The Great Depression of the Dolphins
By Kevin Dern (RoninFin54)
A quick warning – this will be long, so I suggest reading it in pieces, use it as bathroom material, whatever. If you don’t want to read, don’t, but I feel I have to give my two cents on what is going on with our beloved Dolphins. As many of you might know, I worked with a company this summer that dealt with high profile NFL and NBA athletes of which I worked with Dwight Freeney, Jason Taylor (while he was still a Dolphin, sort of), Adrian Peterson, and Steve Smith. All of them, Steve Smith’s sideline antics not withstanding, are very savvy business wise along with being elite football players. You all know JT’s off-field ventures, Dwight Freeney is a very smart guy, Steve Smith is about as humble as it gets when working with kids; hell, he even laced up cleats and played all-time quarterback at his youth camp in 7-on-7 games, same with AP. All these guys understand this is a business; businesses take time to grow and prosper. An NFL team is not a fast-food, give me what I want now or I’m leaving type of thing, like some fans have made it seem here over the past couple of days, weeks, even years in some cases.
I’m now working for a financial company that deals with mortgages and refinancing, and am quickly learning the ropes. It’s going to take a good amount of time to understand the business. Coming from a sport management background, it may well take a year or so before my head stops spinning. Well, I can sort of imagine that Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano especially are going through sort of the same process, however dealing with football. I can’t remember who for the life of me said it, but I believe it was Ron Wolfe when he was with the Packers, that football, “…is all about the talent accumulation business” or something close to that effect. Was it Wolfe? I don’t remember – maybe someone on this board does. But whoever said it, was absolutely right – it takes time, preparation, and a little luck to get it all right. The Miami Dolphins were bereft of all these until this current regime showed up.
Unfortunately, well – maybe fortunately for me, the remnants of Hurricane Ike hit Cincinnati on Sunday and I couldn’t watch the Dolphins play the Cardinals. Seeing the highlights, it looks like I wouldn’t have wanted to have seen that. I did notice a large portion of members on this board hit the panic button big-time! The Dolphins hit 0-2 for the third straight season, Parcells is a bust, Jake Long can’t block, Ted Ginn is invisible – a bunch of phooey if you ask me. All I have to ask for that crowd is, what were you actually expecting? I write this one to the dedicated, the die-hard, and the old-school fans who are, and will always be on board the ship that is the Miami Dolphins – so if you’re reading this and thinking quick-fix, my suggestion is to stop reading now, you won’t like what you’re going to read.
I’m a young’n compared to the Dolphins fans who experienced the glory years of the 1970’s, the rise of Marino in the 1980’s. I became a fan Thanksgiving Day 1993, when we beat Dallas 16-14 in the Leon Lett game – the first game I ever watched. I was 7 at the time; having played football for a long time, and reading posts on boards like this one have educated me about football, and most importantly, my freshman coach Peter Yurkowski (RIP), our defensive coordinator, had several NCAA Division I offers to coach there, and refused, in order to raise his family, taught me more than I ever cared to know about the game we all love. Reading some of the posts got me to thinking about the Dolphins, and just how hard it is for some fans, to really take a good look at the Dolphins and see what the rest of the NFL sees when they look at the Dolphins in the mirror.
From the AFC East Title in 2001, we had a few good years under Wannstedt – which we now have come to know as the years that have set this franchise back. Ricky came in 2002, and left in 2004 – a disastrous campaign that sent this franchise into a tailspin. Without delving into names and details and 2nd round draft picks traded for decaying QB’s, the constant band-aiding this franchise underwent masked the truth that this team was really a in need of a heart transplant when all we thought it had was a clogged artery. Enter Nick Saban. For all the blustering about the manner of his departure, he’s been our best coach since Jimmy Johnson – bar none, hands down. His understanding of the game and motivation was excellent, however, I think he saw what the fans and the ownership failed to see – just how bad the situation really was. He bolted after the Daunte Culpepper experiment didn’t work out (though one still wonders what might’ve been had Joey Harrington started the first 7 games of 2006 and let Culpepper fully recover from that surgery…we’ll never know, Saban was too obsessed with winning now, rather than gathering ammo for the war of attrition to come).
