Miami Dolphin fans everywhere are frustrated right now, and that's understandable.
The schizophrenic personality of the team this past season was enough to make any Fin Fan pull his or her hair out in aggravation..., playing tough on the road and going 6-2, and then falling apart on the way to a 1-7 record at home... seeing the Defense finally improve to a top 10 status, while the Offense fell to the bottom of the league... Well, it's almost enough to make you want to root for the bloody Patriots.... almost.
In spite of the problems, this Miami team has actual talent at a number of positions. The question is: Do they have enough talent at enough key positions to win?
Before last season began, I wrote an article (Miami Dolphins: Torn up from the floor up - now rebuilt and ready to go?) about evaluating the talent on this season's Miami Dolphins squad from the perspective of Top Tier Fronts - on both Offense and Defense. The idea comes from Michael Lombardi, who in a series of posts last year (beginning with this one on July 18th about T.O., oddly enough) on NFL.com, proposed this analysis as a way to pick out teams with enough raw talent to make it to the Super Bowl.
Since the season is now over, and we have now seen these players over the course of 16 games, let's take another look at the team talent using this grading system.
Lombardi's evaluation showed that all four conference title game participants from the last few seasons have had this particular thing in common:
"... that the best teams had to have very good offensive and defensive lines. How good? Well, in order to reach the championship game, teams must have at least a total of seven red or blue players among both lines."
But what's a blue or red player? Lombardi defines "blue" and "red" players as:
"A blue player is championship caliber and rates among the top 10 at his position in the league. He is good enough to create mismatches vs. most opponents. He must also be one of the team's featured players and have a direct impact on the outcome of the game.
A red player is one that plays the game with no real weaknesses, is a solid starter and will be able to capitalize on certain opponents, but is never consistently dominant. He might not play as well against the league's very best, but shows up each week and has a high degree of competitiveness, ranking among the top 15 at his position."
A total of SEVEN players, a combination of red and blue quality, among all the linemen of both lines, plus Tight Ends and Linebackers.for a championship caliber team - they need to have an elite Quarterback AND a top tier Head Coach.
He also mentions two other requirements
Considering how the Dolphins ended their season with questions at QB, and the recent circus created around the "de facto" coaching search to replace Tony Sparano - prior to the re-commitment and extension, let's assume that the Dolphins have neither of these Super Bowl requirements in sight... currently.
But how close are they?
If they are able to draft an elite QB this next season? Or the Offensive struggles of last season turnout to be more a problem with last season's Offensive Coordinator, Dan Henning,than with either Sparano or Chad Henne?
There is certainly a lot of speculation centered around how Miami is going to solve their QB dilemma, and whether or not Sparano CAN BE a good head coach, but even if both of these issues are solved, does the team have the rest of the pieces already in place to compete and win next season?
While we don't have the answers -today- about QB and Head Coach, I do believe that we can use Lombardi's evaluation of the interior players on both sides of the ball, from the perspective of the season in review, and get an idea of just how close, or far away, the Miami Dolphins potentially are from getting back to the post-season.
So... you need a MINIMUM of seven Blue and Red players to win a championship? When we talk about minimums, it is mainly because without at least a certain number of starters who are at least "red player" talent, out of the 13 players that comprise the Front Seven of the Defense, and the Offensive linemen including the Tight End, a team would not be able to consistently compete at a high enough level to make the playoffs. According to Lombardi, that minimum number for playoff contention is 5, and the minumum number for winners of past Super Bowls has been 7.
Of course, a couple of axioms will come into play when evaluating the overall talent of the team, no matter how you look at absolute numbers of red and blue players:
- First, the more true "blue" players you have, the less of a total of red AND blue players you need. Simply put, Blue players count for more.
- Second, some positions count for more than others. For instance, a Blue rated Nose Tackle in a 3-4 alignment would count for more than a Blue rated Defensive Tackle in a 4-3. Likewise, Centers tend to be somewhat more valuable than Guards.
But this is a good place to start.
So here's the exercise:
Evaluate the Miami Dolphins Offensive and Defensive Linemen, Linebackers, and Tight Ends based on their performance this past season. Decide what you think we have in terms of Blue and Red players, on the roster right now, rookies excluded (we'll talk about them in a minute).
Prior to the start of the season, Lombardi ranked Miami with a total of 5: 2 Blue - 3 Red: Jake Long, Karlos Dansby, Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, and Vernon Carey.