I bought a Ted Ginn, Jr. jersey before the start of the 2009 season and targeted him in the middle rounds of my fantasy football drafts.
It’s easy to forget now, but after Ginn’s terrific sophomore campaign, he had “third-year breakout” written all over him. In 2008 — when the Dolphins went 11-5 and won the AFC East — he led the team in catches (56), receiving yards (790), return yards (711), and all-purpose yards (1,574; 18th in NFL), while scoring four touchdowns (two receiving and two rushing). Those numbers may not jump off the page, but they stacked up very favorably to several All-Pro wide receivers who blossomed after their second seasons, including Steve Smith (1.0) and Santana Moss (not to mention, Steve Smith (2.0) and Sidney Rice last season).
Of course, Ginn didn’t come close to living up to the expectations thrust upon him as the Dolphins number one WR, taking a major step backwards to the point of being benched in favor of rookie Brian Hartline. Ginn had only 38 receptions on the year, tied for 69th among WRs, and his 11.95 yards per reception tied him for 68th with 74-year-old 32-year-old Laveranues Coles. He dropped nine passes — Dolphins fans would argue that’s actually being generous — which tied him for fourth in the league behind Dwayne Bowe (11), Vernon Davis (11), and Santonio Holmes (10).
Despite his struggles on offense, however, Ginn was sensational on special teams. While his critics often lamented him for avoiding contact by running to the sidelines, Ginn led the league in yards per touch (17.9), ranked fifth in kickoff return yards (1,296), fifth in yards per return (24.92), 10th in all-purpose yards (1,826), and tied for fourth in non-offensive touchdowns (2).
He single-handedly led the Dolphins to a road victory against the New York Jets on November 1, 2009, becoming the first player in NFL history to record two 100-yard return TDs in the same game (and in one quarter, no less), on a day when the Dolphins mustered just 104 total yards on offense. I proudly wore my Ginn jersey, just as I did on every other game day, and heard his name praised for perhaps the only time that season.
The very next week, the Dolfans’ love-hate relationship with Ginn was right back on, as he was yet again getting blamed for a loss to the New England Patriots. He managed just one catch for seven yards, dropping several passes late in the game, and wasn’t as dramatically effective in the return game.
Once the Dolphins acquired Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos last week, Ginn became immediately expendable. The San Francisco 49ers acquired him for a fifth-round pick (145th overall), hoping to use him as a situational deep threat while reviving one of the league’s worst return games. Still only 25 years old and among the fastest and most athletic players in the league, he leaves Miami with 128 catches for 1,664 yards, a modest 34.7 receiving yards per game average, and five receiving touchdowns over three seasons.
For Ginn, it’s a fresh start in a place where he doesn’t have to deal with the giant shadow of being selected ninth overall in 2007, and hearing the boos that have haunted him since draft day, when fans were hoping to land Brady Quinn (how did that one turn out?). While he certainly didn’t produce as well as expected, he was routinely forced to play a role that wasn’t suited to his strengths and became the scapegoat for the team’s offensive struggles.
Could Ginn have been better utilized in the slot and opposite Marshall, a true number one possession receiver? Could he have stretched the field and found himself wide open down the field when Marshall faced double teams? At the very least, could a proven return specialist, whose role will now need to be filled by the undoubtedly slower Davone Bess, Patrick Cobbs, and Brian Hartline, have made the offense more productive and dangerous than any player the Dolphins can draft in the fifth round?
“I wouldn’t say a sense of relief, but it’s always good to have a new start,” Ginn said. “Leaving Miami, I don’t hold any grudges, no bad feelings about anything. My time was up there. I enjoyed it there, and now it’s time to move on.”
I truly hope that he does well in San Fransisco, and while I’ll always cheer for Miami, I’ll be sure sure to wear my Ginn jersey the next time he plays against the Dolphins.