For all fumbling around that Randy Mueller and Cam Cameron did, we at least saw hints of what our offense could look like until Trent Green got kneed in the head, and Ronnie Brown tore his ACL chasing down a Patriot defender after a Cleo Lemon interception. Ted Ginn even showed glimpses catching 34 of 36 passes a year ago. But hold your breath; let’s really examine the talent that was drafted by these regimes, as free agency really hasn’t benefitted us in any way since Saban’s takeover in 2005. 2005
1. Ronnie Brown – 2nd overall
2. Matt Roth – 46th overall
3. Channing Crowder – 70th overall
4. Travis Daniels – 104th overall
5. Anthony Alabi – 162nd overall
6. Kevin Vickerson – 216th overall 2006
1. Jason Allen – 16th overall
2. Daunte Culpepper – cost us the 51st overall pick
3. Derek Hagan – 82nd overall
4. Joe Toledo - 114th overall
5. Fred Evans – 212th overall
6. Rod Wright – 226th overall
7. Devin Aromashodu – 233rd overall 2007
1. Ted Ginn – 9th overall
2. John Beck – 40th overall
3. Samson Satele – 60th overall
4. Lorenzo Booker – 71st overall
5. Paul Soliai – 108th overall
6. Reagan Mauia – 181st overall
7. Drew Mormino – 199th overall
8. Kelvin Smith – 219th overall
9. Brandon Fields – 225th overall
10. Abraham Wright – 238th overall
I chose to exclude 2008 because these players have only seen two games; the one’s who’ve seen the field anyways. But from the 2005-2007 classes, a hodge-podge mish-mash of players who aren’t any good are what comprises our team that’s about to head into Foxboro to take on the one of the best in the business. Let’s take a quick gander at what players we could have had: (all these players were picked after our selection in each draft, regardless of the round – here’s who should’ve been Miami Dolphins in my opinion –just a sampling of what might’ve been) thus, showing how poorly the Dolphins have drafted, mismanaged, and just plain run out of luck in some cases to get to the point where they are today. Since 2005, their collective record is 16-34 through week 2 of 2008…i.e. NOT GOOD! *Do note the following is an example just to prove a point that I’m trying to make* 2005
DeMarcus Ware – 11th overall
Roscoe Parrish – 55th overall
Justin Miller – 57th overall
Vincent Jackson – 61st overall
Justin Tuck – 74th overall
Kirk Morrison – 78th overall
Marion Barber – 109th overall
Todd Herremans – 126th overall
Jay Ratliff - 224th overall 2006
Antonio Cromartie – 18th overall
Greg Jennings – 52nd overall
Devin Hester – 57th overall
Maurice Jones- Drew 60th overall
Brandon Marshall – 119th overall
Barry Cofield – 124th overall
Ryan Plackemeier – 239th overall
Marques Colston – 252nd overall 2007
Patrick Willis – 11th overall
LaMarr Woodley – 46th overall
Steve Smith – 51st overall
Trent Edwards 92nd overall
Doug Free – 122nd overall
Le’Ron McClain – 137th overall
Korey Hall – 191st overall
Daren Stone – 203rd overall
Brandon Siler – 240th overall
Ahmad Bradshaw – 250th overall
Chinedum Ndukwe – 253rd overall
Now, let’s fast forward back to the present day, and combine the 2005-2007 draft classes, with the 2008 class, we get a lineup that looks something like this – strictly what I’d do:
QB Chad Henne
RB Marion Barber
FB Korey Hall
WR Greg Jennings
WR Marques Colston
TE Anthony Fasano
LT Jake Long
LG Todd Herremans
C Samson Satele
RG Justin Smiley
RT Vernon Carey
DE Barry Cofield
NT Jay Ratliff
DE Kendall Langford
LB DeMarcus Ware
LB Kirk Morrison
LB Patrick Willis
LB LaMarr Woodley
CB Will Allen
FS Daren Stone
SS Yeremiah Bell
CB Antonio Cromartie
The Dolphins look totally different, and are probably a lot better. I know, I know, hindsight is 20/20, but something inside you really has to question the logic and scouting process that took place to allow all of this talent to be accrued by other teams AFTER the Dolphins had made their selections in the respective rounds of those drafts. I must stress this is just an example to prove the point of how deep of a hole the new regime must dig the franchise out of. Of the Dolphins players still around from those drafts, I have to ask myself which ones would be capable starters on other NFL teams?
Ronnie Brown – not a top 10 RB, but he can start.
Matt Roth – doubtful, his arms are too short to play DE in a 3-4 or 4-3, as we’ve found out, and he’s not suitable for an entire season as a SOLB.
Channing Crowder – maybe a few teams; Belicheck loved him coming out of Florida.
Jason Allen – who knows?
Ted Ginn – maybe as a KR, but he’s not even doing that for the Dolphins, not sure why…guess we’ll have to wait this one out.
Samson Satele – I think he could if moved to G, which may happen here in Miami.
Let’s look at that – out of 22 possible selections, not counting the traded pick for Culpepper, the Miami Dolphins have but one player who could be a starter or elite talent on another team; Ronnie Brown. Samson Satele is a close second, but with the way he’s played thus far in 2008, it’s iffy.
