It may not be 100% factual to state that the 2017 Miami Dolphins are worse than the 2016 Dolphins. They might be the same.
But certainly the current team is not better than last year. We didn’t improve at a single position. And that is sad.
There is not a single position on the team that is an upgrade from last year. Not one. So how did this happen? How did we get to this stage where once again we have a stagnant offense and a so-so defense?
The answer lies in a combination of bad decisions and bad luck.
Let’s look at these, starting at quarterback.
On the surface, it would seem like Ryan Tannehill’s injury was just bad luck. It is, but there’s poor decisionmaking in there as well. When Tannehill first hurt his knee last year, he did not get the surgery he needed. With the team’s consent, he tried to hold out.
Some thought he could still play in the 2016 season if the Dolphins advanced deep into the playoffs, and so Tannehill held out hope of playing again and put off season-ending surgery.
It didn’t work. His un-repaired knee broke on him again in training camp. The Dolphins and Tannehill made the incorrect decision to put off surgery. That led to Jay Cutler coming to town.
Verdict: Downgrade. Our QB position was stronger last year than this. Let’s call this one 40% bad luck and 60% bad decision (to not have surgery).
Next up: Linebackers.
Regular readers of Dolphins Truth know that I often say that players don’t get cut for salary cap reasons. Teams say this all the time. You know, “We really really wanted to keep him, but due to the cap, we had to let him go. It’s just business.” It’s nonsense. When you want to keep a player, you get creative and make the finances work, one way or another. By hook or by crook.
That’s what accountants are for.
So when the Steelers released Lawrence Timmons, they were ditching him for non-financial reasons. They knew something that the Dolphins genius front office didn’t. They knew his best days were behind him or they knew that he didn’t have focus at this stage of his career. They might have even known he was a head case.
Like the Mike Wallace experiment, we keep picking up Steeler garbage and make them rich, only to have it blow up in our faces. Note to Dolphins staff: The Steelers are a perennial playoff team who know what they are doing. When they get rid of a player, stay away from that player!!
This is bad decisionmaking. Seems there was a poor vetting process. A grown man who is so homesick that he ditches his teammates? That is an immaturity that Dolphin officials should have seen coming.
In the case of Lawrence Timmons, it’s 20% bad luck and 80% bad decision. Somebody should have seen this coming.
Another linebacker debacle involves second-round pick Raekwon McMillan, who blew his ACL in his first play as a pro in a practice game.
This one is 50% bad luck, and 50% bad choices. Adam Gase using his new starting linebacking machine on special teams in a practice game? Gase has to take some blame here. And the fact that Miami drafted one and only one linebacker was atrocious. That is not bad luck, but bad planning.
Let’s not forget the newest Dolphin: Stephone Anthony. The Dolphins traded for this linebacker mid-week, made him active on game day, and then benched him the entire game. No one down. Meanwhile, the Jets also brought a guy in mid-week; they tossed him into the game, and he immediately had a tackle and then a play. Imagine that!! Letting your players play…what a concept! This is 100% bad decisionmaking.
Finally, we also signed Rey Maualuga, who was so out of shape that he could barely practice. When he got his conditioning back, his knees gave way. We signed a guy who was not ready to play football. This was forseeable just from looking at him.
This is 100% bad decisionmaking.
So as the NFL heads into Week 4, Maualuga, McMillan, Anthony, and Timmons COMBINED have played as many snaps as I have. Some bad luck was involved, but let’s face it: these were horrendous signings.
A sad downgrade, because our linebackers were atrocious last year, and this year’s squad is just in disarray. I like Mike Hull and Chase Allen, so this “Downgrade” can be an “Upgrade” by year’s end.
None of the DBs are stopping anyone, and this will make for a long year. Howard and Maxwell aren’t making stops, and Reshad Jones is healthy. Was Jordan Lucas that much worse than Bobby McCain?
Verdict: Even. It’s essentially the same players, only this year, Howard and Jones are healthy. But the fact that Miami only drafted one DB was a stupid decision. 90% bad decision to not upgrade at this position, and 10% bad luck.
Defensive line: I understand that first-round pick Charles Harris is collecting paychecks, but I’m not sure if he’s been playing. Has anyone seen him make a play? That’s what happens when you waste a first-round pick on a position that we don’t need. Did I mention that we should have picked a linebacker?
Verdict: Even. D-line is about the same as last year. Lack of upgrade is 100% poor decisionmaking and 0% bad luck.
Except for QB, the entire offense is about the same as last year. I don’t see anyone as vastly improved (yet), so this verdict is: Even.
I guess that’s a good thing, because being equal to last year’s squad is better than being worse! Same 3 RBs. Same starting 5 linemen. Same 3 main WRs. No upgrades, but no downgrades either.
Matt Burke was an inexperienced linebacker coach last year, whose unit ranked last in the league in many categories. Burke was rewarded for that last-place showing by receiving a promotion. Only in Miami.
This year he is running the whole defensive show. The defense doesn’t seem like a strong unit right now, and there are frequent miscommunications.
Adam Gase nearly blew the Chargers game with a horrible time out, and then he forgot to have the team show up in New York. He made no adjustments. He hasn’t improved since last year. Promoting Burke made the team worse.
Verdict: Downgrade. 100% poor decision. There’s no luck involved when you willingly give a promotion to a person who failed. No luck involved when you cannot solve Josh Freakin McCown. No luck involved when you can’t beat the Jets’ makeshift secondary.