THE FIFTH DOWN; Many Faces, But Steady Arm Still Eludes Miami

Luis DeLoureiro operates NFLStatAnalysis.net and is a contributor to the Cold Hard Football Facts.

Chad Henne’s shaky season is almost over, and the Miami Dolphins will probably be addressing the quarterback position in the off-season. Again. And judging by recent history, they’ll probably be doing so via a journeyman backup or a second-round pick.

Consider the players who have started for the Dolphins since Dan Marino’s retirement after the 1999 season (number of starts in parentheses):Jay Fiedler (59)Chad Henne (26)Chad Pennington (20)Gus Frerotte (15)Joey Harrington (11)A.J. Feeley (eight)Cleo Lemon (eight)Ray Lucas (six)Trent Green (five)Brian Griese (five)John Beck (four)Daunte Culpepper (four)Sage Rosenfels (two)Damon Huard (one)Tyler Thigpen (one)

Miami has replaced one of the most productive passers in N.F.L. history with a lot of mediocrity.

The Dolphins have refused to invest a first-round pick in the game’s most important position. They have not taken a quarterback in the first round since Marino in 1983.

The only other franchises that haven’t taken a quarterback in the first round since 1998 are the Chiefs, Cowboys, Patriots, Saints, Seahawks and Panthers. (The Seahawks acquired Matt Hasselbeck in a trade that included a first-round pick.)

Each of those teams, except the Panthers, has a franchise quarterback in place. A first-round pick, for most of these teams, would be wasteful.

In a quirky draft fact, the Dolphins used second-round picks on quarterbacks in four consecutive drafts. They selected John Beck in 2007, Henne in 2008 and Pat White in 2009. They also traded their 2006 second-round pick to the Vikings to obtain Daunte Culpepper. Only Henne is still with the team. During this time, they have passed on Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers, among others. To be fair, they also passed on Brady Quinn.

Using the second round to acquire a franchise quarterback has been a losing proposition. As I stated in a post in April, quarterbacks picked in the second round almost never pan out for the team drafting them. Since 2001, 12 quarterbacks have been taken in the second round. Jimmy Clausen and Henne are the only two players starting for the team that drafted them. And both have a tenuous hold on the job.

Drew Brees was also a second-round pick, but he did not achieve his current level of success until signing with the New Orleans Saints – coincidentally, after the Dolphins opted to trade for Culpepper instead of signing Brees.

In fact, if you look all the way back to 1990, 22 quarterbacks have been selected in the second round and only Kordell Stewart and Jake Plummer led the team that drafted them for any period of time.

For almost 20 years, Dan Marino was the face of the Dolphins. Although he didn’t win a title, he broke just about every significant single-season and career passing record. One would think that, more than anyone, the Dolphins would understand the value of a franchise quarterback. But the team has opted to avoid the risk involved with first-round quarterbacks. Unfortunately, the Dolphins have also lost out on the reward that comes with first-round quarterbacks.

A few additional notes: In terms of yards, the best passing season since Marino was by Chad Pennington in 2008 with 3,653. (Jets fans, that was also his career high.) Jay Fiedler is the only post-Marino QB to throw 20 TD passes, with 20 in 2001. Marino threw for 20-plus 13 times (30-plus four times, and 40-plus twice). He had only one season (1997) in which he started 16 games and didn’t throw for 20 TDs.

This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.

PHOTOS; Since 2000, 15 players have started at quarterback for the Dolphins, including, top row: Ray Lucas, left, and Brian Griese; second row: Sage Rosenfels, left, and Jay Fiedler; third row: Daunte Culpepper, left, and Cleo Lemon; fourth row: Chad Pennington, left, and Chad Henne.

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