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Today is the start of the 14th Annual Wriphe.com Batman and Football Month! Yesterday was a busy day on and off the gridiron, so let's get straight to the news.
Yesterday, the Georgia Bulldogs opened the season on the road against Vanderbilt and won easily. Theirs was the only game played between SEC opponents, so Georgia's win puts them in first place in the conference!
Speaking of the conference, winning the SEC East might be easier than usual for the Bulldogs this year. South Carolina fell to North Carolina of the ACC (2-10 in 2018), and Missouri was beaten by Wyoming of the Mountain West (6-6 in 2018). Wyoming had been winless against teams from Power Five conferences since 2014, but that's nothing compared to Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference. They were also 2-10 in 2018 and hadn't beaten a Power Five team ever... until they ruined Tennessee's season with a 34-30 win. That's not strong competition.
Speaking of winning, the Miami Dolphins won't. One week ahead of the start of the season, the Dolphins have traded their starting left tackle for multiple picks in next year's drafts. Dolphins' management had already telegraphed their intention to tank 2019, but I don't have high hopes for their ability to ever convert all the draft picks they're banking into a winning team. Number One overall picks are no panacea for a team full of mediocre talent and an ownership with no idea what a winning team looks like.
Meanwhile, Batman is still Batman.
Poster by Marco D'Alfonso
Very much has been made recently of Stephen Ross' fundraiser for Donald Trump. Ross is the billionaire owner of several lifestyle brands catering to the young and, shall we say, Trump-resistant set. Little has been made of the fact that Ross is also the principal owner of the Miami Dolphins. Dolphins' fans know all too well that Ross doesn't actually care about the consumers of the products he's selling.
A brief reminder: in September 2016, when some guy named Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem, the world came unglued. Players on other teams soon followed. Some owners (and many fans) made villains of Kaepernick, but others supported his activism, including Ross.
"I think these guys are really making a conversation of something that's a very important topic in this country, and I'm 100 percent supportive of them."
Unfortunately 2016 was an election year, and The Great Divider used the protests as evidence that American needed to be Made Great Again. After you-know-who was sworn into office in early 2017, Ross shifted with the political wind.
"I think it's incumbent upon the players today, because of how the public is looking at it, to stand and salute the flag."
Translation: they shouldn't protest because people don't like protests and it makes it harder for him to sell tickets to his terrible football games. Ross went so far as planning to fine and suspend players who offended his sensibilities until the players association forced him to back off. Way to be 100% supportive, bud.
Anyway, to those of you who claim to be shocked to discover that a billionaire businessman's only concern is how he can exploit you to make more money, welcome to the America Dream.
No sooner do the Dolphins trade one Ryan than they pick up another.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald has been signed as the Dolphins' starting signal caller. The Dolphins will be Fitzpatrick's 8th team in his 14-year career. He'll set a record if he completes a single pass for the 'Fins in 2019. Long-term marginal competence has to count for something, and that something appears to be about $5 million, the price of Fitzpatrick's new contract. The team paid Jay Cutler twice that in 2017. He won 6 games. I guess they're expecting Fitz to manage only 3.
This will be Fitpatrick's third tour of duty in the AFC East. He's already passed through the locker rooms of both the Bills and the Jets. All totaled, he's managed a career 6-5 record against his new team. The only team in the division that hasn't hired him is the New England Patriots. He has a 2-9 record against them.
It's probably worth noting that during Fitzpatrick's entire career, the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins have had at least 13 starting quarterbacks — each — while the Patriots have had essentially one. (Technically, they've had 4. Tom Brady missed all of 2008 with a knee injury and served a 4 game suspension in 2016 because he likes saggy balls. But there was never any doubt who the team's starting quarterback was.)
Will Fitz bring his Fitzmagic to Miami in 2019? My Magic 8-ball says no. So does Vegas. Even before dumping Tannehill, sports books were down on the 'Fins. Last week, if you bet a dollar on them to win the Super Bowl, you could pocket $300. That's three times longer odds than are being given to any other team. Comparatively, the never-going-anywhere Detroit Lions are 100-1. Those were Friday's odds that the Dolphins could win their division. I'm sure the addition of Fitzpatrick isn't bringing them any closer.
Ye gods. It's going to be a long season.
One year ago, I wrote, "Sadly, it looks like another rebuilding year is in the cards for the 'Fins." I shouldn't have acted so surprised. Ever since a real estate baron bought the team in 2008, the rebuilding never stops in Miami.
It was pretty clear that 2019 was going to be a rebuilding year when Coach Gase was fired (with cause). And then Yesterday, the Dolphins traded starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the Titans. Ryan was a first-round pick (8th overall) in 2012. After 6 years — though only 4½ on the field thanks to some very questionable medical decisions concerning his oft-injured knee — he's now worth something less. (The Dolphins essentially gave away Tannehill plus $5 million for a 2020 4th round pick. That feels about right. He should have been a 4th round pick in 2012.)
With Tannehill gone, there are zero quarterbacks on the roster who have played a single snap in the NFL. That's a step up from 2017, when Jay Cutler filled in.
The question now is whether the Dolphins hire a cheap free agent to fill the void or will some rookie from the draft get the call? Neither of those seem like great options. I can't say as I'm very excited about the prospect of Jacksonville wash-out Black Bortles taking snaps, and there's no phenom like Andrew Luck coming out of college this year. 'Suck for [Drew] Lock' doesn't have the same ring.
Maybe I can find something else to do on Sundays this fall.
Should old acquaintance be forgot....
