Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What's Really Wrong with the Dolphins

    The 2016 Dolphins were built in "win now" mode by two different coaching staffs, both trying to meet the expectations of an aging, impatient owner.  The result is that we have built a team that reflects no particular person's values, but that involves a great number of high risk, low reward gambits.
    Problem 1:  Where we spent the money.  No good team in the league spends 30% of its salary on offense and defense on the lines.
      Offensive Line:  The desperation wrought by bullygate led to a series of high priced linemen (most notably Albert) who are sucking up a massive quantity of cap space.  Instead of patiently developing a line, we took the express lane and managed to fix the unit.  Express solutions are expensive, however.  A big part of this problem will be fixed when Tunsil moves to tackle next year and we cut Albert.  We can do what most teams in the league have done and find a journeyman guard.
     Defensive Line:  The desperation wrought by our porous run defense led to the signing of Suh.  Ok- he's great.  But it made no sense for a team that was denying that it was in rebuilding mode to commit so much loot to a win-now superstar.  All of the other troubling moves we have made as a consequence of this signing (letting Lamar Miller go for cap reasons, for instance) have made this move very, very expensive for Miami.  A quick thought is that we traded Olivier Vernon, Rishard Matthews, and Miller straight up for Suh- and chucked in a third round pick (Leonte Caroo) to boot.
    Problem 2:  Undervaluing crucial positions on the football field because we have a wannabe, trend chasing front office as opposed to visionaries.
    Dawn Aponte, Mike Tannenbaum, whatever Tampa castoff comes next- all have been trying to follow blueprints established by other teams rather than thinking about their own needs and vision.  The result is that when conventional wisdom in the NFL decided running backs were overvalued, we undervalued ours. When the NFL common wisdom said linebackers didn't matter, we passed on players like Kendricks, Barr, and Jack (to name only players from UCLA) so that we could load up at other positions.  We are built incorrectly.  Today's great NFL teams have running backs and linebackers.  We are out in the cold.
    Problem 3:  Hiring Joe Philbin.  He killed us- for a decade.  His "my way or the highway, tie your shoes young man" approach to coaching led to purges of players of tremendous value.  How much would Vontae Davis have helped us?  This disastrous, fearful hire set us back so far.  This staff will be great- but they have to start from too far down to recover this year.

    The solution:  blow it up and get the contracts right to compete in two years.  Get out of the monster contracts in dead end positions like left tackle.  Today's NFL offenses throw quickly- they don't need four seconds on the edge.  Get rid of Suh- he can't win games against rookie lines, and his salary is killing us.  Hang on to young talent, and don't make Miami a retirement community for aging vets.

And maybe don't blitz on every third down against mobile rookie quarterbacks.  But that's another story...

Jay Lopez
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38 comments

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I totally agree with this. Lets start from stratch starting with Tannehill. After seeing Carson Wentz play against a good defense on the road and picked them apart....it really makes me wonder if he is actually trying.

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I can't agree on that. We have no player as valuable as Tannehill. Unless you stopped watching early and hang Cameron's drop on RT, you have to accept that he was the best player on the field- on either team- after half time.

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Suh may be expensive but he is the only Dolphin that plays full throttle every week...he hates losing and holds his teammates accountable...Something the owner and coaching staff should be doing...!

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Suh may be expensive but he is the only Dolphin that plays full throttle every week...he hates losing and holds his teammates accountable...Something the owner and coaching staff should be doing...!

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Suh had 12 tackles, 12, as a DT, he is not the problem, we tried building a Ol through the draft, turner, douglas, thomas ect. It didnt work out. I will agree with you on "wasting our time"Joe, but your work is very much hindsighted. It's like drafting two years later, when everything is known. Next you will say we should have drafted tom brady in the first round. The NFL is as much about luck as winnkng the lottery. The Billicheck hiring was awful, until it wasn't, he would be nothing if Drew Bledsoe didn't get hurt, poor article.

