Well, that didn't take long; barely a month into the season, the wheels have officially come off the wagon for the Miami Dolphins in 2016. A roster rife with dead weight, a veritable murderer's row of a schedule, a front office that has repeatedly played politics with the team's draft choices and, as usual, untimely injuries at key positions have laid the groundwork for what promises to be a miserable season for this once proud franchise.
Where do we begin to assess the damage, much less how to go about making this team relevant again ? Given the events of the past few days, the offensive line would seem as good a place to start as any. When one of the NFL's biggest stories, to the national media, at least, began to torturously unfold, in October 2013, former Dolphins right guard John Jerry was not a central participant. Unlike the team's other guard, Richie Incognito, Jerry was, at most, a peripheral figure in the BullyGate scandal. Does anyone remember the last time the Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills on the road, in Orchard Park, New York ? It was in December 2011. John Jerry started at left tackle for the Dolphins in that game. Reggie Bush rushed for 203 yards and Miami won easily, 30-23. The game wasn't as close as the final score, as the Bills rallied for 16 points in the fourth quarter, after the game was already out of reach. In much the same manner that Dolphin fans attempted to spin our team's week two loss at New England this season, Buffalo fans probably tried to convince themselves that their team had a real chance at victory. Miami opted to let Jerry leave following the 2013 season, and he still starts at right guard for the New York Giants to this day.
But, there's more, much more. After blowing the third pick of the third round on offensive tackle Billy Turner, from North Dakota State, with the intention of moving him to guard, in 2014, Miami's front office entered the 2015 draft still needing lots of help on the interior of their offensive line. After Iowa's OG/OT Brandon Scherff went early in the first round to the Washington Redskins, there was little action on guards or centers for the next several rounds. In the fourth round, however, the top rated pure guard coming out of college that year, Florida State's Tre' Jackson, was still on the board, and the Dolphins' turn to make their fourth round selection was coming up in a matter of minutes. Jackson going to Miami would have almost made too much sense, but, alas, it was not to be. The Patriots, no doubt seeing what was about to transpire, made a trade with the Cleveland Browns, and jumped ahead of Miami, snapping Jackson up. Miami's front office had been caught flat footed once again, and were left to select Arizona State's Jamil Douglas in a forced reach. We lamented New England having outmaneuvered Miami and were roundly criticized for it at the time. Douglas was a better scheme fit, we were told. Perhaps, but Jackson was and is clearly the better player. While former GM Dennis Hickey saw fit to trade up for small school project Turner the previous year - at the very top of the third round, he apparently didn't feel it was worthwhile to make a similar move for SEC stalwart Jackson in 2015's fourth round. Today, New England is set at the offensive guard position, and gearing up for another run deep into the AFC playoffs, while Miami will be relegated yet again to expending more high draft picks to their shambles of an offensive line next April.
Which brings us to Ryan Tannehill. Since his selection with the eighth overall pick in 2012, Dolphin fans have insisted that Miami, at long last, has found their franchise quarterback, or, at least, someone good enough to eventually lead the team to the promised land, with sufficient talent around him. If 'sufficient' is the operative term, suffice it to say that the Dolphins have used more than a sufficient number of draft picks, on the offensive side of the ball, while acquiring far fewer good players than would be considered sufficient for Miami to be anything more than a .500 team for the foreseeable future. The Dolphins have, literally, set NFL records for the fewest number of defensive players selected the past few years in the early rounds of the draft, despite the defense having ranked near the bottom of the league in recent seasons. The various beat writers who cover the team continue to insist that this is a complete non story, and perhaps they're right -- running an NFL franchise in a manner that is in diametric opposition to the way nearly every other NFL team does business is, indeed, a non story -- if only because Miami has reaped such pitiful returns from the staggering investments it has made in its offense, in terms of draft picks, since 2012. A television announcer who recently covered a Dolphins game told the viewing audience that Miami has attempted to build their team from the sidelines in, rather than from the interior, out, which runs counter to the way most successful franchises go about assembling their rosters. That a color commentator who isn't based in South Florida could see the folly of Miami's approach while the sportswriters who live in Miami maintain that the team is on the right track is telling. But, we get it: the dumpster fire which represents the offense is bigger than the dumpster fire that is the team's philosophy regarding the draft, according to Armando Salguero and company. Needless to say, we believe this argument amounts to pretzel logic at its finest.
All of this notwithstanding, if you still believe Ryan Tannehill is the future of the Miami Dolphins, you may want to recalibrate your expectations; the team has some big decisions to make and not much time in which to make them. Next year is the first season in which the Dolphins can get out of his contract with only about a ten million dollar cap hit, and the team isn't remotely close to contending for so much as a wild card playoff berth. Meanwhile, Tannehill turns 30 just 21 months from now, and he's taken a frightful physical beating thus far in his career. His role for the remainder of this season amounts to essentially that of a crash test dummy, and by the time the Dolphins are capable of contending, his career trajectory figures to be turning downward. He's a fine, high character young man who deserves better, but his is a thankless job that eats men up, and he'll at least walk, or perhaps, limp, away from the game never having to work again a day in his life, so don't feel too sorry for him. The folks who come out every Sunday to root for this woefully overmatched team are whom you should have sympathy for, in our opinion.
In sum, we don't, at this point, believe Ryan Tannehill represents the future of the Dolphins, but it hardly matters; they have much bigger problems to contend with these days. Miami will have several high picks in next year's draft, and they had better hit on every one them, or it's going to be a long, hard slog.