That’s just what I happen to see when I look at players the Dolphins have acquired via the draft during that three year span. That’s inexcusable, just look at the talents they passed up. The only way this thing is going to shake out and get better is over time. Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland worked wonders with the Dallas Cowboys (I’d look up their 2005 draft) and they thought the clearest way to develop the Dolphins was to build through the trenches. Well, let’s see, we drafted 6 players who are either offensive or defensive linemen; all made the final 53 man roster. Jake Long, Kendall Langford, and Donald Thomas were starters on opening day. Phillip Merling is going to be a starter at some point whether it is at DE or OLB, but that’s another debate, and Shawn Murphy and Lionel Dotson can be groomed to be capable depth. Look at the churning of the roster since the Jets game ended; mostly new offensive linemen being brought in.
I’m sure you’re all aware of the expression that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Of course, you are. And the same goes true with these Miami Dolphins; they’re not going to be built in 1 offseason. It’s become apparent that we are lacking a pass-rusher, a shutdown corner, wide receivers of any kind with two hands that catch footballs, a safety, maybe a stronger center to allow Samson Satele to move back to his natural guard position. The list can go on, but I’ll stop it here.
I wonder, what made many fans think there would be a drastic turnaround. This team HAS NOT been rebuilding for three, or five, or seven years as some fans would say. It’s merely been new regimes placing new band-aids over ancient wounds that haven’t been healed since the days when Marino was still under center. Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano have got to cobble together some sort of semblance of a team for the remainder of this 2008 campaign. This is the first time this team as actually been in a REBUILDING mode since Jimmy Johnson left. There, I said it, it’s needed it since Jimmy left and Huizenga et al have been too blind to see that; and now we’re in this great depression of dwelling in the cellar of the NFL’s AFC East.
What makes it more difficult to bear, is that the New England Patriots have the system in place that works and the Buffalo Bills realized they needed to be gutted and ripped-up long before we did. I’m envious of Buffalo now (did I really just say that?), but the Bills took their lumps while Miami was chasing down dreams of wild-card fantasy. Even if those 2002 or 2003, or 2005 teams had lucked their way into the playoffs; they’d have been bounced in the first round. The talent simply wasn’t there; and it still isn’t.
The Miami Dolphins have been gutted, finally, by one of the best football minds since the 1970 merger. Enough of this Chicken Little “the sky is falling talk” – sit back; take your lumps as a fan, well, like a man. There’s nothing anyone can do but grin and bear it for another arduous football season. I know, you’ve been waiting since that last division title, but face it; this franchise didn’t want to accept the inevitable; a complete rebuilding project. After 2002 and 2003, we were left with old offensive lines, no defensive players to surround Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas; no quarterback, Ricky bailed, and Saban tried to patch the holes with a bunch of vets, and even he saw the real mess behind the scenes. Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller proved stupid enough to be pointed as the fall guys post Wannstedt and Speilman, and now, in 2008, we finally are face to face with reality – the REBUILDING that should’ve taken place after Jimmy Johnson stepped down!
I urge you Dolphins fans to look past the 3-1 preseason record. Sure, we handled the Jags vanilla defense, and we stomped the Chiefs backups with our starters in for 3 quarters – that means nothing. Each week, look at the improvement of our young players. Jake Long, I’m told played better against the Cards than the Jets, Kendall Langford continues to make plays, see how many plays Phillip Merling gets on the field each week; we even saw our first glimpse of the light at the end of the long tunnel in Chad Henne, and dammit, he looked pretty good judging by the stat sheet! Patience is the key with this process.
Going up to New England is like being thrown in the Gladiator’s arena with a wooden sword and a plastic shield. MacGyver probably couldn’t find enough spit, gum, thumbtacks and a piece of masking tape to get the Dolphins out of this one with a “W”. There’s a chance, a slim one, but take solace in the fact after this week, there’s a bye. Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland can sit down with the Tuna and review everything. Ronnie Brown will probably come out against the Chargers as the starter, and hopefully receive 25+ touches; Chris Crocker will be sent to the CFL for a stick of gum; Jason Allen may finally have the light click on when his name is called; Ted Ginn will get more chances to prove that he’s not just a track star in football pads; the line gets a week to jell together and fully gameplan for a tough San Diego matchup.
But please, please, before you think about jumping off that bridge; look at where these Miami Dolphins are really coming from, and think about how far they’ve yet to go under this regime before you make quick and irrational comments, judgements, or jump off the bandwagon. I’m not a prognosticator or Nostradamus or anything like that, but I promise, PROMISE you, that WHEN, not if, the Miami Dolphins get back to the elite franchise status of the NFL, and we’ve all hung around for the ride, that victory will be much more sweet than any 4 or 6 wins we might get this season. Have patience, and, like fine wine, the Miami Dolphins will be better over time.