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Dolphins Trade M.Fitzpatrick to Steelers

ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the Pittsburgh Steelers are trading a 2020 first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. Miami's fire sale/tankapalooza continues, while the Steelers get a 22-year-old defender with Pro Bowl potential who is still under a cheap contract for several more seasons. 

UPDATE: Schefter is back with further details of the trade, which includes a dizzying number of draft picks:

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77 comments, Last at 19 Sep 2019, 6:00pm

2 for a second

thought they traded for other Fitzpatrick.

51 Me too, I saw Fitzpatrick…

In reply to by andrew

Me too, I saw Fitzpatrick and Miami and thought "I guess he is a .... QB and Pitt needs a QB" and ignored the big M. in front of Fitzpatrick.

3 the nfl needs to step in and…

the nfl needs to step in and do something. this is just completely ridiculous. trading every single player with any talent to make sure they go 0-16.

9 It's not at all clear that…

It's not at all clear that the strategy of mass trading and pick hoarding actually works. And while 5 first round picks in two years may seem like a lot, the number of holes to be filled is staggering.

And ask the Jets how well their 4 first rounders in 2000 set them up to dominate the division for a decade. (Hint: they won the division ONCE, going 9-7). And it's not like the Jets actually wiffed on their picks. 3 very solid players out of those 4.

The Vikings and their 7 first round picks in 3 years (2012-2014) hasn't exactly set them up for dominance, despite a strong set of players only a single wiff (all others were pro bowl selections).

Sure, those cases represent pick hoarding more than tanking, but ask the Colts how well tanking for that generational talent worked for them.

The Dolphins may be doing it more emphatically this year and if it works, we could see teams trying to replicate it. It will be interesting to watch, but turning a bunch of losers and rookies into a cohesive team with the work ethic and winning mentality that is required to consistently win before their rookie contracts run out, will be an epic task.

11  The examples above never…

 The examples above never landed the great qb.

Tanking makes sense if you are able to land the great qb and study after study suggests the way to do it is to draft him high.

Look, for every Peyton Manning, there are any army of Ryan Leaf's lurking out there. That doesn't invalidate the process. If the Browns are ultimately successful, and I think they will be, then they will have proved the process works, just as Philly has proven the process avoided mediocrity and vaulted them into title contention.

15 "Never landed the great QB"?…

"Never landed the great QB"?

I would dispute that. Very, very few quarterbacks come in and do well behind a bad line, in a bad offense, on a team that absolutely sucks. The problem with drafting high is that you probably sucked pretty bad to get there and thus, for the quarterback drafted, it's often a horrible place to land (other than, you know, the money and fame).

You don't think Luck could have been a great quarterback on a decent team?

The value of landing with the right team is, IMHO, greatly undervalued. This goes right back to the "is tanking worth it" issue. Let's say Brian Flores is a solid coach and surrounds himself with other good coaches. Even given that, it's going to be very difficult to create an environment in Miami where players, particularly young players, are infused with the work ethic needed to reach their full potential.

So when Tua fails to vault Miami out of mediocrity after 5+ years, don't assume it was because Miami "didn't land the great QB". It could just as likely be that Miami failed to provide an environment and a team that could allow Tua to succeed.

17 First to Luck, he simply…

First to Luck, he simply lost his stomach for dealing w injuries. Otherwise, the Colts had done a reasonable job building a team around him. They were title contenders. He is the kind of player you tank for and hope you don't get unlucky w injuries.

He's also an example of why great talents can shine even through franchises buried in rubble.


The QB is a product of the environment vs the opposite is a Chicken and Egg argument. Hard to disentangle, but I believe if Tua is a bad qb 5 years from now, it has more to do w Tua than his circumstances. To be decent to good, great QBs can accomplish w little talent. To be transcendent, there you need talent. 

24 Chad Pennington sure looked…

Chad Pennington sure looked like a great qb before he started getting injured.  He's the only quarterback to win the AFC East besides Brady in the last 18 years.  He had a DYAR of 1412 in 2002, along with a DVOA of 40.6%. Still, the best the Jets did with him and Shaun Ellis and John Abraham was 10-6 in 2004.

