Miami are taking a leaf from the Cleveland Browns playbook and are building for the future. But some of their players are understandably annoyed
Week one of Miamis 2019 Tankapalooza was either a rousing success or an epic fail, depending on your perspective.
The Dolphins were hammered by the Baltimore Ravens 59-10 in their season opener. It is hard to be this bad. The Ravens racked up 643 total yards, with the Dolphins gifting 64 of them on nine penalties. In a two-decade franchise run of stanky football, this was the stankiest.
Some of the problems can be excused: nearly two-thirds of the Dolphins roster is made up of new players, and they have a fresh-faced coaching staff. Brian Flores and his group came over from New England, hoping to channel some of that Bill Belichick sheen into quick success. When Flores first arrived, he preached culture and work ethic. The Dolphins have since made a clear organizational decision: to build towards the 2020 and 2021 drafts, hoping to wait out the Brady-Belichick partnership that has monopolized the AFC East.
This is not tanking, Flores and the rest of Dolphins management insist: that would be shameful. Tanking is losing games on purpose; theyre just positioning themselves to be in pole position for the first overall pick throughout this season and next. The fact that their plan is the definition of a tank-job does not appear to pierce the minds of the teams, umm, brain-trust.
Miami telegraphed their intentions when they traded away Laremy Tunsil, a top-five left tackle, and Kenny Stills, a respected veteran wide receiver. The Dolphins didnt deal away aging vets, Tunsil was about to enter his prime years, and Stills was already there. Both would have been perfect complements to a young quarterback.
And getting a young quarterback is the grand plan: chuck away one or two seasons in order to land one of college footballs next top superstar quarterbacks, Alabamas Tua Tagovailoa at the end of this season or Trevor Lawrence of Clemson the following year.
It is a plan similar to the one the Browns ran a couple of years back. The one that culminated in an unprecedented amount of draft assets, a star-loaded, youthful roster, the firing of everybody in the building, unprecedented hype entering the 2019 season and a similar Week One beatdown at the hands of the Titans.
Tanking is great on paper: its fun to dream. But watching your team get curb stomped for 24 months is not (the Associated Press reported that the Dolphins stadium was half empty on Sunday). And heres the other thing: its hard. This isnt basketball. Football prospects are no sure thing theres much less variance in the NBA. Plenty of teams have had multiple draft picks in multiple years and whiffed on each and every one of them (see the Browns any year prior to Baker Mayfield and Myles Garretts arrivals).
Tanking makes sense on a spreadsheet or in video games. But things like human emotions and contracts and salaries make it more complex in the real world. Pro Football Talk reported on Sunday evening that the Dolphins locker room is already close to a mutiny over the teams direction. The players future income will be tied to whatever they put on tape during this season. Their current income will be tied to team performance and gameday bonuses. Multiple players have already been in contact with their agents in order to get trade wheels in motion, according to the report.
We must admire the irony of a player clamoring to get away from a team that was specifically built to lose. We dont want to be on this team thats intentionally losing. But theyre on the team precisely because management thinks they stink. Only three players hold any kind of league-wide value: 2018 first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick; Xavien Howard an All-Pro caliber cornerback; and 2019 first-round pick Christian Wilkins.
Miami stripped their roster to the bones in the offseason, punted on free agency, then cheaped out on a rotating morass of creaking mediocrity. That mediocrity was exposed on Sunday to an almost comical extreme. There could be no worse start for a rookie head coach. Or, if the goal is to be the worst, it went perfectly.
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