When lost in the wilderness, which is where the Miami Dolphins have been for over a decade, it is important to stop and take inventory of your surroundings before determining your next move.
I’m not sure Dolphins owner Steve Ross has done that recently. And typically, when people in power do get around to it, the assessment comes a season too late, after the Dolphins have gone another mile in the wrong direction.
That is what this 5-5 season feels like, one mistake to justify another.
This bye week, which comes before the final six games of the season, is the perfect time to take inventory of where this franchise is.
Are these injury-decimated Dolphins on the cusp of the franchise’s second playoff berth under coach Adam Gase, or is this team going nowhere?
Gase possesses an offensively challenged team that is averaging 17.8 points a game, 313.6 yards per game (28th in the league), and ranks last in the NFL in red-zone efficiency.
And the Dolphins defense is 25th in points allowed (25.6), 26th in yards allowed (392.3), and last in rushing yards allowed (142) per game.
“If we can find a way to clean up our red-[zone] area stuff on offense and eliminate the explosive plays on defense,” Gase resently said, explaining his team’s issues. “I know that sounds like a broken record but that’s what this season is about.”
Actually it’s about building a winner.
And Gase is right. We’ve been talking about Miami’s anemic offense getting out of its own way for three seasons, and the defense struggling to figure out how to stop giving up big plays that has sunk Matt Burke’s unit for two years now.
When, and how does any of this change without the franchise, or owner making major changes?
Ross likely isn’t at his breaking point yet, and he’ll hear injuries as an excuse for this team’s performance this season.
But there’s only so much quarterback Ryan Tannehill, defensive linemen William Hayes and Vincent Taylor, offensive linemen Josh Sitton and Daniel Kilgore and receiver Albert Wilson could have done to lift this franchise.
The Dolphins might be in possession of another win or two if those six players were on the field. But would Miami be in possession of a wild-card spot?
How about pushing the New England Patriots for AFC East supremacy, or being viewed as a contender that will be the AFC’s representative in the Super Bowl?
The answer to those questions are a resounding no based on this team’s talent base, so it brings me to these questions:
- Where are the Dolphins going?
- And more importantly, what is this organization building to become?
Ross should sit down with Dolphins vice president of football operations Tannenbaum, general manager Chris Grier and Gase individually and get a clear picture of where this franchise is headed because it seems as if the Dolphins remain on a journey to nowhere.
No franchise quarterback.
Few elite players to lean on in crucial situations.
Defensive line that can’t stop the run, or pressure the quarterback.
Outside of tailback and safety, there are holes everywhere on this roster because of age, injuries, lack of productivity, and limited player development. And everyone is to blame for that.
Another 8-8 season keeps this franchise where they have been for years since Dan Marino retired, and at this point the only correlation between all these losing seasons and failed regimes is a lack of vision.
Everyone is so focused on keeping their jobs they fear taking risks, making the bold moves needed to elevate this franchise.
That’s how the Dolphins ended up with Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees, Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers, Jake Long over Matt Ryan, and with Tannehill, who people in power liked, instead of Russell Wilson, whom they loved but feared being criticized for taking.
However, Miami’s quarterback gaffes are not what has kept the Dolphins on the mediocrity merry-go-round.
There has also been Ross’ bad habit of sticking with a regime or coach — Tony Sparano, Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin — one season too long.
The common denominator that keeps the Dolphins in the middle of the pack is fear. This organization has been far too timid to compete in a sport that rewards risk takers, and until that changes don’t expect much to change for the Dolphins.