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"Turner, Douglas, Thomas..." I agre- we drafted poorly at guard. Many teams have tken the more cost effective approach of repairing their lines through free agency (more like Bushrod.) We have to look backwards to understand what our team has been doing with our time. And I agree- Suh is a great player. I'm not sure he fits our roster and needs, given that we are not likely to rebuild in time to make use of him in his prime, unless our goal is to use him to get to respectability and not worry about building a real winner. See the Vikings for an organization that actually has a plan and is trying to get out from under a powerful division rival...

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I disagree with "unknown". I like this post. Jay, I don't agree with all of your analysis, but I do agree with two of your points: Tannehill (though he misses some throws), is not the problem. He didn't let the Seahawks convert on two 4th downs last week, nor did he give up 3 TD's to Brady's backup in the first half last Sunday. I also agree that Philbin was ... well .. yeah, he sucked.
This team has two major problems right now. 1) They have a clueless owner who doesn't understand the game. 2) Miami is in the same division with the best team in football (for the last 15 years). I'm an old geezer and been watching the Dolphins since 1970. I watched the longest game ever played, all Miami's Super Bowl appearances, I was at the San Diego OT game, and Marino's first start against the Bills. In those days (1970-1985), Miami was the winningest team in professional sports. The Colts had a mini-run in the mid 70s, and the Jets had our number from 1978 - 1981 (we got revenge in the 82 AFC championship game though), but we owned the AFC east. Everyone had to go through us (via the Orange Bowl), and it was glorious. Well, New England has been that team now since 2001. I think they'll probably squeeze another year or two, but they're at the end of a great run. Ross and company need to get this team in position to retake the AFC east. I personally think 2018 is the year this team will have to be peaking. The current coaching staff looks good. RT looks good. We have some great young receivers, and a scrappy defense. That said, we need at least one dominate LB and a shut-down corner. The problem, as Jay points out, is that we're too invested in DL players who are either peaking now (Suh), or passed their prime.

I don't expect much this year, 8-8 if they're lucky. Next year, I want to see 10-6 and a realistic shot at a wildcard. But 2018 is when I expect them to be among the top 5 teams in the AFC.

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I disagree with "unknown". I like this post. Jay, I don't agree with all of your analysis, but I do agree with two of your points: Tannehill (though he misses some throws), is not the problem. He didn't let the Seahawks convert on two 4th downs last week, nor did he give up 3 TD's to Brady's backup in the first half last Sunday. I also agree that Philbin was ... well .. yeah, he sucked.
This team has two major problems right now. 1) They have a clueless owner who doesn't understand the game. 2) Miami is in the same division with the best team in football (for the last 15 years). I'm an old geezer and been watching the Dolphins since 1970. I watched the longest game ever played, all Miami's Super Bowl appearances, I was at the San Diego OT game, and Marino's first start against the Bills. In those days (1970-1985), Miami was the winningest team in professional sports. The Colts had a mini-run in the mid 70s, and the Jets had our number from 1978 - 1981 (we got revenge in the 82 AFC championship game though), but we owned the AFC east. Everyone had to go through us (via the Orange Bowl), and it was glorious. Well, New England has been that team now since 2001. I think they'll probably squeeze another year or two, but they're at the end of a great run. Ross and company need to get this team in position to retake the AFC east. I personally think 2018 is the year this team will have to be peaking. The current coaching staff looks good. RT looks good. We have some great young receivers, and a scrappy defense. That said, we need at least one dominate LB and a shut-down corner. The problem, as Jay points out, is that we're too invested in DL players who are either peaking now (Suh), or passed their prime.

I don't expect much this year, 8-8 if they're lucky. Next year, I want to see 10-6 and a realistic shot at a wildcard. But 2018 is when I expect them to be among the top 5 teams in the AFC.

