With the lockout turning out
to be much worse than we hoped, and an offseason beset by confusion,
disappointment, and betrayal, the 2011 season is shaping up to be the most
unpredictable in recent memory.
Do we even know when this
season will begin?
Do we know many games will
be played, or how long will teams have to prepare for them? Will there be a
free agency period and how long will it last? What will be the quality of the
product that we see on the field?
All of these questions
certainly impact the Miami Dolphins, top to bottom, but perhaps more so than
other, more stable situations. That’s why it’s best to keep our expectations
for this season in check.
Here’s a sampling of what I
Front office: Pay cuts have
hit morale very hard. Owner Stephen Ross royally bungled the coaching situation
and PR aspects of his position. CEO Mike Dee sought and failed to gain the
support of local and state government for stadium improvements, stuff that
prior owner Wayne Huizenga would have already funded and implemented on his
own. The departure of long time and respected Finance VP Jill Strafaci, who had
been with the team more than 20 years, was unexpected and suspicious in its
timing. GM Jeff Ireland, in his first season as the personnel major domo, served
up an underwhelming draft, made changes to his personnel staff, and has been
unable to pursue free agents (or re-sign his own) due to the lockout.
Football Operations: Coach
Tony Sparano is still raw from his bad treatment by Ross and Ireland. His
new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, hasn’t had a chance to implement his
new system yet, which will turn into a sloppy rush job if a normal training
camp isn’t provided for. Some of the players are training on their own, but how
much faith do you place on a bunch of players trying to teach each other a new
system? And Sparano has no idea who his players will even be at this point.
This holds especially true for his QB, a position that increasingly appears to
once again belong to the disappointing Chad Henne by default.
Personnel: The longer the
Dolphins’ own free agents stay on the market, the more risk is introduced into
the mix. Normally the key free agents have been signed by now. Instead, there’s
more time to think and reflect on potential options and come to terms with the
idea that change might not be such a bad thing. And what about rookie salaries?
What if the owners and players decide to implement a wage scale that
drastically cuts what top draftees have been getting in prior years? Do you
think that agents will take that lying down? Could holdouts and lawsuits be in
Big, disruptive change
events such as these only serve to raise questions as to the readiness of team
leadership for the start of the season. In reality, few organizations can
absorb these sorts of things and not miss a beat.
And trust me, there is a lot
more going on than has been made public.
Ironically, the one thing
that has driven the owners and players apart in this entire dispute is the one
thing that will eventually bring them together.
Owners stand to lose
billions if the strike is prolonged into the season, exceeding any concessions
they will get from the players. And the players that have been living beyond
their means will be the first to start caving in as they cannot afford to go
very long without their paychecks. Even coaches, many of whom have had their
salaries cut, have signed a petition against the owner-imposed lockout.
So it’s lose-lose if a deal
isn’t struck, and soon.
Just remember that the
issues I have stated won’t be water off a duck’s back when this stand off ends.
It can’t be, because human nature doesn’t allow it to be. This is why the
product on the field in 2011 will not be of the quality we are accustomed to seeing.
I believe many Dolfans and
corporate customers have already come to this conclusion. Ticket sales are
brutally slow right now. Innovative “4 game flex packs” and other promotions
designed to stimulate buying have been received rather tepidly by the public.
Sponsorship money in a down economy is tighter and the Miami Heat are siphoning
off an increasing percentage that used to flow into the Dolphins’ coffers.
So my advice to you the fan
is to temper your expectations for the 2011 season. The Miami Dolphins, as they
are constructed today, are not a playoff team and the wherewithal on and off
the field to make that jump was probably lost when the labor standoff stretched
In short, 2011 is shaping up
to be a wasted season.