We don't follow the Dolphins from week to week anymore. We follow them from crisis to crisis.
It's the crisis inside the franchise. It's this public split between players and everyone else. Team owner Steve Ross, his front office and coaching staff have taken Jonathan Martin's side in this mess, by either stated word or marching orders.
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Ross and his lieutenants believe Martin, not Incognito. Ross wants to talk with Martin, not Incognito. Coach Joe Philbin and General Manager Jeff Ireland kept Martin on the 53-man roster, meaning he could play against San Diego if he wanted. Not Incognito.
Most Dolphins players side the other way. They side against Martin. They wonder why he didn't deal with this problem any other way than making it a story covered like the space launch. But do all of them?
"It's too hot to talk about right now, but it's not like Jon Martin is making up everything,'' one former Dolphin said Saturday. "That's all I'm saying. I didn't see anything from [Martin] that said he had a problem. But there was some stuff he had to deal with."
This is the fractured backdrop to Sunday's game. The investigation is just beginning. But this season already looks like it's over. If the Dolphins lose to San Diego, it's really over.
They'll have lost six of seven games. They'll have dropped out of the playoffs. They won't have solved any of the issues plaguing them on the field or any of the headaches following them off the field.
So if this team ever is going to take a stand, if it's going to resemble the team it looked like in September, this is the last chance to show it. This is their final Sunday to make this season defined by anything other than the Martin saga.
The problem is the Dolphins on the field look as much a mess as they are off it. We still don't know how the Dolphins want to win, week to week. The defense beats up Cincinnati's Andy Dalton one week, then gets beat by Tampa Bay's rookie quarterback and third-string running back.
Ryan Tannehill follows a season-low number of passes against Cincinnati with a season-high against Tampa Bay. And after rushing for 157 yards against Cincinnati, they run for two against Tampa Bay.
"I don't want to oversimplify the game of football,'' coach Joe Philbin said, "but we've got to get our backs to the line of scrimmage, to their aiming point without them having to veer off course and without defensive guys hitting them to be productive."
That's dry, egghead humor. And the Dolphins could use a few laughs right now just to loosen the mood.
The shame is San Diego has its own problems. Three of its top four linebackers are out. It won't have starting left tackle, King Dunlap, meaning more opportunity for a Dolphins pass rush that should be a weapon.This should be a recipe for a Dolphins win. And maybe it will be. But if they can't beat a winless Tampa Bay team it's hard to give the Dolphins too much benefit of the doubt.
Five of the six playoff spots have names on them in the AFC. The Dolphins and five other teams are playing for the sixth spot. Win Sunday and that hope remains alive. Lose, and they're too far behind.
"Doesn't it seem like we've been having the same season for the last 10 or 15 years?" a former Dolphins player from the 1990s said this week.
There remains a sliver of hope to this year. The question is whether a franchise divided against itself can still stand.