North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

How did Miami get like this? NFL week 13

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It’s too soon to call, but this could be an end of an era.

I’m not speaking about Brett Farve, who went down last night with elbow and shoulder injuries, but about the Miami Dolphins.

There has not been a team to go winless in the NFL since 1978, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to lose something like 22 games in a row, leaving a legacy of futility that has since been approached by just a scant few.

But that was then, before the age of parity. Now, it’s the age of “any given Sunday”, when any team can beat any other.

Look at the standings in the NFL right now and ask yourself how Miami is supposed to happen. In this age of parity, no one team is supposed to go and dominate – or be dominated. That’s why there are so many teams that are 5-6 or 6-5.

It’s partially why no team has gone undefeated and partially why no team has gone winless.

So why are the Dolphins so bad? What is making their team fall apart the way it is?

Well, it’s a dastardly mix of bad planning and bad play with a few lumps of bad luck mixed in.

In 2005, when San Diego put Drew Brees after he suffered a major injury on the open market, the Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints where the two frontrunners.

The Saints got Brees, the Dolphins went with another injured QB who was looking to rebound: Dante Culpepper, who had basically destroyed his knee the season before.

Brees went on to throw for 26 touchdowns, over 4000 yards and for a QB rating of 96.2, his second highest ever, winning comeback player of the year in the process.

Culpepper spent most of the season on the bench as he recovered, playing just four games before fleeing for Oakland. In those, he threw for two touchdowns, a little over 900 yards, by far his lowest totals ever.

By passing on Brees, the Dolphins missed out on a great quarterback and still have issues at the position.

Even this year, it’s impact can still be felt. When Culpepper left, the Dolphins jumped on a trade for Chief’s QB Trent Green, a player who was the odd man out in Kansas City and was supposedly a few days away from being on waivers.

Sure, the Dolphins could have waited and missed out. But by jumping on the trade, one that cost them a fifth round pick, they committed themselves to a 37 year old QB who was coming off a catastrophic concussion.

And, to put it lightly, he was a spectacular failure at QB, passing for five touchdowns and seven interceptions while losing his first four games before suffering another, possibly career-ending concussion.

So, the onus for winning then fell almost squarely on the quarterback, a young man named Cleo Lemon. For five games, he played poorly. Despite throwing for over 1,000 yards and for three touchdowns, he was picked off four times, sacked 10 and completed just 58 per cent of his passes.

The man who replaced Lemon, John Beck, has been even less remarkable, completing just above 50 per cent of his passes and has yet to throw a touchdown.

However, it would be unfair to blame the quarterbacks for this season.

After all, Green wasn’t the only Dolphin to suffer an injury. Running back Ronnie Brown, the lone bright spot for the Dolphins, tore his ACL in October. His replacements, Lorenzo Booker, Patrick Cobbs and Jesse Chatman have all been unremarkable, with just two touchdowns between them since week seven.

Ricky Williams, who could have stepped into Miami and helped to take some of the load away from the receivers and quarterback, was injured in his first game and is gone for the season.

Even the receiving corps for the Dolphins has been depleted. Current team leader in receiving yards, Chris Chambers, was traded to San Diego on October 16 (so, after being away from the Dolphins for over an month, he’s still the leader).

Nobody has emerged as a clear number one receiver for the Dolphins since. While Marty Booker has approached Chambers numbers, he has yet to reach the end zone since week seven or the 400 yard mark.

However, the Dolphins have had some success this season. Kicker Jay Feely has missed only field goals all season. And their defence isn’t too bad, either.

In yards per game, the Dolphins are 16th overall – ahead of Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, teams that are still competing for a playoff spot. They’re third overall in passing yards allowed – ahead of New England, even.

But against the run, they stink – they’re 30th overall. And they’ve had 277 points scored against them, 27th in the league.

As they head into the last few weeks of the season, the Dolphins have a serious chance of running the table, and finishing without a win. They still have to face both the Patriots and the Bills on the road, and have a home game against the Ravens.

They also have to play the Bengals and the Jets, too. If they are going to get a win, look for it to come against either of these teams.

And look for the Patriots game on week 16. Never before has a team with 15 wins played a team zero wins.


Written by M.

November 30, 2007 at 4:39 pm

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