Just like the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots, Miami is not going to the Super Bowl. Just like the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami is preparing for free agency and the draft.
Only two teams can go to the Super Bowl, which leaves 30 disappointed teams, and regardless of what you might see in terms of news leaks about one team or another, remember that not all of it is 100 percent factual. What is factual is that we can say without a shadow of a doubt that the Dolphins, and every other non-playoff team, are now doing the same thing as the 10 playoff teams who will be watching the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks.
Just like all of those other teams (and like the Seahawks and Broncos once the Super Bowl comes to a conclusion), the Dolphins will also have quite a few tough decisions to make. Some of these decisions should be made within the coming days and weeks, while others will be made come this spring.
Here's a look at the five toughest (and most important) decisions that the Dolphins will have to make this offseason.
There are two things I can guarantee with the Miami Dolphins next season.
The first thing is Joe Philbin will be the head coach. I'm not a fan of retaining him either, but Stephen Ross feels that Philbin deserves a third year (this one without Jeff Ireland) to see what he can do.
The second thing is that Ryan Tannehill will be the starting quarterback. This I agree with, but that doesn't mean the Dolphins shouldn't look at other options in the draft.
Should the Miami Dolphins spend any picks on the first two days of the draft on a quarterback? Absolutely not. This draft should be about fortifying the trenches on both sides of the ball, and maybe picking up a big and athletic tight end if one is available.
However, the Dolphins shouldn't discount the possibility of adding a quarterback on Day 3. Doing so might not mean competition for Tannehill right away, but it does give Miami a fallback plan.
I would like to see the Dolphins draft a quarterback late in the draft. I would like to see them attempt to develop said quarterback, giving them someone with more upside than Matt Moore in the event that Tannehill goes down, and someone who would be better served taking up the developmental third quarterback slot held by Pat Devlin.
Will they do that? That will depend on who the new general manager is, but it would be the prudent thing to do.
I used Aaron Murray as an example of a quarterback they could take on Day 3. ESPN.com's David Ching reports that Murray will not be ready until his pro day at Georgia after suffering a knee injury back in November, but he does represent a good value pick late that promises good upside while not immediately competing with Tannehill for the starting spot.
He's not the only quarterback I would consider late, but he does have the highest profile of those quarterbacks. Some of you might have other ideas as to whom Miami should consider if it goes that route, so feel free to let me know who you would consider down below.
The only reason this decision might be tough is the fear that it will undermine Tannehill's confidence, but I don't see that happening, as Tannehill is Miami's guy in 2014 and has shown enough promise in two years in Miami to warrant that.
I'm in love with the idea of the Dolphins drafting either North Carolina's Eric Ebron or Texas Tech's Jace Amaro this May.
I'm going to champion this idea until we get to draft day, but as I stump for the Dolphins to do this, the question I have gotten in the past and will continue to get is simple: What about Dustin Keller?
No, I haven't forgotten that the Dolphins signed Keller as a free agent last offseason. I haven't forgotten the chemistry that he seemed to forge with Tannehill during the preseason, nor have I forgotten what Keller can bring to this offense.
We discovered something this season, though. Charles Clay can provide you with the same thing that Keller can—a reliable underneath threat and safety blanket.
The only differences between the two are the fact that Clay is younger and more athletic, but other than that, the two are a redundancy. You can't say that about Clay and Ebron or Amaro, though, as both of those tight ends are taller and more athletic than Clay and would be better red-zone targets.
Because of said redundancy, it will be tough for the Dolphins to decide on Keller's future. If they choose to keep him, you can kiss goodbye any chances of the Dolphins drafting a tight end, as they will likely use both Keller and Clay in two-tight end sets while further developing Michael Egnew and Dion Sims to be their big targets.
But should they even retain Keller? The argument against this is Keller's injury history. His knee injury last August was due to bad luck, but he did have issues staying on the field with the Jets, which is part of the reason why he signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins last year.
When healthy, Keller can add a lot to the Dolphins offense, but like I stated earlier, he's not too different from Clay, and in fact is a worse blocker.
The Dolphins, should they draft another tight end, need more of a Jimmy Graham/Rob Gronkowski type who can not only be a major threat in the seam, but also block well (not one of Keller's strong suits).
