There are some conversations going around on some of the various outlets that cover the Miami Dolphins, including here at our own Phinsider, that the coaching staff of the Dolphins has somehow failed the team, that young players aren’t being ‘coached up’ properly, etc. That the team’s recent draft picks haven’t developed the way many fans believe they should be developing.
While I certainly think this may be true to some extent, you also cannot make chicken salad out of chicken excrement. My own observations are that the team is still paying a heavy toll for overvaluing some positions over others on draft day while also selecting a bumper crop of bona fide busts in the annual college draft the past few years. As we have also discussed here recently, the Dolphins have a nasty habit of winning meaningless games late in the year and weakening their draft position the following Spring.
It’s interesting to note that virtually all of Miami’s recent GM’s have gone on to have some degree of success with other NFL teams. Remember Rick Spielman? He was the Dolphins GM in 2004, and was fired following a 4-12 finish that season. After taking the following year off with pay, courtesy of then owner H. Wayne Huizenga’s largesse, Spielman was hired by the Minnesota Vikings in 2006, and he’s been there ever since. Unlike the Dolphins’ front office, Spielman has made sure the team remained strong at the quarterback position, and the Vikings reached the NFC championship game last season. They also sent seven players to the Pro Bowl.
Dennis Hickey spent two seasons as the Dolphins’ GM, and, had he been allowed to have his way, would have been the only general manager in the National Football League in recent history to spend his first, second and third round picks on offensive players two seasons in a row. Only Miami Vice President of Football operations Mike Tannenbaum prevented Hickey from scoring a hat trick in this dubious category. Of course, according to many Dolphin fans, anytime a player acquired by Miami performs well, it was a great pickup by the GM, and if a player doesn’t pan out as hoped with the team, it’s Tannenbaum’s fault. Hickey is now employed as a regional scout by the division rival Buffalo Bills.
Even favorite whipping boy Jeff Ireland, of Dez Bryant interview fame, has rebounded nicely since leaving South Florida. After spending a year with the Seattle Seahawks, Ireland was hired by the New Orleans Saints and is now the assistant GM and director of college scouting in the crescent city.
Both of the Dolphins’ most recent head coaches, Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin, remained in the NFL after leaving the Dolphins; Sparano spent time with the New York Jets and San Francisco Forty-Niners, then with the Minnesota Vikings, prior to his untimely death last Summer, while Philbin is the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.
So, why did all of these men, who seem to have done at least modestly well since leaving Miami, fail to have similar success when they were with the Dolphins? I’m sure a lot of folks will say that they should have gotten more time to turn things around. That’s probably true, but why the team perform so badly during their time here that they were sent packing? To me, the answer isn’t complicated at all; those GMs and coaches couldn’t right the ship in Miami because they simply didn’t have a lineup that could compete with other NFL teams. It’s not as if Stephen Ross, who owned the team when most of those guys were here, has an itchy trigger finger when it comes to firing people. Miami needs a major infusion of talent on both sides of the ball and it needs it in the worst way. I know a lot of folks are excited because the Dolphins beat the New York Jets last week without scoring an offensive touchdown. That approach worked against the Jets and their rookie QB. Unfortunately, we can’t count on that every week.
I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Miami Dolphins are not going anywhere this season. Of course I’ll still watch the games whenever they’re televised here, because I’ll always follow and support the team, and like a lot of folks, I’m interested in seeing how some of the young players perform the rest of the way. But if Miami again manages to win a bunch of games in November and December, moving them further down the draft board the way they did in 2016, or if GM Chris Grier fails to hit on his college picks next April, 2019 doesn’t figure to be a whole lot better than 2018. Yes, the team is 5-4 as of this writing, but it may be one of the most misleading 5-4 records in recent memory. The Dolphins have proven too many times that they’re not capable of turning in a solid draft when they’re picking in the bottom half of each round. Call me a Benedict Arnold if you want to, but I don’t trust them to land a solid player with the twentieth pick in round one next year. That’s where they would be picking if the season ended today.