Playoff Lessons

As the New England Patriots and the New York Giants prepare to meet Sunday in the Super Bowl, we've been reminded of the large number of former Dolphins players involved in the game. That's all fine and dandy, but that's not what we take from the game -- or the playoffs, for that matter. There is a much bigger issue at work that should strike the Dolphins and their fans.

The simple message: You can't get anywhere nowadays without a good quarterback.

Just looking at Sunday's game, you have Tom Brady, who is merely the best quarterback in the business right now, and Eli Manning, who for all the criticism he's taken has played tremendous football since the start of January.

Looking at the other teams who were among the final eight in contention for the Super Bowl, you will find a list of quarterbacks that includes Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Matt Hasselbeck, Philip Rivers and David Garrard.

All are quality quarterbacks. All are considerably better than anyone the Dolphins have put at the position since the start of the new millennium.

So forget about all this talk of what the Dolphins will do with the first overall pick, whether they can trade it to Dallas in a megadeal involving Marion Barber III, of whether Glenn Dorsey is a good fit for the Dolphins because he's not a prototypical 3-4 defensive lineman.

The only thing -- or just about -- that should matter for the Dolphins between now and the start of training camp is finding a quarterback who is more than just a game manager.

But who is that guy, and where are the Dolphins going to find him?

Unfortunately, the free agent market will offer very little in terms of proven quality at the position, especially with Cleveland expected to lock up Derek Anderson for the long term.

Among unrestricted free agents, perhaps the most appealing option is Daunte Culpepper, but we already know he comes with major question marks.

Perhaps the best path to acquiring a starting-caliber quarterback is the trade market. Two veterans who have been mentioned as potentially being available are the Jets' Chad Pennington and Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb.

Of the two, McNabb obviously is the better option. But the question becomes: How much would it take to get him from the Eagles?

The Dolphins have a lot of holes to fill and aren't in a position to be sending a lot of draft picks to other teams. But maybe making a trade with Dallas for the No. 1 overall pick would get them that surplus of draft choices that would make a trade more feasible.

The truth is, that's the best way for the Dolphins to quickly become contenders again.

Sure, they can spend another high pick on a quarterback -- Matt Ryan or Brian Brohm, for example -- but then you're looking at more growing pains, the kind we experienced with John Beck last season.

Speaking of Beck, his clear path to the Dolphins starting job suddenly was littered with obstacles once Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller were let go in the wake of the Bill Parcells hiring.

Parcells has no allegiance for Beck, and based on what Beck showed last year, there's no guarantee he'll ever become the Dolphins' starting quarterback.

So who will it be? The Dolphins apparently have talked to the agent of Trent Green about him coming back, but he clearly wouldn't be the first choice because he's a year older than he was last year and he's coming off another concussion, so counting on him for the duration of the 2008 season is foolish.

At this point, there's just no way of predicting who will line up behind center for the Dolphins. All we know is that nothing will matter more to their chances for success in 2008.

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Alain Poupart is the Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest and To read him every day, visit and become a Miami Dolphins insider.