I might add that the teams tanking in the NBA haven't won anything, except for San Antonio, who got Tim Duncan by shutting down David Robinson for one year.

25 Also have to differentiate…

Also have to differentiate between tanking and pick hoarding.  Accumulating a bunch of picks is a good strategy in the NFL most of the time.  There may be drafts that aren't deep, or a team that is so loaded that most of the later picks won't make the team.  Even then, trading those picks for picks in the next draft is a great idea.  Tanking, whereby a team trades its good players, including ones on rookie contracts, may or may not work.  Even the Browns and the Jimmy Johnson Cowboys didn't sell off the entire team, like the Dolphins are doing now.

36 I have to agree about…

I have to agree about tanking in general, but I would question this particular trade being a tanking trade. It's not like the #1 overall was in question and they just had to get rid of more players to ensure it. I mean, Minkah had a pretty rough offseason, preseason and start of the season. He wasn't going to help the Dolphins win many games this year. What it was about I'm not really sure. He said the team instructed him to learn 6 positions in the offseason and Flores told him he'd play a different role each week. Apparently he crashed and burned in that mission -totally understandably.

I also have to wonder if the strategy was as clearly tanking as everyone assumes. If it were, it stands to reason they'd have traded Tunsil for whatever they could've got. Minkah, too. But they got pretty good deals for them. Kiko was being phased out anyway. Not much else remains. The lack of FA signings had to do with cleaning the books of all the dead money.

I mean, they got Rosen and the other Fitzpatrick. It they had really wanted to tank, why not get Osweiller and pretend Luke Falk was their developmental QB? Rosen will see the field soon and I believe he will be a big upgrade. The defense also played better by leaps and bounds on week 2. Just trying to be optimistic here, but even if things don't work out, I hesitate to say they've been straight meaning to go 0-16 all along.



39 Golden State built their…

Golden State built their current roster by entering a period of decrepitude, getting three stars in the lottery and gettign lucky in the 2nd round with Draymond. (They also drafted a surprising number of serviceable guys who changed teams -- Bazemore and Lin were GSW draftees)

They were also fortunate that Curry was chronically injured during his first couple of seasons, keeping them drafting low despite having accumulated talent, and he was hurt during his contract renewal, which meant they kept an MVP on the cheap.

65 Of course, the NBA has a…

Of course, the NBA has a draft lottery.  San Antonio wasn't the worst team in the league that year -- Boston was, and had overwhelming odds of getting a top two pick.  They ended up at 3 to take Chauncey Billups, who madman Pitino couldn't wait to trade away for Kenny Anderson.

If the lottery odds held, or if the NBA had a NFL-style draft with no lottery, the landscape of the NBA during the late 90s through the early 10s changes drastically.

6 Wow. Awful trade by the…

Wow. Awful trade by the Steelers. This was already a lost season and that's likely to be a very valuable pick. Fitzpatrick was clearly unhappy so what leverage the dolphins had was being lost by the week.

For the dolphins, embrace the tank! It's painful to lose valuable pieces of a team especially young players, but the assets acquired we're almost too good to give up. A year from now if the Dolphins show marked improvement ( which wouldn't take much), this awful season won't be remembered.

8 I wouldn’t be so sure…

I wouldn’t be so sure. Clearly if the team becomes good the fans won’t remember, but what probability are we looking at there? What is certain is that fans will be turning off Miami games in their droves for the rest of this season. Wilfully pissing off an entire fan base is not something I expect the league to tolerate.

14 I wonder if it actually is a…

I wonder if it actually is a lost season.

The Steelers don't play in the NFC; there appear to be three great teams in the AFC, three complete dumpster fires, whatever the AFC South is, and maybe five teams competing for the two wildcard spots -- a group of such variable quantities as Oakland, Tennessee, Cleveland, Buffalo, and (the Bizarro Patriots) the Chargers.

