The Miami Dolphins told you in January that they were willing to take some pain in the short-term to make sure they were better positioned for the longer-term. They let veteran players hit free agency, signing with other teams as the Dolphins moved to a younger team that would grow together. The media narrative became about “tanking.” The Dolphins continued to get younger during the Draft, the offseason training program, training camp, the preseason, and after the roster limit change down to 53 players. The Dolphins were listed repeatedly and regularly as the worst team in the league, the 32nd team in power rankings, the team that is the odds-on-favorite to have the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Then Week 1 of the regular season rolled around and the Miami Dolphins looked like the team most likely to have the first overall pick. The team that should be ranked 32nd in the power rankings. A young team stumbling out the gate with players that need to grown together.
And the panic set in.
Twitter - and the media - are abuzz with talk of head coach Brian Flores needing to be fired. General manager Chris Grier needing to be fired.
There are calls for the team to trade away the talent remaining on the roster because this is clearly a complete rebuild.
Which is exactly what it already was.
The Dolphins came into this season looking to rebuild the foundation of the franchise. The slab underneath the Dolphins was broken - not cracked, broken. They were up against the salary cap every year. They were throwing band-aid after band-aid at the roster - players like Brandon Marshall, Ndamukong Suh, Frank Gore, Arian Foster, Mario Williams, Brent Grimes, Jordan Cameron, Branden Albert, Cortland Finnegan, Knowshon Moreno, Philip Wheeler, Dustin Keller, Brandon Gibson, Chad Ochocinco, Marc Colombo, Gibril Wilson, Joe Berger. The Dolphins did everything they could to hide the broken foundation upon which the team was - is - built.
The Dolphins average age is 25.1 this year. They are the youngest team in the league. And, if you look at the players outside of 36-year-old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, that average drops to 24.9. The Dolphins have five players over the age of 30. That expands to eight if you drop the age to 28. They have eight players who are 22 or younger - one of whom is just 21. They have 12 players who are 23. Not 23 or younger. Just 23. This is a team filled with youth who have to grow into the game.
There was absolutely nothing fun - except maybe Preston Williams’ toe-tap touchdown - in Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The 2019 Miami Dolphins are a team everyone expects to lose. But, 59-10 is excessive. Giving up a 49-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, a play that was a simple run up the middle, was excessive. The offense unable to move was excessive. The defense looking lost with no one covering receiver after receiver after receiver was excessive. Special teams gaffes was excessive. There was not a place on the roster that looked like they belonged on that field on Sunday.
Yet, is this not exactly what the Dolphins were supposed to be this year? The 32nd team in power rankings? The odds-on-favorite for the first overall pick? A team that is being torn down to be rebuilt for 2020 and 2021?
A team with a broken foundation that is now, finally, trying to address the foundation rather than throwing some more window-dressing to try to draw your attention away from the issue?
The Dolphins know Sunday’s performance was inexcusable. “Well, it starts with coaching,” Flores said after the game. “It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of coaching this team. We’ve got to play better. It starts with me. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of work we have to do. The good thing is, is we get to practice tomorrow, we get to practice this week, and we’ve got an opportunity to get better. That’s the goal, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
He added, “We’ve got problems on offense, defense and special teams. We’ll try to fix them all. Schematically from a personnel standpoint, we’ll try to fix them all. We’ll try to put our players in the best position to win. We’ve got a lot of work to do from that standpoint.”
Fitzpatrick said, “It’s never good to be embarrassed like that, especially at this level. What we had talked about: nobody is going to feel sorry for you and your situation. That’s what happens. You go out there and if you don’t execute, you’re going to get beat bad like that. Obviously we need to play better, which is an understatement.”
“Cornerback Eric Rowe was asked if it was a lack of preparation that led to an embarrassing loss. “No, it wasn’t lack of preparation,” he replied. “We had a good practice week. At the end of the day, we had a slow start – all three phases. We dug ourselves a hole and we couldn’t get out of it. It really just came down to our fundamentals and technique. They weren’t on point like how we know it should be.”
“We just didn’t execute,” defensive tackle Davon Godchaux agreed. “We just (have to) get back to the drawing board, figure some things out and keep working. I am not going to lay any excuse on nobody. As a team, we just didn’t execute, so we’re back to the drawing board on Monday, get back in the building, put this one behind us and get ready for New England.”
Center Daniel Kilgore explained after the game, “Obviously it’s a loss that you don’t want to experience, that you don’t want to be a part of. We’re going to be men and we’re going to take this, and we’re going to take ownership of it. We’re going to move on. We are going to come in tomorrow and watch film and see where we’ve got to be better, and work on getting better and get ready for the next week.”
The Dolphins know they were housed on Sunday. They were embarrassed. They were made to look like they do not even belong in the league. And, now they have to stand up and get back on the field next Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champions. It took the Miami Miracle for the Dolphins to beat the Patriots in Miami last year. It might take another miracle this year.
But, this team is who we all knew they were. They are a rebuilding team. They are a team taking their lumps now as they tear down the house to get to the foundation. It was ugly, and there probably will be ugly down the road, but this is what happens after being stuck in mediocrity for so long.
Band-aids did not work.
Now it is time to really fix the problems.
It is painful. It is ugly. And, at times, showing everyone your faults will be embarrassing.
But, it is not time to question the coach. It is not time to question the front office. It is not time to question the owner.
The Dolphins may not have given you a reason to trust that they are going to get this rebuild right. They may not have done anything to make you think they will not immediately revert to finding a ban-aid when the ugly gets worse.
But, right now, all we have is the process. We have to trust that they will get better. They will grow together. We have to trust that, 2020 and 2021 will be better than 2019. And, we have to trust (hope?) Week 2 is better than Week 1.
This is going to be a long year.
But, we knew that in January.