While many fans and pundits are predicting good things for the Miami Dolphins, a few questions remain that could have a significant impact on the team in 2013. It seems like each year in the AFC East, a new team is anointed the team to wrest the division away from the Patriots, and then each year that team fails to do so. Is it Miami’s year? The answer to that will be determined by how they answer the five concerns here:
1. Distracted and Misguided Ownership
We have to start at the top, with team owner Stephen Ross. While I’m sure Mr. Ross’s intentions are good, the constant distractions of his non-Dolphins endeavors hurt the team. For example, Mr. Ross spent much of the off-season forming a political action committee, publicly debating the honesty of elected representatives, promoting the City of Miami as a possible Super Bowl location, and praising outgoing Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, who Ross said “improved our technology footprint.”
Dolphin fans clamor for a winning team, not a technology footprint, whatever that is.
Do politicians help the Dolphins win games? Do celebrity owners like Gloria Estefan? Do hideous new colors and logos that us fans hate help? If the City of Miami lands the Super Bowl in 2019, will that finally give Tannehill time to throw in 2013? These are all issues that Stephen Ross is involved with, and none of it helps the team whatsoeve. Imagine if the team’s owner devoted as much time to the team itself.
And speaking of those hideous new colors and the logo that looks like a blind, flopping whale instead of the beloved upright Dolphin: How could team management allow a fan website (in New York City of all places!) leak the new logo months before the Dolphins themselves were ready to unveil it? Not a single Dolphin fan asked for any of this, yet Mr. Ross foisted it all upon us anyway.
Combine all that with the lack of honesty from Dolphins management the past few years. Remember Nick Saban saying he was not going to Alabama? Remember Bill Parcells saying he wouldn’t trade Jason Taylor? “The only way Jason Taylor doesn’t play for the Dolphins in 2008 is if he retires. The team is not going to trade him.” (And then he traded him to Washington.) Remember Mr. Ross saying he wasn’t really trying to get Jim Harbaugh to coach the Dolphins? And Joe Philbin and GM Jeff Ireland both saying Davone Bess would stay on the team. How many lies and distractions do the players and fans need to endure?
When the Miami Dolphins football team becomes management’s one and only concern, things might change. But until then…
2. Overrated Offseason Moves
Question: When Bill Belichick found out that Reggie Bush and Jake Long were out of the AFC East, was he worried? Were the Dolphins suddenly better? That’s laughable. The Dolphins made Belichick’s life easier.
Last year, the Dolphins scored only 28 offensive touchdowns. Fourteen of those were scored by Bush, Bess, and Anthony Fasano. Half of the team’s touchdowns were scored by their three best offensive players.
Has any team in sports history thrown away virtually all of its team leaders and had a better year without them?
Why keep your leading touchdown-receiver in Fasano when instead you can go out and sign an injury-plagued Dustin Keller instead? Keller is already gone for the season thanks to a cheap-shot hit from D.J. Swearinger aiming for his knee. That low blow was not Keller’s fault nor Jeff Ireland’s fault. But what was Ireland’s fault was signing Keller without having another good tight end as insurance. It’s a terribly inept decision for which Ireland should be fired, but one that Dolphins fans have sadly grown accustomed to.
Surely a team as scoring-desperate as Miami would make it a priority to keep the only players who scored regularly, right? Uhh, no. Miami refused to re-sign Bush, casted Fasano aside, and banished poor Bess to Cleveland. Half of your team’s scoring tossed down the drain. Unwise? Unquestionable.
And then there’s perennial Pro-Bowl tackle Jake Long, who the Dolphins thought was expendable. So far in pre-season, Long is missed more than anyone, and there’s no hope in sight from the other linemen the Dolphins brought in. It’s become very ugly very fast for the Dolphins.
Defensively, the Dolphins let their leading tacklers (Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett) walk away. The secondary is even worse. Miami has arguably the worst secondary in the NFL. Why? Because they let Sean Smith leave and got rid of Vontae Davis last year (as seen on HBO’s Hard Knocks) after he committed a meaningless penalty in a scrimmage game. Granted, Smith and Davis were not All-Pros, but compared to the other journeymen in the Dolphins secondary, they were All-World. Philbin and Ireland made the team weaker, and no one has made up for it.
While some fans are excited about Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, and Philip Wheeler, among others,joining the team, they fail to look at what was lost. You can’t call a new player an “addition” to the team when he’s merely replacing a productive leader who’s been let go.
3. Lack of Development
In addition to the new players brought in, many of the current Dolphins have simply not developed as well as anticipated. Remember how high management was on Jonathan Martin and how easily he would replace Jake Long? Well, Martin started a few games at left tackle last December and got destroyed. He quickly found out that blocking NFL players wasn’t quite as easy as blocking Utah Utes. And Martin’s lack of talent shows again this year. Daniel Thomas is a bust, but management won’t admit it. Whatever the word is for a guy who is underneath a “bust,” that’s where Michael Egnew is. Chad Johnson, anyone? This year, the Dolphins traded up to the #3 spot to take an injured Dion Jordan, who’s not ready to be a starter. Last year, they could have traded up to get RG3. (Washington traded up to get him, so why couldn’t Miami?). If you’re going to trade up and grab a playmaker, last year was the time to do it.
These millionaire benchwarmers have fans rumbling. Ryan Tannehill’s preseason so far has consisted of him landing on his back and/or running for his life. It will be a long season for the Dolphins because management weakened the offensive line. But, don’t worry. Each week the Dolphin coaches promise to “get things corrected.” Each week for the past few years.
Seems every time the Dolphins are on TV, the networks show the same old picture of Philbin and Mike Sherman from their days at Worcester Academy. Okay, we get it. They are long-time loyal friends. How else do you explain the hiring of Sherman (fired from Green Bay after a 4-12 record and zero championships, and fired from Texas A&M after a 6-6 season and no Bowl wins)?
How do you explain that Mike Sherman’s son-in-law was recently named Dolphins quarterback coach?
Can owner Stephen Ross look his fans in the eye and say, “Out of all the quarterback coaches in the world, Mike Sherman’s son-in-law won the job fair and square. We interviewed hundreds of candidates, and the son-in-law was the best of the best.” ?
Watching Philbin/Sherman hand the Arizona Cardinals a free win last year in Week 4 was a hard pill to swallow, but Dolphin fans can allow Philbin some slack for his first year. Not this year though. (Miami was up by 7 points, just over 2 minutes left. Miami had the ball inside Cards territory, with Reggie Bush having just run for 24 yards on 3 previous plays. If they take a knee, the Dolphins win. If they run Reggie at them once more, the Dolphins win. Instead? Call for a pass play. Yes, a pass play. They get sacked, fumble, lose ball, lose game. Sherman said it was the right call at the time. His friend Philbin defended him. Stephen Ross was not heard from.) Fans deserve better.
5. The Tough Schedule
Of Miami’s first eight games, six of those opponents are Atlanta, New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Indianapolis. Allowing for a Dolphin upset in there somewhere, that’s 1-5 against those six teams. Miami will also lose its second Patriot game and will not come close to Pittsburgh. So among those games, Miami is 1-7. If Miami beats everyone else (very very unlikely, but let’s just say), they go 9-7. Even in this generous scenario, the Dolphins cannot make the playoffs.