So the operative analysis for Pittsburgh is can they stay ahead of four of that group?

Buffalo has the advantage of having two wins in hand, and two more freebies from Miami games. 

Oakland and the Chargers are cursed entities doomed to roam the western wilderness like an aged wandering gunman, without home or love, in penance for sins committed as younger men.

Tennessee is... yeah.

Then there's Cleveland. I'll wait for you to stop laughing.


This seems doable.

22 I wonder

"there appear to be three great teams in the AFC..." - Not sure I agree with this, NE & KC sure, but I'm not so sure about Baltimore. They beat down on Miami pretty good and a home win over the Cards in a game the Cards definately had the opportunity to win, I don't think either of these games are clear indicators of greatness - nor was last years team great (though it was definately playoff-worthy). I would still mark the Ravens as vulnerable to falling apart untill they do more to prove otherwise.

"five teams competing for the two wildcard spots -- a group of such variable quantities as Oakland, Tennessee, Cleveland, Buffalo, and (the Bizarro Patriots) the Chargers." - this is right; the question is can Pitsberg find a way to 9 or 10 wins. Looking at there schedule they have the Bills @ home, Jets, Fins, 2 against the Bengals, the Colts @ home - 6 where they figure to be favorites. That means out of the 4 with the Ravens & Browns, @ charges, @ Cards, LA Rams @ Home & @49ers they need to find 4-5 wins. I think the feasability of that depends a lot on how good the Ravens & Browns turn out to be, but I don't think it would be shocking to take 2 of four with the Ravens & Browns, and sneak out 2 of the other tough games on the schedule to get to 9-10 wins (depending on a possible slip in favoured games). I would put Pitsberg as playoff underdogs at this point - but two teams that currently look bad in the AFC are going to make it.

40 Baltimore is historically…

In reply to by sbond101

Baltimore is historically pretty scary whenever they exhibit something resembling offense.

In 2019, they are exhibiting something resembling offense.

26 Great line

"Oakland and the Chargers are cursed entities doomed to roam the western wilderness like an aged wandering gunman, without home or love, in penance for sins committed as younger men."

This made me laugh. It probably helps that I love Westerns and Western tropes.

50 Huh, I guess the comparison does work...

In reply to by ALauff

"Joey, there's no living with, with a fumble. There's no going back from it. Right or wrong, it's a brand, a brand that sticks. There's no going back. Now you run on home to your mother and tell her, tell her everything's alright and there ain't no more football in Mission Valley."

7 From a pure value standpoint…

From a pure value standpoint, if the sole aim is to try and be good in 3-5 years time, the Dolphins are following the correct strategy. But there are many less tangible costs to ‘tanking’. Most notably, Miami fans are, rightfully, going to stop watching, with no guarantee they will return if/when the team ever becomes competitive again. The league has to discourage this type of behaviour, it is bad for business.

10 I disagree with the latter…

I disagree with the latter point. Fans will come back if the team is good. I watched the gs warriors be irrelevant for two decades. The moment they became relevant, it was cool to be a warriors fan.


Tanking becomes a problem if multiple teams start doing it. If it's simply the browns or dolphins doing it in isolation, I think it's stomachable

27 The Warriors are an extreme…

The Warriors are an extreme example, though. They put together one of the best five year runs in the last 50 years of the NBA. Being as dominant as the Warriors have been isn't normally a realistic option.

37 The Warriors also didn't…

The Warriors also didn't tank; they just hit on their picks.  Ridiculously hit on all their picks: Steph Curry-7th pick, 2009,  Draymond Green-35th pick (2nd round) 2012,  Klay Thompson-11th pick, 2011.  That's 3 All-Stars with 2 low lottery picks and 1 second round pick.  Signing KD and Iguodala helped them make it to the finals five years in a row (better than any other team in any of the major North American sports in decades), but they didn't need a top 3 pick to do it.


You're also selling the Warriors fanbase short.  They sold out that arena constantly even when they were a middling team.  The entire Bay area loves them, and did even before they were winning championships.