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I think it's too early too say anything as we have a new coach, system, staff and roster. ask me in a month as IF we play up to our potential or thereabouts CONSISTENTLY we could win 9-10 games looking at the schedule

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I think it's too early too say anything as we have a new coach, system, staff and roster. ask me in a month as IF we play up to our potential or thereabouts CONSISTENTLY we could win 9-10 games looking at the schedule

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you missed maybe the most important: our drafts have consistently sucked. You cannot build a winner around a few superstars and have glaring holes and past their prime big name expensive guys elsewhere. How many corners did we draft who are busts ? How many guys on the roster from rounds 4-7 ? Kalil Mack was drafted about where Devante Parker was - which one do you want ? Which first rounder at this point would be craved by other teams ? It all starts there - just like in baseball you have to grow your own talent. In the NFL its a window of opportunity (ie Russell Wilson with a cheap contract for the Seahawks).

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Another year, same issues...

I personally picked the Dolphins to lose their first two games in my pool. They have too many issues to be more than a 500 team this year. This all stems from bad management going back years.

1. They have failed to keep their drafted talent - they will particularly lament letting Lamar Miller walk. Ditto Olivier Vernon - and they had the budget to sign these players. Looking back further - Vontae Davis, Dan Carpenter, Charles Clay spring to mind as players that should now be part of the core group of players.
2. Drafting Dion Jordan...I hope the kid makes a comeback and keeps his nose clean but trading picks to get him?
3. Trading picks next year for Leonte Caroo. I hope he becomes a great player but who knows - particularly given our WR position is pretty good.
4. No urgency to develop young talent behind Tannehill. I like Ryan's game but he's not elite.
5. Poor 2nd round drafting..

And on it goes. We are a 6-10 to 8-8 team because we have poor management. Pittsburgh is always in the hunt because they have great management.

I am not convinced on Mike T. His decisions last off season to let our best players walk will cost us W's this year. Suh is a great player but hogs too much money.

DE's and CB's are now the key players on defence. That's where the draft and FA resources should go first.

My heart says 10-6, my head says 8-8/7-9.


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Mack and Parker were two different drafts. People are too hard on Parker. He was not used last year. He was healthy not injured last year. He had a hamstring pull this year. That is the first game missed because of injury, I believe. This defense needs LB help, and corner help, plus some youth on the DL. The offense is coming around. It's up to Gase to get us out of the Philbin stink. This team gave up last year. In two very difficult games this year, this team has not given up. This team would play down to the level of poor competition in the Philbin era. Can that change, and a beatdown happen against the worst team in football this weekend, against a third string QB. This will tell me a lot of the workings of this team. I think that we are still a couple seasons away from being a serious competitor, but I see progress in the right direction for Tannehill. The trio of Tannehill, Landry, and Parker will be dangerous.

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though im relatively new as far as reply goes but I read everyday and feel like a regular that sits at the corner table in the furthest corner, any who I have mixed opinions I love the gase situation I just think personnel wise we are a miss. I hate tannebum or however you say it just know his a bum he hasn't done shot consistently but wreck good rosters and spend the churches money doing it. I think we should have kept hickey really he drafted excellent imo and failbin just want and isn't hc material. I think gase can get us where we want to be I just think he needs the rest of missing pieces to do it with and hell who knows if he doesn't hopefully bums (gm) head is the next on the chopping block.#phinsup

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Why do we have high priced lines? Because we've had a decade of Bad Drafts. And we keep hiring free agents to compensate for our bad drafts; free agents are pricey.

"The solution: blow it up and get the contracts right to compete in two years."
-- So you cut good players and replace them with more poor drafts, ie. worse players? I don't like it.

We lost two games to the Seattle and New England. This was expected by Vegas, before we even played the games. I think we should wait a little while and see if we improve.

Against Cleveland, we are the favorites; their back is against the wall, so maybe it's a competitive game.

Dion Jordan is a possible replacement for Olivier Vernon. Exchanging Lamar Miller for Arian Foster didn't make sense. Drake is a scat back who can run sweeps... i'm not a fan of runningback by committee.

Paying for Suh is like paying for a Reggie White... you can make one bad deal work if you need to. Dead Money, ie cutting players and paying them to play for other teams is a worse idea than overpaying.

