Itís become a tiresome affair, these Dolphins. Once again on the wrong
side of .500. Once again with a slow start. Once again with trouble scoring
points. And now, shockingly, trouble with stopping others from doing the same.
It was supposed to be different. 2007 was never supposed to happen again,
a virtual impossibility under a Bill Parcells-built organization. After all,
the coaches are different and the front office has been almost completely
turned over. So has the roster as only four players remain from that 1-15 season:
Yeremiah Bell, Vernon Carey, Brandon Fields, and Paul Soliai.
So why hasnít the current regime realized more success?
Simply put, their organizational formula and philosophy hasnít been
properly executed. It should be working, but it isnít. The reasons are many, yet
the current state is nevertheless a painful and disheartening reality for a
team that desperately needs consistency and stability in leadership. Another
regime change is the last thing this team needed.
Now after four seasons of effort, only one of which was a success, the
next step for this organization is all too clear: Owner Stephen Ross must clean
This means Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano, together, should go. Because
the first guy hasnít done a very good job of finding players, especially with
high draft picks and via free agency, and the second hasnít done a very good
job of making them better.
I donít offer the above paragraph in a rage of emotion, nor do I derive
any joy or satisfaction from the words. I genuinely like both men. Ireland is a
bright and respected football man with good bloodlines. Sparano has a lot of
Shula in him, a quality I greatly admire. Both should be enjoying a lot more
success than they have since that historic 2008 campaign.
But neither man can honestly claim that theyíve done a good job since.
And neither can legitimately hide behind Parcellsí shadow. Not any longer. They
own these stinking Dolphins lock, stock, and barrel. They are wholly accountable
for this product.
If there are two things that give me pause in judging these two good men
so harshly, itís that the lockout clearly had the adverse effect I expected it
would, and that Ross compromised Sparanoís credibility during the offseason
when he went off courting Jim Harbaugh. And there was no undoing either of
those events, to which we should make due note.
We know Ross was a blockhead, but why is the lockout still an issue? Again,
itís because the new offensive system is still not fully mastered; we continue
to see too many mistakes, one of which arguably lead to QB Chad Henneís
shoulder injury versus the Chargers. Itís because there are more than a few
conditioning related injuries, mostly to legs, that donít happen when players
are participating in a full offseason of team
supervised work. And itís because new players on both sides of the ball are
thinking way too much, leading to reduced reaction times (i.e. being out of
position) and broken plays.
These are burdens that a team in transition, like the Dolphins, can ill
afford to absorb. Not when more stable franchises like the Patriots and the
Packers arenít skipping a beat.
Still, the sum of what weíve seen from this team really goes beyond the
lockout. Because when players en masse arenít playing to their talents, for
whatever reasons, it is an indication of a pervasive culture of complacency and
indifference. This is what happens when players stop buying in, and thatís the death
sign that a regime has lost the organization. And changing the culture was a
top priority of this regime!
They didnít get the job done, so Ireland and Sparano need to go. And
a new leadership team will replace them and flush out the players who simply donít
have a place on a championship contender.
These actions can (and will) go down at the end of the season, because as
with Cam Cameron in 2007, thereís no point in doing it sooner as midseason
corrections usually fail.
So what about the rest of 2011? What can we expect?
Firstly, I think we will see young players get more of a chance to prove
themselves. Guys like CB Jimmy Wilson, WR Clyde Gates, and RB Daniel Thomas
should see more snaps. Theyíre young and eager to perform, and that energy can
be infectious. Thomas needs to shake off the injury bug however, as great
players must be counted on all the time.
Secondly, I think we will see a re-simplification of the playbook. If the
coaches can just get the players to do a few things well, it will create a better
foundation for success later in the season. Right now, the players are not
doing very many things consistently well. Thatís a teaching and learning
Thirdly, I think we will see a continuation of the injury bug. This is
not a well-conditioned team, top to bottom, and players who are tentative and
donít go at full speed tend to be injured more easily. We saw this in 2007,
weíll see it again as 2011 progresses.
Finally, we will see the true competitive character of the players on
hand. It isnít in victory that you best judge a manís character, but in defeat.
Who has the will, the spirit, the determination, and the pride to go full out
in a season that has no hope of lasting past New Years Day? Those are the men the
Dolphins want to be a part of their future.