The Dolphins, by which I mean Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross, got a good look at Santa's leftover naughty list and fired head coach Adam Gase on New Year's Eve. Said ESPN.com:
Gase couldn't escape the mediocrity that has followed the Dolphins since 2000. He finished 23-25 [.479], with his lone playoff game being a wild-card loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016. Miami was 7-9 this season.
To be fair, Gase's record wasn't any worse than his two immediate predecessors (Philbin, 24-28 [.461], and Sparano, 29-33 [.468]), but he wasn't any better either, which was particularly damning for someone who was supposed to be such a great offensive genius.
The biggest indictment of Gase was that he often fielded an anemic offense despite being thought of as an offensive guru and quarterback whisperer when he got the job. The Dolphins finished 24th or worse in total offense in all three seasons under Gase, including 31st in 2018.
There's anemic, and then there's Adam Gase' offense. In 2018, the Dolphins weren't just the worst AFC team in total yards, they were also the worst AFC team at yards per game, first downs, third-down conversion percentage, and field goals attempted. On the positive side, they were the best in the AFC in punts attempted and total punting yards!
As surprising as it might seem in hindsight, Ross hired Gase to turn around the under-performing Ryan Tannehill in 2016 after Gase had performed a similar "miracle" with Peyton Manning. You read that right. Gase was Manning's offensive coordinator in Denver in 2013, and somehow he got credit for Peyton's record-setting comeback there, never mind that Peyton was already one of the all-time greats before the neck injury that slowed him down for the 2011-2012 seasons. The way people talk about Gase, you'd think he performed Peyton's surgery himself.
Anyway, whether or not Gase had any ability to improve his players before he came to the Dolphins is a moot point. In Miami, inability to recognize and develop talent is an infectious disease.
Frankly, I feel sorry for whoever comes to town next.
I've had a lot of bad things to say about the Miami Dolphins as of late. Enough that after today's game, friend Keith sent me this text:
Dude. Stop complaining. Ya'll won for fucks sake.
Yes, we did! With the longest play from scrimmage (69-yards) to win a game with no time remaining in the fourth quarter by any NFL team since the 1970 merger. (I know that's a long qualifier, but I'll take what I can get.)
Watch it on YouTube.
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I think maybe I've had it with the Miami Dolphins for the season. Sure, they won today, but not really through any act of their own. The Jets were just worse. Each team managed a mere two field goals, and the Dolphins prevailed when their less-than-stellar defense returned one of the Jets' four interceptions for a touchdown. Ugh.
For reference, the Phins managed only 7 total first downs and 168 total yards. It was bad. Really bad and not remotely entertaining. I could have spent those four hours... well, doing almost anything else.
Next week, maybe I will.
Follow-up to yesterday's post: Dolphins 23, Texans 42. (The game wasn't as close as that score. I hope you had something better to do with your time than watch it.) In the Adam Gase era, the Dolphins have been outscored 23-82 on Thursday nights.
Since I talked about it at length yesterday, I should note that Brock Osweiler completed 57% of his pass attempts with 1 interception and zero touchdowns. (And the officials took away a fumble returned for a touchdown on a technicality.) His final QB rating for the game was 65.3 out of a maximum 158.3. For comparison, Texans QB Deshaun Watson finished with a 156.0.
As expected, the Dolphins are now 4-4 and on pace for another in a long string of mediocre seasons. Yawn. I'd wish them better luck next year, but we already know that isn't really going to matter.
Kicking off week 8 of the 2018 NFL season tonight, the Miami Dolphins will play the Houston Texans. Starting at quarterback for the Dolphins will be Brock Osweiler. This is notable because on March 9, 2016, the Texans paid Osweiler $72 million to be their quarterback. Exactly one year later, the Texans paid the Browns to take Osweiller off their hands. Then the Browns cut him. A QB of that calibre has to end up a Dolphin.
Osweiller gets the start for the Phins because oft-hurt Ryan Tannehill is hurt again. Tannehill has started 5 games in the past two seasons, and the writing may be on the wall. Tannehill has already started twice as many games for Miami as any other quarterback since Dan Marino, and his record isn't exactly sterling.
Tannehill's record is 40-42. The quarterback with the second-most starts is Jay Fielder — does anyone else outside Miami remember him? — at 36-23. For comparison, Marino was 147-93. *sigh* (And, since we're here, I might as well remind everyone once again that the Dolphins, under Head Coach Nick Saban, passed on signing free agent Drew Brees in 2006 because of medical questions about Brees' reconstructed shoulder. Brees has only gone 117-79 since, missing exactly 2 games over those 13 years. *double sigh*)
So with fragile Tannehill looking at the tail end of his mediocre career, why isn't there someone in the wings ready to take his place? Osweiller is obviously not a long-term solution, and the third QB on the team depth-chart, David Fales, was shown the door by the Chicago Bears who let him attempt only 2 passes during a 2017 season in which they won only 3 games. The problem here, obviously, is with whoever is in charge of player personnel for the Dolphins. According to his contract, that executive for the Dolphins isn't GM Mike Tannenbaum but Head Coach Adam Gase.
Giving this sort of power to the Head Coach might seem like a good idea after years of Jeff Ireland' blind eye for talent, but maybe Gase isn't the right man for that job, either. It was Gase's decision to trade star running back and "locker room cancer" Jay Ajayi to the Eagles (where he won a Super Bowl) for a fourth-round draft pick. It was Gase's decision to trade star receiver Jarvis Landry to the Browns for fourth- and seventh-round draft picks. And it was Gase's decision to bring Jay Cutler out of retirement to do whatever it was he did last season. If there's no quarterback of the future on Miami's roster, that's Gase's decision, too.
Yeah, I'll be watching tonight as the Dolphins struggle to stay afloat in the race to the postseason, but all I see in the team's future is more of the same old canned tuna.
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