Dolphins And 49ers Face Similar Situations But The Expectations Are Vastly Different

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It should feel kind of the same for the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins as they head into their playoff games this weekend.

No, really.

Think about it: The Dolphins will start their third-string quarterback on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills because starter Tua Tagovailoa is out with a concussion and second-stringer Teddy Bridgewater is managing a dislocated finger in his right (throwing) hand.

That means Skylar Thompson, a rookie quarterback drafted in the seventh round, is Miami’s starter.

The 49ers are in the same situation.

Their presumed starting quarterback Trey Lance hasn’t played since Week 2 because of a fractured right ankle. Then Jimmy Garoppolo fractured his foot on Dec. 4, coincidently against Miami. And although Garoppolo’s hopeful he’ll return at some point he is out this game.

So Brock Purdy, another rookie seventh-round draft pick, will start San Francisco’s playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Similar situations and issues with rookie QBs, right?

Brock Purdy of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on December 15, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. The 49ers defeated the Seahawks 21-13. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

49ers, Dolphins Getting Different Results

So why are the Dolphins 13 1/2-point underdogs and the 49ers are 10-point favorites? Why ware Niners’ fans expecting their team to write another chapter to a fairy tale season? While Dolphins fans expect their team’s season to end with a final chapter that reads like a horror story?

This really shouldn’t be. Not when we’re talking about the expectations of the two offenses, anyway.

Both teams run practically the same quarterback-friendly system born of the Mike Shanahan offense. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, you’ll recall, came from the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan’s staff.

Both surround their quarterback with ample talent.

Thompson is supported by Jaylen Waddle, who accounted for 1,356 receiving yards and led the NFL with an 18.1 yard per catch average, and All-Pro Tyreek Hill.

“We’ve got the playmakers to do whatever it takes to move the ball,” Hill said. “We’ve also got the guys up front to be able to do whatever we want.”

Purdy’s playmakers aren’t All-Pro first-teamers but Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey are excellent help.

“I have to just come in, do my job and let everything else fall in place,” Purdy said succinctly. 

Miami Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson makes a pass attempt during the game between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, January 8, 2023 at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla. (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

General Managers Do It Differently

Both teams did due diligence on finding capable developmental quarterbacks in the last draft. And the Dolphins actually had the advantage when they selected Thompson with the 247th pick, leaving Purdy to the 49ers with the 262nd and final pick of the draft.

So what gives ?

Let’s be transparent: Both teams studied Big 12 Conference quarterbacks and the Niners apparently did a better job of finding the more capable guy.

And the job 49ers general manager John Lynch has done putting together his team at this stage trumps the job Dolphins general manager Chris Grier has done putting together his squad.

That was obvious when the 49ers beat Miami in the game Purdy stepped in for Garoppolo. It was clear as the 49ers finished the season with 10 consecutive wins … while the Dolphins lost 5 of their final 6.

One can obviously argue the 49ers put the league’s best scoring defense on the field every game while the Dolphins’ defense was 24th in points allowed. But that’s moot.

Lynch put together that Niners defense, just as Grier built the Miami defense. So the point about one guy doing a better job remains.

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Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers talks with Jimmy Garoppolo prior to Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Niners Haven’t Missed Jimmy Garoppolo

There is, however, another possible answer. Maybe Thompson is building toward something amazing and Purdy is due for a fall.

Yeah, hard to imagine the Purdy part of that. It would be the world’s most stunning regression because Purdy’s exploits so far have been historic.

Purdy’s 13 TD passes is the most by a rookie in franchise history. That’s an amazing feat considering it was accomplished in only five starts and this franchise once had a rookie named Joe Montana.

The 49ers averaged 33.6 points per game in the games Purdy started. That’s the most the team has averaged in its final five games of the season since 1994. Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice were on that ’94 team.

Awesome, right Brock?

“I feel like I’ll do a lot of reflecting after the season,” he said. “Right now, I’m looking at it like, ‘Man, we got the Seahawks’. Yes, it’s playoffs, but for myself it’s, I have to do my job.’ I’m not trying to think about this storybook ending or anything like that.”

The biggest concern the Niners apparently have about Purdy now is how he’ll handle the expected rainfall in the Bay Area forecast for gameday. The question is can he go through all his progressions as quickly as he usually does while in a storm caused by nature and Pete Carroll’s defense?

“I feel like I see something new almost every week, so obviously there’s six games of film out there on me. There’s still things that I’m sure coordinators are going to try to dial up and everything and try to get me to do some something different, but for myself, I just try to stay grounded in what the progression is, what the read is.”

For Thompson the challenge is be better. Maybe score some touchdowns.

“Hey have a lot to play for considering all the stuff they’ve experienced the past couple of weeks,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Maybe it won’t be a horror show. 


Written by Armando Salguero

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