60 As someone who lived(and…

As someone who lived(and currently still lives) in SF and the bay area, I can tell you, circa 2001 - the warriors were like the Sharks...not unsurprising to see a jersey being worn, but hardly anything mainstream. Circa 2006, you saw some "we believe" shirts sprouting about, but it was still mostly among a sparse group of people(mostly east bay residents). Starting with their near win over the spurs, I saw it a lot more. Once they had Curry win his mvp, they were everywhere. 


Golden State was considered at some point a non glamour, mid market team. They are now competing with the lakers. To address the points above - the warriors are not an example of a team built on tanking but one that shows the fickle nature of fanbases when it comes to years of losing not hampering the golden years. 

64 Of course the fans will…

Of course the fans will return if the team ever becomes good again. But of that there is no guarantee, at least in the short/medium term. Sports is ultimately just entertainment for the fans, and the vast majority of fans want to be entertained now, not in 5 years time. I'm extremely skeptical of any strategy that dismisses this notion. 

18 Depends and really it's not…

Depends and really it's not just probability of a better player but also the probability that the player is wayyy better than Minka...think landing Earl Thomas. In a vacuum, I wouldn't do it, but add in the rest of the picks plus Minka's unhappiness and I think it's a real win in the long run. The short run makes the team a bit worse, but when you are already falling out of a 50 story window, how much more painful is falling another 10 feet?

54 I think the ground gets to…

I think the ground gets to just 'take 20' and hits automatically. (Best usability improvement in more recent D&D rules is making high AC better - similar to the improvement in physics if someone had just decided to label static electricity from amber positive rather than negative...).

45 Plus, this year is…

Plus, this year is essentially a lost year for Miami, so best case they'd be looking at one more year of Fitzpatrick on a cheap rookie deal, and then the potential to sign him to a fifth-year option at something closer to market value, before he makes a ton of money if he's a really good player. Resetting the clock and getting to draft someone who will be cheap from 2020-2023 or 2024 provides value even if that player is, say, 90% as good as Fitzpatrick.

47 Apart from that there's the…

Apart from that there's the fact Minka was having an awfully rough second season. There's a chance he simply wasn't going to fit in with what Flores wanted from him -which was a lot, to be honest. Even then I don't love the trade, but at least they got good value in return.

57 Yeah, I don't get it. …

Yeah, I don't get it.  Minkah was drafted a year ago.  At a minimum he has shown he can be a starting NFL player.  Many first round picks aren't that good - and it's worse than that if they are actually playing in games while being below replacement level.


They basically traded their 2018 first round pick for a 2020 first round pick (plus a tiny improvement in other draft value).  Don't teams usually discount one round for every year of deferral?

12 Zach Lowe had a great line…

Zach Lowe had a great line about tanking:

"Philly's failure to this point also doesn't mean they are misreading the league's incentive system or that tanking is dumb. The best way to win a championship is to land a top-10 overall player, and study after study has shown that the best way to find such a player is to draft him. The fact that most tanking teams never win a title doesn't invalidate the strategy. Most teams of all stripes never win the title. Every team-building strategy is a low-percentage play if the criteria is getting a ring."

20 And yet if you look at the…

And yet if you look at the percentages, terrible teams are less likely to make the playoffs within a 5-year window than a typical 6-10 bad team and less likely to build a sustained winner.

The Lions went 0-16 in 2008. That got them the draft picks to go 10-6 in 2011. They lost the division to a 15-1 Green Bay team, whose worst record in the previous 5 years was 6-10. The Saints went 13-3; the worst record they posted in the previous 5 years was 7-9. The 13-3 49ers that year had a history of poor teams, but the worst they had done was 5-11 over that span. And their fellow 10-6 Falcons had bottomed out at 4-12. And the 9-7 NY Giants hadn't been worse than 8-8 over that time.

Of those 2011 NFC playoff teams, the Falcons made the playoffs 2 more times by 2016, making one SB, as did the 49ers. The Packers went to the playoffs all of the following five years, and the Giants, of course, won the SB that very year. Only the Saints didn't do that well, making the playoffs only once.

