You have to admire the front office. Let's get Bill Parcells down here. Now there's a football guy. Bring in Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano--real manly football types. We're going to run the ball straight down your throat. Bigger, stronger, not necessarily faster, but boy, do you see how big these guys are? We can't lose! You've got a franchise quarterback? We'll punch him in the mouth. Stud running back? Consider his mouth punched. All-pro wideout? Here comes a knuckle sandwich. Genius coach? Fist + mouth = punched.With all that face punching it was no surprise when we started winning games. Some color guy on CBS let the fans watching from home know the Miami Dolphins weren't there yet--but losing by 20 points to New England sure feels better when you've already won six games.
Fast forward. Four more wins. Close ones against the haggard Rams, Bills, 49ers, and Chiefs; two consecutive weeks of electrifying crowds with offensive outbursts of one touchdown and three field goals. Oh well, you must have thought. Did you see all those mouths getting lit up? We rebounded in time to hang 14 on the 5-8 San Francisco 49ers before besting the 2-12 Chiefs by 7 in the first NFL game to be played in the Arctic Circle.
Awesome. Now it's Jets week, a classic win and in situation. You wanna' go to jail or you wanna' go home? Wait, no. You wanna' go to the playoffs or you wanna' go home? Brett Favre has been choking like Tennessee Williams, lately. It might be easy. He might make us look stupid. I can't sleep. I flail around in the dark all night slipping in and out of dreams where I'm asked to make a clutch field goal and forget how to breathe after the snap. Terrible. But then it's Miami Dolphins 24, New York Jets 17, and Brett Favre's last play in the NFL is an illegal forward pass! Until next year. Who cares? Playoffs.
Something funny happened on the way to Sunday, January 4th, 2009. The 53 active players on the Miami Dolphins roster were found beaten to death in an alley. No suspects were ever named, though I have long found it odd that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed arrived in Florida days before the rest of the Baltimore Ravens squad. What could be done now? The fans were expecting a show. It was, after all, to be the first playoff game for the Dolphins in nearly a decade. They'd have to field a team--no matter the cost.
Of course all of that was a lie, the reality being that we were exposed as a team that was over-matched (or evenly matched against sub-par competition) all year. In my defense, however, it did look like Chad Pennington was trampled to death after throwing a pick. We scored 9 points. No mouths were punched.
The silver-lining? Well, only Bill Parcells, of course. He really was a genius. He moved the hyphen! Gotta' love that blue collar coach he brought in. Feed the wolf. I thought we were Dolphins? Never mind that, old boy. You just feed it and keep quiet now. What does it eat? Your hopes and dreams. Don't you hate when they do that?
2009 will be better. We addressed the secondary. Our free agency approach? Find some guys to punch some other guys in the mouth. You begin to wonder if all of this mouth punching is bordering on erotic fetishism. No matter. The rest of the league is slinging the ball around and getting faster for the express purpose of making it that much easier for the lower part of their mouth to be removed by a well-placed punch to the jaw. You get tingly when Ronnie Brown runs between the tackles. So do I. So does Bill Parcells. He drafts Pat White. That's ... cute. I guess I shouldn't complain, I thought it was a great choice, and my name isn't even Mike Mayock. None of this will matter after the first quarter of the season when we're on top of the AFC East and oh my god we're 0-3. Chad Pennington's arm is ripped off in week 3 and stored in the locker of one of the San Diego Chargers players' so he can he do weird stuff to it after the game.
This sucks. The Bills are what we need for our quarterback of the future to get situated out there. The Chad Henne led Miami Dolphins annihilate the Trent Edwards led Buffalo Bills. Armando Salguero says we gave them a wood shed butt whopping. I re-post that on my Facebook so all of the friends I made after relocating to Buffalo prior to the start of the season can grow to hate me as much as I secretly hate them. I am not ashamed.
We play the Jets on Monday night. We're wearing orange, the greatest color of all time. To date, it is the signature win of the Sparano era. When Ted Genn dies, they will show footage of his long touchdown catch and nothing else. Maybe a few kick-off returns. Probably.
