INDIANAPOLIS -- Chris Grier holds the big chair now as the Miami Dolphins' chief decision-maker, yet he often leans on the teachings of mentors such as Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells. That's why he couldn't help but laugh when asked how he will bridge Parcells' old-school quarterback draft rules with a new era full of QB transfers and one-year starters.
Will Grier, the Dolphins' general manager, cross a quarterback off the board if he wasn't a three-year starter, never won 23 games or never posted a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio -- much like Parcells often did? Grier says he will take elements from his mentor's rules, but follow his own philosophy.
"The Bill model in terms of a two-and-a-half- or three-year starter, that does have a lot [of weight] because you want guys that have had the game reps and game experience," Grier said. "But the way the game is now, a lot of these guys are one-and-done where they sat their freshman year and something happened and they became like a one-year starter or something. I think you have to take it on a case-by-case basis with each player."
"The big thing right now is the intelligence and the leadership stuff. I think that's really important because obviously all of these guys can throw," Grier said. "People want to say guys have big arms and whatever, but the guys that 'don't have great arms' become good players in this league. What separates them is the mental makeup."
Grier, 48, has been in command, comfortable and more like himself than he has in years, multiple people close to him said at the NFL scouting combine. That could be a product of Miami clearing out the kitchen for him to become lead chef this offseason, or it could be the Dolphins finally having a plan that coincides with how Grier was taught to build a team.
"The way I grew up there in New England, I've never been [wanting to] spend money -- huge money -- on a guy to come in, because to me, I'd rather have three really good players than one maybe great player who may or may not impact what you're doing," Grier said. "You build up your offensive line and defensive line. You start there and then you work."
It's tough to differentiate between smoke screens and firm plans during the NFL offseason. If Grier is being forthright, it is difficult to imagine the Dolphins mortgaging a significant number of picks (over multiple years) to trade up from the 13th overall pick to land their quarterback in this draft. With talk heating up about Murray going to Arizona with the No. 1 pick, Miami might not have a chance to nab its choice of QB -- even in a trade-up this year.
What does seem clear is Ryan Tannehill won't be the Dolphins' starting QB in 2019. Miami was examining the trade market for Tannehill with teams at the combine, sources told ESPN. With little progress to this point, a release seems to be the most likely option.
Grier said he had "a really good talk" with coach Brian Flores, offensive coordinator Chad O'Shea and assistant head coach/QBs coach Jim Caldwell during the final weekend of February, trying to figure out what to do with the quarterback position. If Tannehill isn't the choice and the Dolphins can't find their franchise QB through the 2019 draft, then all eyes will turn toward the 2020 draft, which could feature Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon's Justin Herbert and Georgia's Jake Fromm.
But the 2020 draft is far away, and there's no guarantee Miami will be in prime position then to select whom it wants. Also, those college quarterbacks haven't had their warts revealed by NFL scouts, haven't played out their 2019 seasons, nor even declared for the 2020 draft. It's a scary proposition to bet on the unknown, even if that ends up being the route Miami takes.
"When people start ranking classes now before anyone has sat down and talked to guys, it's kind of hard to do because everyone knows that the mental part of the game, especially for the quarterbacks, plays a huge part," Grier said. "Until anyone sits down and talks to those players and gets to see how they learn football, how they process information, how they're going to be in the locker room, what kind of leadership they bring, you can't really say because the intangibles are what make people great. ... I don't make any judgments on any classes until we really sit down and get to know the players first."
Multiple executives from rival teams said the Dolphins' plan to rebuild is better than any plan Miami has had in recent years, but the lingering question is how much patience owner Stephen Ross will have with Grier and Flores.
What we are learning is what qualities Grier and Flores seek in their quarterback, whether they land him in 2019 or 2020.
Flores has mentioned several times that humility is essential, referring to his staff's attempt to build a team without many egos. He seeks players who work hard, can take tough coaching and will communicate a team mission over an individual one -- and it all starts with the quarterback position.
Grier values signal-callers who possess intelligence and leadership, and he also has a special affinity for players who have worked their way up from the bottom to earn what they have -- much like what he and Flores have done in their careers.
"You always look for players that have had some sort of adversity in their lives," Grier said. "It could be the smallest thing, but it also shows a little bit of their character and how they've worked to overcome things."
The Dolphins' QB philosophy and ideal QB traits are becoming clearer, but the hard part is still on the horizon: finding the right person who satisfies the criteria.