The Dolphins, in a shocker, started Skylar Thompson over Teddy Bridgewater

MIAMI GARDENS — The decision is in, and it says the Dolphins believe quarterback Skylar Thompson, a rookie seventh-round pick with one game of NFL playing experience, gives them a better chance to win Sunday against Minnesota than veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has eight years of experience.

Wow.

This is a shocker, and not just because the Dolphins are unnecessarily giving away a strategic advantage.

Many people, myself included, thought the Dolphins (3-2) had one of the NFL’s best backup quarterback situations with Bridgewater as the No. 2. The guy was a 2015 Pro Bowl selection. He was 7-7 as a starter for Denver last season. He was a team captain for Carolina in 2020.

However, the Dolphins say Thompson, who was playing quarterback for Kansas State in the Big 12 at this time last season, is the better option.

Bridgewater will serve as Thompson’s backup.

This isn’t just coach Mike McDaniel’s decision, it’s apparently the people’s choice, with the “people” being Dolphins players.

Wow, again.

McDaniel said he’s confident he’s made the right decision.

“What gives me the confidence,” McDaniel said Wednesday, “is that I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think the team would agree in terms of their confidence for him.

“You’re always trying to keep the pulse of how everyone feels.”

Bridgewater, who left last Sunday’s game against the New York Jets after one snap, is in the concussion protocol. But McDaniel said Bridgewater, who isn’t allowed to fully participate in practice yet, didn’t show concussion symptoms at the time and hasn’t shown them since. That basically means Bridgewater is OK, and McDaniel thinks Thompson is better.

On the scale of Dolphins early-season surprises this one is a ways down the list, which tells you what kind of season it’s been already. But it’s big.

The shock value of starting Thompson is behind that amazing comeback victory in Baltimore, having both Bridgewater and starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa being in concussion protocol at the same time, and having left tackle Terron Armstead (toe) and cornerbacks Javier Howard (groins) and Byron Jones (Achilles surgery) all sidelined with injuries at the same time.

It might even be behind McDaniel’s announcement Wednesday that the team captains, led by wide receiver Tyreek Hill, decided the ping pong table, previously the center of activity in the locker room, should be removed. This is also a biggie.

“I would say it surprised me,” safety Brandon Jones said of the ping pong table being gone.

Losing the ping pong table ranks high among the Dolphins’ early-season shockers.

Linebacker Elandon Roberts, one of seven team captains, said they just want to ensure players are locked in.

“Not saying we weren’t locked in,” Roberts said. “You just want to be more locked in.”

Jones said he understands that logic.

But players had a ping pong tournament going. It was a $10 buy-in. They even had a bracket on the wall. In fact, the bracket is still on the wall. No one knows what will become of the ping pong tournament.

“That’s a great question,” Jones said with a laugh.

For the record, players say the tournament was taking too long anyway. It started on the final day of training camp, and today, six weeks into the season, they’re only three rounds deep. Most guys only wanted to play for fun, not for tournament purposes. That way they couldn’t be eliminated.

“Of course, I got knocked out right before they took the ping pong table,” Jones said.

But let’s get back to the decision to start Thompson over Bridgewater. It’s a stunner.

The public announcement is as much of a surprise as the decision.

In the paranoid world of NFL coaching, the Dolphins could have kept their starting quarterback decision under wraps all week and forced the Vikings (4-1) to prepare for both Thompson and Bridgewater.

Instead, they chose to go public.

Players are trying to downplay the news of starting Thompson.

“I wouldn’t say it’s surprising,” veteran linebacker Jerome Baker said. “Ever since Skylar came in I always thought he had some talent.”

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But starting Thompson over a veteran such as Bridgewater?

“Mike always makes the best decision for the team,” Baker said.

Thompson set the world on fire in the preseason. He threw for five touchdowns and no interceptions during the exhibitions with a 138.4 passer rating.

McDaniel believes in Thompson, and his ability to end the Dolphins’ skid of back-to-back losses.

“The quarterback’s job is to make people better,” McDaniel said, “and as you guys have noticed, and a lot of people have noticed, he’s not the run-of-the-mill rookie.

“But also, it’s not just about the quarterback, it’s about a collective group of individuals working together.”

McDaniel thinks the individuals on the Dolphins will work better together with Thompson calling the shots instead of Bridgewater. It’s a surprising decision. We’ll see Sunday how it turns out.

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