The overall philosophy the Miami Dolphins go by has been a topic for discussion in this space over the past couple of days and this will be another example of how that philosophy is applied — or not — and how it could affect the team into the future.
So the Dolphins play their season finale on Sunday. And the players want to win the game.
“It’s a big game for us,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said Wednesday. “Obviously, a division game on the road — we all know how the road has been this year for us. And we’d like to finish strong. A division game in Buffalo, a chance to finish the season 8-8. It’s a big opportunity for us and we want to finish the season strong.”
And obviously coach Adam Gase wants to win the game. Which means he’s not going to do like last year and play younger players like David Fales instead of his veteran starting quarterback.
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“We talked about playing young guys and all of that stuff (last year), but I’ll never do that again because I’m not going to hear about 6-10 again,” Gase said. “I’d rather go 8-8.”
And there’s nothing wrong with that. The team’s head coach wants to do everything in his power to win the last game of the season, which could help his job status and certainly cannot hurt.
(A loss, on the other hand, obviously doesn’t help anyone.)
You should want your coach to want to win every game. You should want your coaches and players to want to step on every opponent’s neck.
But Gase is more than the Dolphins’ head coach right now. He’s the face of the franchise and in charge of making decisions that concern the franchise’s future.
And sometimes that role and his coach’s role have competing priorities.
The competing priority this week is whether to play receiver DeVante Parker or not at Buffalo.
The Dolphins, you see, have a fifth-year option currently applied to Parker. That means they retain his rights for 2019 because they picked up a one-year option for 2019 worth $9.37 million.
If the Dolphins want to keep Parker next year without giving him a contract extension, he’s basically signed for that $9.37 million.
But if the Dolphins believe that’s too expensive for Parker, they can rescind that fifth-year option before the start of the next league year and, poof, they don’t have to pay that money and Parker becomes a free agent.
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out Parker will not be getting that $9.37 million from the Dolphins because although he continues to have potential, his actual production is substandard. So far this season he has caught 24 passes for 309 yards with one touchdown.
That isn’t worthy of that $9.37 million commitment next season.
No one will be paying Parker that kind of money next season.
But here’s the catch: That fifth year option is guaranteed for injury. That means if Parker plays on Sunday and suffers a significant injury that would affect him going into next season, the Dolphins would have to pay him that $9.37 million.
If Parker, who has been injury prone throughout his entire career, suffers a significant injury — like a torn ACL — the Dolphins are on the hook for the full cost of the option.
The way the Dolphins avoid this risk is obviously to scratch Parker from the game or keep him from playing even if he’s active.
Any general manager or executive vice president or football czar with decision-making power would seriously weigh the risk of being on the hook for the $9.37 million for an injured DeVante Parker. And weighing that risk, some might opt to simply keep Parker home.
After all, Parker is averaging about 2.6 catches for about 34 yards per game.
Me? I would not play Parker on Sunday. Thank you for your service, young man.
I prioritize the long-term implications of an injury to the franchise.
I play the long game, particularly since Parker hasn’t typically been a game-changer anyway.
But, of course, my job is not at stake. I’m just a nerd at a keyboard with nothing at stake except, wanting to cover a Super Bowl team sometime before I’m caught up in the air to meet my Lord during the freakin’ Rapture!
Adam Gase, on the other hand, is balancing other priorities.
So where does he fall?
Does coach Gase win out and he plays a marginal player because every little bit helps?
Or does steward of the franchise’s longterm well-being Gase kick in and he does not risk blowing over $9 million in 2019 cap space?
On Wednesday we heard from Gase the coach. He tried to explain why Parker basically has been a disappointment this season.
“I feel like he’s practiced probably as good as I’ve seen him practice over the last three years (with) his speed, and detail of what he’s doing,” Gase said. “And for some reason when we’re getting into the game, I don’t know if he’s trying to be too perfect and it’s slowing him down. I feel like we have routes sometimes where he knows cold and then I’ll see what I see at practice.
”It’s just one of those things, just cut it loose. Don’t worry about making a mistake. If you do, it’s the quarterback’s job to find you and put the ball on you and then go make a play after the catch.”
By Sunday we’ll know where Gase’s priorities are.
By the way, this is not a black and white decision. It is possible to play Parker and not suffer any damage to the 2019 salary cap if he avoids any injury. That can happen.
But the risk is the risk.