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I haven't mentioned the Miami Dolphins in over two months and for good reason. They're bad. They're even bad at being bad. Their best achievement in 2019 was having Dan Marino named as one of the 10 greatest quarterbacks of the past century. Too bad Marino retired 20 years ago. The team hasn't had a consistently decent quarterback since.
To solve that problem, the team started the 2019 season with the intention of losing more than anyone has ever lost before to secure the first pick in the 2020 draft. They ultimately finished fifth in the race to be worst, meaning they won't get the best available quarterback. They might not even get the second, third, or fourth.
The best option, according to just about everyone, is Joe Burrow, whose LSU team mastered the art of having offensive linemen get away without being called for holding. He is followed in some order by Justin Herbert, Jacob Eason, and Jake Fromm. Two of them are/were Georgia Bulldogs, so I'd be fine cheering for them as Dolphins. On the other hand, Herbert is slow to make decisions, but is a nearly seven-foot-tall giant. Given that NFL scouts are size queens and Herbert is the one I like least, I figure he's the one most likely to be the Dolphins' eventual pick.
If there's any good news for the Dolphins, it's that their original target QB, Tua Tagovailoa, has fallen from his early projections and should still be available at five. (Maybe even at twenty.) Why? Because he's fragile. Would the team that famously passed on Drew Brees' wounded wing draft a player who's the real-life equivalent of a mid-80s G.I.Joe figure with a busted rubber band? We'll see.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins' last quarterback project, Ryan Tannehill, refuses to lose with his new team. Two games into the playoffs, two wins. That's two more than Ryan won in seven years with the Dolphins. Given that the Dolphins are still paying Tannehill against his last contract, they deserve at least some credit for those wins, right?
It remains possible, maybe even likely, that last year's starting QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick will return under center in 2020. In 2019, playing for his 8th team, Fitzpatrick became the oldest player (37) to lead his team in rushing yards (243) and rushing touchdowns (4) in a season, which implies that the Dolphins running game might be a bigger problem than whoever they've got under center. (Tannehill, for example, is now winning largely thanks to the legs of Derrick Henry.) I won't be surprised if the team decides to try losing another year's worth of games to address that problem in 2021.
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Mid-season update on Operation Fish Tank: the winless Miami Dolphins were on target in their quest for the first pick in the 2020 Draft until they ran into the one-win New York Jets. The resulting contest was a sad parody of what football is supposed to be.
Coach Brian Flores's season-long compromise between his competitive nature and his owner's desire for Tua Tagavailoa has been to score as many points as possible in the first half then stop playing after halftime. That strategy finally failed him. It's hard to blame him here, as how could anyone expect the Jets to be better at the same tactic? Both teams tried forcing a safety on the other, but the Jets' incompetence could not be overcome.
There are now 4 teams with one win, and the Cinncinnati Bengals lie alone at the bottom of the pile as the only remaining winless team. The Dolphins aren't even in second place among the tied-for-second teams. The NFL uses strength of schedule for draft tiebreakers, and the worst team with the hardest road is the Atlanta Falcons. (Echos of "28-3" continues to resonate.)
(UPDATE 2019-11-05: Oops. I misunderstood that tiebreaker. That should be the worst team with the *easiest* strength of schedule, which isn't Atlanta but Washington. Dolphins still in third, though.)
So here we are at the halfway point of the 2019 season, and it looks like the Miami Dolphins have scrapped all the talent on their team and endured a horrible, losing season... for the third overall pick. At least Atlanta isn't likely to take a QB, right? Right?
Way to find a way to lose at losing, Fins.
Five weeks into the 2019 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins are 0-4 in their quest to go 0-16 and claim the first pick in the 2020 draft. What should we call this? Tanking for Tua? Failing for Fromm? Horrible for Hurts? Why any of those kids would declare to go pro to end up on the Miami Dolphins is beyond me. College is supposed to be for smart kids.
The bad news for the Dolphins is that there are 3 other teams who are also winless: the Bengals, Jets, and Redskins. The Dolphins have to play all of them (the Jets twice). With all of them no doubt also interested in getting a shiny new quarterback, it's going to be a fight for the bottom in 2019.
The good news is that none of those other teams started the season by jettisoning all their talent like the Dolphins did. Therefore, they're going to have to actually try to be worse than Miami. Can they do it? So far, it looks like the answer is no. They're bad. The Dolphins are terrible.
It's fitting that the only franchise with an undefeated NFL season should also own the absolute worst. The Dolphins have been outscored 163-26 in 4 games, a margin of -137. The worst point differential in NFL history, set by the woeful 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was -287 (in 14 games). Child's play! The 2019 Dolphins are on pace to be outscored by 548 points. They are also looking to own NFL records for fewest points scored per game, most points surrendered per game, and yards allowed per game. Go Fins!
I'll be watching on Sunday when the Redskins visit Miami. While technically it is possible for the game to end in a 0-0 tie after one overtime period, I want to remind the Dolphins' coaching staff that NFL rules allow a team to force points to their opposition: A safety is worth 2 points. Be sure to score it late so the Redskins can't respond. Suckers.
Two weeks into the 2019 season, and the Dolphins are already historically bad. How bad?
For future reference, that's QB Ryan Fitzpatrick on his way to a 23.8 passer rating throwing to RB Kevin Ballage who had exactly as many receiving yards on the day as running yards: 6.
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
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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