As a team that is clearly rebuilding, the Miami Dolphins have a lot of questions to be answered, both on and off the field.  Every position has a controversy, a position battle, or both.  On top of that, they’re breaking in a new coach and have a front office that made one of the most questionable trades in recent memory.  This list could very easily be ten questions long, but here are the top three facing the Dolphins in 2012.

3) Is Joe Philbin going to be a good head coach even without Aaron Rodgers?

Coordinators on both sides of the ball have faltered time and time again because they earned their jobs largely on the talent of the players in their unit as opposed to their own talent as coaches.  For every Mike Holmgren who succeeded in the head coaching ranks, there are ten Mike Shulas who crashed and burned.  He could also fall into the Norv Turner category, as a coach who is has talent yet can never seem to accomplish much on the field.  Philbin could fall into either category.  He’s been in coaching since 1984, mostly coaching the offensive line at both the college and pro levels.  He spent the last five years as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator before earning his first top job with the Dolphins.  His offenses were always juggernauts in Green Bay, but was that because of the supremely talented Rodgers under center, or did Rodgers develop because of Philbin’s tutelage?  At the moment’ the Dolphins’ most talented players are their left tackle and a running back who topped 1,000 yards for the first time in six seasons last year.  One thing is for sure, Philbin has his work cut out for him.

2) Who will take over the top receiver spot after the loss of Brandon Marshall?

Marshall made the Pro Bowl in 2011 after recording 81 catches for 1,216 yards and 6 touchdowns.  He was promptly rewarded by being reunited with his old quarterback Jay Cutler in a trade that sent him to Chicago in exchange for two third-round picks.  Subsequently, the No. 1 receiver slot has fallen to either Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, or newcomer Chad Ochocinco.  Together, Bess and Hartline combined for 86 receptions, 1,086 yards, and 4 touchdowns.  Neither receiver particularly stood out, even in the second half of the season when the team started winning.  Ochocinco floundered even worse with the great Tom Brady throwing to him in New England.  In a season where Brady topped 5,000 yards passing, Ochocinco only managed 15 catches for 276 yards and a touchdown.  Granted, he was not the first, second, or even third option most of the time, but even when he was targeted he failed to produce.  The lasting image of his Patriots career is a drop of a sure touchdown in the loss to Buffalo in Week Three.  He has stated his desire to play until he’s 40, but if he’s expected to produce at a high level with sub-par quarterbacking then his legs might give out well before then.  Bess is probably the most talented of the three right now, so the job should be his to lose, but he’ll need to produce to hold onto it, otherwise one of the other two (or any other receiver on the roster) could start being the main target.

1) Who is going to be the quarterback in Week One, and when will Ryan Tannehill take the job over?

At the moment, the Dolphins’ starting quarterback position (which, believe it or not, was once held by Dan Marino) is a duel between incumbent Matt Moore and veteran David Garrard.  Moore did play well when given the chance, but he relied a lot on Marshall and the loss should affect him.  Garrard, meanwhile, sat out 2011 after electing to have back surgery instead of signing with a team.  He has been effective in the NFL, but he should be very rusty and is 34 years old.  The real question on observers’ minds, however, is when the eighth overall pick of the draft is going to take the job away.  Tannehill has already been eliminated from the position battle due to his extreme inexperience, but he is likely the most talented quarterback on the roster and is probably more familiar with new Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman’s scheme, having played under him when he led Texas A&M.  His first appearance will depend on several factors, such as the team’s success under Garrard or Moore, his development, and Coach Philbin’s willingness to put him in.  If the team wins under whoever starts the season off for them, or he doesn’t develop very well, or Philbin is reluctant to hurt his confidence by putting him into a bad situation, then it’s likely the earliest he’ll see action is 2013.  The only way he’d start or even appear this year is if the team is struggling but he shows talent and fortitude, and if Philbin is willing to subject him to the mediocre offense that would likely be the cause of their struggles.  Under the circumstances, it’s likely that he’ll spend the full season on the bench and possibly be ready to open up the 2013 season.