With Mike Sherman gone, a lot of fans were expecting more shakeups on the offensive coaching staff, with offensive line coach Jim Turner being the most likely candidate to get canned.
It was Turner's offensive line that allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks in 2013, so his name was the first one looked at.
However when the Dolphins announced Bill Lazor as the new offensive coordinator, no other changes to the staff were made. In fact, according to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports, Philbin wanted the Dolphins to retain the rest of the coaching staff after Lazor was hired, including Turner.
So, case closed, right? No need to put this slide in here as Turner will be back in 2014.
Well, not quite. There is that pesky Ted Wells investigation from the BullyGate scandal, one where Coach Turner was also investigated as well for his possible involvement.
The plot, like a good sauce, now thickens.
If Turner is found to have engaged in any wrong-doing, he likely will be the sacrificial lamb that is shown the door as part of the fallout of said investigation. This would make the most sense logically as Jeff Ireland, Mike Sherman and Richie Incognito are gone, while Jonathan Martin is on his way out.
I'm of the belief that Turner should've been let go regardless of how the scandal plays out (coaching a unit that allowed 58 sacks will make you believe that), but it looks like BullyGate might be the only thing that will get Turner out of there.
In a perfect world, both Paul Soliai and Randy Starks remain with Miami and continue to plug up the middle.
We don't live in a perfect world. The cold hard facts are you have two great defensive tackles who are now on the wrong side of 30 who are looking for what is likely their final big NFL paydays.
Because of this, the Dolphins face what is their second-toughest decision: which one to keep?
I've continued to say that Soliai is the more likely player to stay simply because he does have less NFL miles on him than Starks (Soliai entered the league three years later), and because his absence was felt more on run defense when he wasn't on the field than Starks' absence was felt when he wasn't on the field.
But both players have almost identical stats, both had almost identical Pro Football Focus run-stopping grades (h/t Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post) and both will likely command the same amount of money on the open market.
Under any other situation, this would be the toughest decision the Dolphins have this offseason (by the way, the decision of retaining Brent Grimes is a no-brainer, which is why it's not on the list), but there is a void in who makes that call as Miami is currently without a general manager.
The previous four decisions will be made by someone who doesn't work for the team yet.
When it comes to Miami's general manager, I would've began vetting candidates back in November, then really began the search in earnest on December 30 (along with head coach and all other positions on the staff).
But the Dolphins legitimately thought that they would win one of their final two games and make the playoffs. I salute their optimism (they did have every reason to be optimistic), but in the long run, it might have hurt them.
Now with Senior Bowl week starting Monday, Miami has scouts, but no general manager for them to report to.
Since Jeff Ireland parted ways with the Dolphins two weeks ago, Miami has interviewed seven candidates, with three front-runners: Brian Xanders (pictured above), Ray Farmer and Dennis Hickey.
All three bring backgrounds and histories that I like, but all come with questions. With Xanders, I can point to his days in Denver when he was in charge of the draft, which helped net much of the talent on the Broncos' now-Super Bowl-bound roster.
I can also knock him for drafting Tim Tebow, even though that seemed to be Josh McDaniels' decision.
Farmer has been great in scouting pro personnel in the past with the Kansas City Chiefs; however, his draft experience seems lacking.
Then there's Hickey, who helped draft much of the talent on a talent-laden Buccaneers roster (which was considered to be an underachieving roster). However, if Hickey is so great, why aren't the Bucs considering him for their general manager opening?
Each candidate has questions surrounding them, and that shouldn't be held up as judgement on the Dolphins like many in the media like to do, for every general manager candidate has questions surrounding them.
Said questions are what make this process a fun, yet frustrating one to follow, and because of that, maybe it isn't such a bad thing that the Dolphins are taking their time and doing their due diligence.
Because of that, I'm actually OK with Stephen Ross flying out to London and China to focus on his real estate holdings while letting the football people in place (Carl Peterson) vet the potential GMs.
This is only the most important decision the Dolphins will make for the next decade, don't you want them to be careful and do their homework?
I know I do, and I'm glad they are. I just wish they would've handled it better, like not leaving the candidates in the dark before their potential future boss travels abroad (as is being reported by Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports).
I also wish this search would've started much earlier, but there's no need to dwell on past mistakes, for it's time to look forward to the future to see if said mistakes can be cleaned up.