The people running the Miami Dolphins, in private conversations right now, are making one of the biggest decisions in the franchise’s 56-year history — and maybe the most controversial.
It will be seismic, future-defining large, and controversial, no matter what they decide.
It will be those things if they make the megatrade for quarterback Deshaun Watson ... or if they say no to the chance.
Either decision will polarize like politics as Dolfans in probably equal numbers stand ready to celebrate the trade or thank God it wasn’t made.
It is a trade that is both can’t-win and can’t-lose for Miami. It might instantly elevate the Dolphins to Super Bowl contenders, or at least put them in the conversation. And it might be a soul-selling deal that offends many people and feels morally suspect — as well as cost the team three first-round and two second-round future draft picks.
I would not want to be making this decision.
It’s hard enough just to write a damned column about it!
A strong opinion is desirable and equivocation the enemy in this column-writing game, but sometimes, in sports as in real life, one can see both sides because both have validity. The gray in the middle very often is greater than the bookends of black and white.
I would not make this trade and do not believe the Dolphins should.
Only one week ago I wrote a column under the headline, ‘Why it’s time to go all-in and finally start believing in Tua, Flores and Miami Dolphins.’
That’s what I believe. I would rather have Tagovailoa, three first-round and two second-round draft picks than Watson.
But I also understand why the Dolphins might be tantalized and tempted by Watson and at least seriously weigh the possibility — because the chance to trade for a quarterback who is young but an established superstar is a rarity, indeed.
Teams set aside morality in the name of winning all the time.
In Tyreek Hill the Chiefs drafted a receiver who pleaded guilty in college to domestic abuse against his pregnant girlfriend. He is a big reason they have played in two consecutive Super Bowls and won one.
There was outrage in Kansas City over the pick. Some booing. Then the touchdowns came.
There would be some outrage in trading for Watson. It would dissipate by degrees as Dolfans began witnessing the club’s best quarterback (by far) since Dan Marino.
In Watson you’d be getting a dynamic game-changer just coming into his prime, turning 26 next month but already a three-time Pro Bowl star who last year led the NFL in passing yards (4,823) and yards per attempt (8.9) and threw for 33 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. And 70.2 percent accuracy. On a lousy team. He’s a dual threat, too.
What you hope and pray (but probably sort of doubt) Tua Tagovailoa might become, Watson is, without question.
But in Watson you’d also be getting a creep who has taken advantage of women by using massage appointments for sexual gratification, if you believe not one or two but 22 accusers. Civil suits and possible criminal charges hang over his future and his damaged name. So does a possible substantial league suspension no matter the outcome of the lawsuits.
You would be getting both of these things — the truly great quarterback, and also all of the distraction, controversy and ramifications — at an astronomical asking price.
Is he worth it? Is he worth the cost and the controversy?
The speculation about Watson and the Dolphins flared earlier this year but had died down until rearing its devil’s head on Saturday when Yahoo reported Miami and Denver were the two finalists for a trade with Houston.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores had his chance to put an end to the speculation when asked about it after Sunday’s game in Cincinnati.
He did not.
Asked whether he and general manager Chris Grier were still pursuing Watson, Flores said.: “Reports [and] speculation are not things we really get into.”
He could have simply said, “No.”
He did not.
Flores later said, “I’m very confident in Tua.” After leaving the door on Watson ajar.
Monday Flores said, “I think there’s always rumors, always speculation. Always some form of distractions and I think as a team we’ve got to block that stuff out.”
But he may have tipped a pretty large hint against trading for Watson when, in answering a different question about his philosophy in acquiring players in need of a fresh start, he said, “We have high standard for the people we have in the organization. We want people with high character throughout the building.”
The timing for the return of Watson rumors could not be worse, with the preseason just ended (Miami was 2-1 with Sunday’s win at Cincy), and the September 12 season opener coming like a locomotive.
Given his disgruntlement, trade demand and legal limbo, Watson has barely practiced and did not play at all this preseason. It might take him weeks to be game-ready physically and be comfortable with a new playbook and new receivers in Miami (although one, Will Fuller, was his former teammates with the Texans).
It might very well be that a team trading for Watson might see this as a lost season, one to untangle all the legal issues, with an eye having on him ready for next year.
If the Dolphins do make this deal for three first-round and two second-round picks, there should be conditions and protections for the buyer. For example, if Watson is suspended for eight games or charged criminally, the compensation should be reduced. I would certainly not make this deal as is. Too much high draft capital for too much legal cloud and risk.
The Miami Dolphins keep saying how “very confident” in Tagovailoa they are. We’ll see.
Whether or not they trade for Deshaun Watson or not will speak the real truth.