


Chris Long fits that profile.


Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long is another player like this, though to a lesser degree. However, the depth at tackle in this draft is good enough that the Dolphins could address the need in round two and still get a very good player.


Going Long is the safe play, but is it the right one?


The problem with playing it safe is that you don’t win in the NFL without a very good (or great) quarterback. The Dolphins simply do not have such a talent. And, when you are in the midst of a rebuilding exercise, as the Dolphins are, one of the cornerstones you build your team around is a winning quarterback.


That player certainly isn’t McCown, and no one is sure it is Beck. So where does this leave the Dolphins?




Yes, the Dolphins could select a quarterback in the second round or later. Unfortunately, there appears to be a significant fall off from Ryan to the next group of guys. With the premium on good quarterbacks, it may even be a third tier of talent that Parcells will have to choose from if he waits too long. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; half of the quarterbacks in the Top 8 in passing in 2007 were not first round picks.


The Dolphins were very fortunate to land John Beck in the second round of the 2007 draft. He’s a smart, strong, accurate passer with poise, maturity, and a terrific work ethic. Beck’s a quality person, too. One could fairly say that he has many of the qualities that Parcells demands in a quarterback.


So let me be quite clear. I am not suggesting that Beck is a bust or is incapable of being the quarterback of the future. My point is that, today, no one is reasonably certain how Beck is going to turn out.


This is the biggest problem Parcells faces: he doesn’t know if he has a quarterback that can lead this team to a Super Bowl.


Ryan is already good enough that people believe he can lead a team to a championship. This doesn’t mean he will, but it is one heck of a vote of confidence.


On the other hand, no one gave Beck such an endorsement last year and no one would now.


So unless Parcells, or one of his underlings, is ready to stand up and anoint Beck, they have no choice but to keep Ryan squarely in their sights.


Again, this is how Parcells wants it. If another team thinks the Dolphins will draft Ryan, whether they intend to or not, trade offers are more likely. And, heavens knows, the Dolphins can use all of the extra day one picks they can get.


But if an attractive trade offer doesn’t materialize, and there hasn’t been a trade involving a top 5 pick since 2004 (coincidentally for Manning), the Dolphins will be facing a very difficult decision.


Do they play it safe and select Chris Long, or do they take a chance at being great and go with Ryan?


This may be the single biggest question they face in the Parcells era.


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