The Saints win a close one. Before halftime, it seemed the NFL Feel Good Story of the Year would fall victim to a book burning in South Florida. Drew Brees was on the ground so often in the first two quarters of the game I thought they might just bury him at the 50 yard line. Mouths had been punched. Not least of all our own. I hate Paul Pasqualoni, Dan Henning, and Ted Ginn Jr. more than anyone else on the face of the Earth besides maybe Osama bin Laden and Larry the Cable Guy.
Now we're 3-5. Our reward for sweeping the Jets is a 10 point loss to the Patriots. I spend the entire game swearing. We beat Tampa Bay. Jason Taylor has a questionable fumble recovery touchdown. Raheem Morris acts like a baby on the sideline. Ronnie Brown's foot explodes. Highs and lows. Next week brings the final chapter in the Ricky Williams Redemption Saga. 119 yards on 22 carries. Case closed.
ESPN spends the next week pontificating on the non-factor Terrell Owens has been in the Buffalo Bills offense. This is known in certain archaic circles as bulletin board material. 5 catches, 96 yards, 1 TD. A sideline reporter asks him after the game, "Is TO back?" He smiles before agreeing, "TO is back." Then he loses all of his money and ruins his ACL. I'm getting ahead of myself.
We battle back to a .500 record with a win over the Patriots. We beat the Jaguars because they're terrible and I'm not afraid to say so on a public forum. At 7-6, we have a chance to go on a run and do something special here but decide that ultimately sounds like an awful bother and we instead become content to simply let Pat White get murdered in a meaningless game against the Steelers. You vaguely remember something about mouths and punching but can't get beyond the ache in your own jaw to figure out what that was about. The copper taste in your mouth is blood--and a 7-9 record.
The season is finally over and with it comes a time for hope. People are getting fired, Brandon Marshalls are getting traded, Jared Odricks are getting drafted and damn it we're 7-9 again!
Bill Parcells hangs it up before week one. Having never known anything about my own father, I briefly consider the possibility, we are bound genetically on the superficial grounds that we are both known to quit when things get tough. I examine the size of his bust and then my own. I discard the notion entirely.
If I were writing the final chapter in an epic science fiction trilogy, the 2010 season would end when the invading alien legion enters the atmosphere of our planet and launches their assault. Book three would pick up with our weary, hapless resistance a year into the conflict, staring down the barrel of a 0-4 start. The bright spot of the 2010 squad, dogged (albeit handless!) defense, is a liability. The quarterback of the future, turned quarterback of the present, turned quarterback until the next draft, turned quarterback with some marginal ability coupled with an aggressive refusal of the idea of throwing a pass with some touch on it is out for the season. His arm, like that of his predecessor, now resides in the San Diego Chargers' locker room, and yes, weird stuff will be done to it--no, is being done to it--even as you read this.
The resistance, fighting for relevance, stands precariously on the edge of a high cliff. They may not yet know that the only way up is down. They battle on in futility. This is where the story ends. The epilogue is careful to note that only a precious few were spared. Their leadership completely decimated, they retreat into the offseason, looking for answers--and when all seems lost, a hero emerges.
Overwrought metaphors aside, it appears the best we have to hope for is 0-16. You will accept nothing short of complete failure. Neither will I. A lot can be said for fighting through adversity. Never surrendering. Playing to win the game. 12-4 sounds pretty good. So does 11-5. Or 10-6. Would you even take 9-7? The sad truth is, at this point, all we can do is play ourselves out of contention for the number one overall pick. Everything is backwards this year. No longer do I comb the standings looking for playoff tiebreakers--I am singularly dedicated to rooting out the teams as bad as our own so that I can will them to victory. Join me. Be a quitter like Bill Parcells. I believe many of you already have.
If we're all brave enough to scratch and claw our way to the cellar of the NFL, it can be Year of the Quarterback for a decade or more; and that certainly sounds better than even 12-4.