And the tanking Lions? They made the playoffs twice by 2016, but were under .500 the other three years.

So I don't see tanking as a particularly effective strategy.

21 The Saints and Packers…

The Saints and Packers picked up hall of fame QBs. Ok, you might argue that proves the point, but I don't think you can set out to copy either team and see a strategy their to getting your hands on a hall of famer. 


It's much easier to look at Peyton Manning, John Elway, Bradshaw and Eli and see a blueprint there than it is to build a contender and find tom Brady in the 6th.

33 I just want to clarify that…

I just want to clarify that the 2008 Lions didn't actually tank...at least not on purpose.  Matt Millen and Rod Marinelli tried their best to field a winning team.  They just failed at it in an epic and comical manner.  

48 I agree that the best way to…

I agree that the best way to win tomorrow is by winning today. Part of the reason why is that going 0-16 or 1-15 alienates not only the fans (not a big deal, they'll manage) but the players. If the players don't buy into the coach anymore, chances are he's going to get fired somewhere along the way. A new coach usually brings a new system, which often comes with the hidden cost of some assets not fitting in the new system.

For me to consider what the Dolphins are doing a win they need to start showing improvement THIS year. Even if it costs them the #1 overall (which it probably won't).


68 As a Rams fan, I can say…

As a Rams fan, I can say that the Rams are an exception here. 7-9 in 2015, but then 4-12 in 2016, 11-5 2017, 13-3 in 2018. DVOA reflected in the record. The difference? Mr. McVay. I think fans underestimate the importance of coaching, and I highly doubt that you attract a good coach by being a team with no talent. There are lots of coaches who would love the opportunity to step in to whichever teams go 6-10 this year, like perhaps the Jets or the Jaguars. If Flores gets fired, do you think Miami is going to be able to get the best coaching talent? I don't think so.

And BTW, the Rams didn't get Goff in 2016 by sucking, they traded two firsts and a second for him. The idea that you absolutely need to tank to get the QB you want is unsupported. Frankly, draft picks in general are overrated. If I had to choose between Goff with McVay, or Fisher with RandoQB, it's obviously not a decision. In fact, I would pick McVay with RandoQB over Fisher with Goff. If you told me "oh but you also have to give up 10 consecutive first round picks" I would still absolutely do that in a heartbeat.

69 I think plenty of coaches…

I think plenty of coaches and gms would love a chance to join a team that offers no state income tax, basement level expectations, and most importantly, a treasure trove of assets to mold a team into the coach and gms vision seemingly overnight. 

29 That strategy does not apply…

That strategy does not apply to the NFL nearly as well as the NBA, simply because there are 22 players on the field at all times and no one plays both ways anymore.  Which is why winning the first pick doesn't help all that much in the NFL, but having the right head coach and general manager does.  The Patriots getting Belichick from the Jets has meant more over the last 20 years than anything other than the Patriots drafting a Hall of Fame quarterback in the sixth round.

34 Quarterback is almost…

Quarterback is almost certainly important enough of a position that it might be worth losing additional games and stockpiling assets to try to acquire a franchise QB - it's the one position on the field where the impact can be comparable to a superstar NBA player. That said... as others have pointed out, I do think it's likely that some QBs with the potential to be very good never make it thanks to inadequate coaching and surrounding talent to allow them to develop properly. You can't just add a QB but be actively neglectful in most other aspects of the team - for example the situation the Cardinals threw Josh Rosen into last year and, oh look, Rosen in Miami this year.

62 I would say almost…

I would say almost comparable, but not quite. In the NBA, a superstar can drag a team without a single other above-average player to the playoffs (see 2002-03 Orlando Magic, 2005-06 Cleveland Cavaliers, 2008-09 New Orleans Hornets, and maybe a couple others I forgot). Would Brady or Manning have been able to take the 0-16 Lions/Browns or 1-15 Dolphins to the playoffs? I think at best they could have gotten those teams to 5-11 or 6-10.