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Ross is the problem. He hired Philbin, and Philbin ruined the team. Sparano's team needed some more talent on offense so that they could score TDs instead of settling for FGs. Philbin dismantled that team's o-line, running game, Top 5 Rushing Defense, and a half-decent secondary and LB corps. Almost every talented player was cut or traded away, because Philbin did not want any type of old-school, tough physical players... he wanted finesse to run his short pass based offense. Philbin completely decimated this team. After he was fired, I thought for sure that Ross would hire an experienced Head Coach who would restore that tough, physical old-school aspect to the team. But no... Ross hired Gase who wants an offense similar to what Philbin and Lazor ran.

Ross also hired (and then promoted) that bum Tannenbaum. After Philbin was gone, the team needed a major roster overhaul because they had few talented players and little depth. Tannenbaum should have stockpiled draft picks to start rebuilding the roster, but instead he traded up and down multiple times for players that weren't really needed. He ended up with NO picks in the 4th and 5th rounds, and I believe he also traded away some picks from next year's draft. Is this how you rebuild a roster that lacks talent and depth?

Philbin destroyed a decent defense and ran a pathetic offense, Gase is continuing a similar offense, and Tannenbaum is being Tannenbaum. Way to go, Mr Ross!

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Seiple... I would like to quote some of your comment in a future article- may I? I think you have taken a long view that is precisely what is needed right now. My article was meant to take issue with the "quick fix" approach of this organization (catering to Ross) as opposed to sensibly reading the landscape of the league/division and acquiring players/contracts accordingly. You have met a kindred spirit! Thank you for thoughtful and wise post.

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"another year, same issues..." spot on. I would only add that LB's, to me, are underrated. Look at Denver and Carolina... good LB's win games, good DT's merely change opponent's game plan.

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Maggie- We need to synch up our spending with our window of opportunity. There might be a market for Suh if he continues to shine. Albert wouldn't be much dead money, and he is redundant with Tunsil, who is too good to keep at guard.

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40K and Roland: Tannenbaum is a joke. He ruined the Jets, and he is ruining the Dolphins. In 30 years there will be an expose that Tannenbaum doesn't actually exist. He is a cyborg operated by Billy B from a grotto in New England...

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I agree with your assessment of Philbin only Jay. You are throwing in the towel too soon brother. We will make the playoffs and we will scare some people once we get there. New coaching staffs take a tad more time to create that TEAM impact. We have the talent to win now. Patience my friend.

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I'm not off of this team's chances, MPF. We'll beat Cleveland and start righting the ship. But this contract muddle (aging and overpaid at some positions, inexperienced and shallow at others) is worrisome if we ever want to get past 7-9/9-7 range. I'd rather we lose and then really win then just keep looking for quick fixes and muddling through. I'm high on this staff- though Joseph schemed very, very poorly last weekend.

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Sorry, i don't share the optimism here. Tannehill has had two games in a row where he has had a chance to win the game and failed. This seems like more of the same old same old to me. I don't believe the Phins can be a playoff team with him at the helm. I've lost the faith.

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Sorry, i don't share the optimism here. Tannehill has had two games in a row where he has had a chance to win the game and failed. This seems like more of the same old same old to me. I don't believe the Phins can be a playoff team with him at the helm. I've lost the faith.

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Lets get past the anthem and I can watch the phins again.

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Lets get past the anthem and I can watch the phins again.

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It's 2 games. 14 more to go.

We lost to two very good programs. The sky is not falling.

Plenty of football left.

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They were in both games, in tough match ups on the road. Im not panicking. Besides Arian foster being a fragile cancer, and kilo Alonso learning to shed a block, we look pretty good.

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The sky is not falling- but we left two wins on the table. You don't do that and make the playoffs. Vegas has us on 6 wins- if we are getting to ten, we need to upset some folks.

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Philbin era was a disaster, letting go two developing CBs like Davis and S.Smith was dumb (been replacing them ever since), not signing Vernon / Miller one year before FA = dumb, all bad moves. The worst ?
Culpepper over Brees. Well,that cost the team only 10 yrs of winning. Browns game should be a lay up and then a gutsy win vs Bengals and 2016 is still alive. Showed fight last game and gave away the game to Seahawks in the opener. I still have hope for a good year with Gase. By the way, Kenny "Still" sucks for dropping that ball. My 10 year old daughter could have caught that !

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Be careful of Browns. They will come down looking to steal a game since we aren't an elite team. They aren't gonna go through the motions.

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If we have to "look out" for the Browns, we are the worst team in the NFL. That game decides who owns the worst record in the AFC. We should be 10 points clear of them. If we can't beat their pathetic squad, we should try for the first pick in the draft because 6-10 becomes a long shot from 0-3.

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Edwin: Maybe. Cincinatti is a tough opponent if Dalton is healthy. I think 1-3 is the most likely opening for us at this point- that's why those two winnable games against a Seattle team that will miss the playoffs and a New England team that was never going to be more vulnerable suck so much. I can't see us sweeping the Jets. (1-1) the Patriots will likely sweep us (0-2.) We will sweep the Bills (2-0). So we are essentially 4-6 in my book. 6-0 in all other games, including a three game West Coast swing? Yikes. 7-9 looks likely.

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Hey Jay, yeah, feel free to quote me. Sorry it took me a while to see that. I only come to B-Dave's once a week.

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Hey Jay, yeah, feel free to quote me. Sorry it took me a while to see that. I only come to B-Dave's once a week.

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It's sad because Miami is no longer a football town. I remember the Orange Bowl being packed and shaking like it was going to collapse. That's what our home openers were like in the 70s and early 80s. And yeah, we'd almost always get the win, convincingly.

That stadium today was half empty for most of the second half. What the heck is wrong with these fans? My god!

Okay, here's my analysis: This team is bad. They're not playing like a unit on defense, and they're inconsistent (at best) on offense. I already said (in a previous post) that I think they're 2 years away from scaring anyone. That said, they got the win, and that's better than being 0-3.

Ironically, I actually like their chances against Cincinnati. I think it's a matchup that favors the Dolphins. Our defensive coordinator knows their offense pretty well, and I think RT's mobility (if used correctly) can cause trouble for Cincy's D.

I feel like this Thursday night's game is somewhat of a crossroads for Miami. If they can win and get to 2-2, with all the mojo that comes with it, I can actually see them going 9-7 this year. However, if they lose, I can just as easily see them going 6-10. Here's my breakdown if they win at Cincy:

AFC east 3-3
rest of AFC 3-3
NFC 3-1

I think the Dolphins are good enough to go 3-1 against the NFC this year. If they stay competitive, always staying within 1 or two games of .500, I do think they can at least flirt with wildcard aspirations.

Of course, if they get blown out on Thursday and give up on the season, they'll be competing for a top 5 pick, instead of a wildcard berth.

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It's sad because Miami is no longer a football town. I remember the Orange Bowl being packed and shaking like it was going to collapse. That's what our home openers were like in the 70s and early 80s. And yeah, we'd almost always get the win, convincingly.

That stadium today was half empty for most of the second half. What the heck is wrong with these fans? My god!

Okay, here's my analysis: This team is bad. They're not playing like a unit on defense, and they're inconsistent (at best) on offense. I already said (in a previous post) that I think they're 2 years away from scaring anyone. That said, they got the win, and that's better than being 0-3.

Ironically, I actually like their chances against Cincinnati. I think it's a matchup that favors the Dolphins. Our defensive coordinator knows their offense pretty well, and I think RT's mobility (if used correctly) can cause trouble for Cincy's D.

I feel like this Thursday night's game is somewhat of a crossroads for Miami. If they can win and get to 2-2, with all the mojo that comes with it, I can actually see them going 9-7 this year. However, if they lose, I can just as easily see them going 6-10. Here's my breakdown if they win at Cincy:

AFC east 3-3
rest of AFC 3-3
NFC 3-1

I think the Dolphins are good enough to go 3-1 against the NFC this year. If they stay competitive, always staying within 1 or two games of .500, I do think they can at least flirt with wildcard aspirations.

Of course, if they get blown out on Thursday and give up on the season, they'll be competing for a top 5 pick, instead of a wildcard berth.