Welcome to the life of a Dolphin fan. Not a dolfan. Keep your face paint to yourself, I just want to drink beer and scream at the TV. In real life I teach history, so my fallback is the old-man-on-a-bus-bench-with-an-onion-tied-to-his-belt-because-it-was-the-style-at-the-time narrative form. To those of you seeking insightful, quantitative analysis I would like to ask, how did you get here and why are you still here?
Around the time the Israeli Olympic team was heading off to Munich, what was left of my family moved to South Florida. Both were spectacularly bad decisions. Meanwhile, everything was coming up marine mammal in Miami. We had Flipper on the TV and in the Orange Bowl which was also where Don Shula was leading a gritty team (mostly white uniforms, mostly white players) to 3 consecutive Super Bowls. I was at the prime NFL imprinting stage of my life, so I was hooked. Dolphin jerseys, mugs, notebooks, etc.
My father decided the best treatment for PTSD was to load up a van with his military buddies and cases of cheap beer (Old Drill and/or Carling’s Black Label – citrusy with undertones of septic tank) and head to the Orange Bowl where we would park in the yard of a guy who called himself Manny, but probably wasn’t, who claimed he was a sergeant when Batista ran Cuba, and probably was, and who my father said had a necklace of ears in his house, except he probably didn’t. I got to play mascot to this crowd and later, when I could reach the pedals (I was 11 or 12), designated driver. We would haul the coolers (no wheels in those days, pussies) to the stadium where we would sit in the “picnic” area near the dolphin tank, which more often than not had no dolphin, and get sunburned and drunk while watching the Dolphins win. The games themselves were pretty boring. Czonka up the middle for 4, Kiick off tackle for 4, then either Mercury Morris (shut up already) around the end or Paul Warfield on a slant for 6. Lather, rinse, repeat. Get Garo to kick a FG, then let the defense and the Florida sun smother the shit out of the other team and go home 13-7 winners. Boring, but winning was good.
Then the World Football League beckoned and Czonka, Kiick, and Warfield all bolted. The AFC East, which then included the Colts, wasn’t very good, so the Dolphins could feast on division foes and get to the playoffs, but the Steelers and Raiders now did the stomping. In the 80s, thanks to Miami Vice, the city of Miami became flashy. Still shitty, but now with a layer of pastel paints and neon added. The same thing happened to the Dolphins. Thanks to some luck in the draft, Shula was able to trade in his old, reliable, four door Plymouth Valiant for a shiny, aqua and orange, two-seater Marino.
Marino was a douchebag, but he was our douchebag and we loved him. Unfortunately our defense was dying on the field and our running backs were dying off the field. That, and the Bills were just too damn good and the AFC East was no longer so friendly. Through the 90s, the Dolphins still made the playoffs, but the Super Bowl no longer seemed possible. The owner, Wayne Huizenga, who had almost as much success running Blockbuster Video as he did with the Dolphins, decided to dump Shula. The Dolphins sought someone who had experience throwing coaching legends under the bus and hired Jimmy Johnson. Along with his fabulous hair, JJ brought aqua pants.
Turns out, however, that doubling down on douchebags wasn’t a great idea and JJ and Marino didn’t get along too well. In the end, they reconciled, walking together into the sunset off a short pier in Jacksonville, where they got curb stomped 62-7 in one of the worst playoff losses in NFL history. And that’s it. Since then the Dolphins have been the most mediocre of mediocrities. One playoff win (2000) and one number one draft pick (2008, Jake Long, woohoo!) stand as perfect outliers. Since 2000 they’ve compiled a record of 115-125 which works out to 15 years of 7-9. Compiling that record of mediocrity required the efforts of a new owner, 7 head coaches, and 18 starting quarterbacks including such luminaries as Damon Huard, Sage Rosencopter, Cleo Lemon, the decaying carcass of Daunte Culpepper, the son of Bob Griese, Joey Harrington, John Beck, oh fuck me, I can’t continue this list.
So where are we now? Living in the past, in case you haven’t noticed. Our current head coach is Joe Philbin. He enters his fourth year leading the Dolphins with a 23-25 record. Like his predecessors, Philbin has made sure that off field events are far more interesting than on field achievements. In the Philbin era incidents of note include, but are not limited to, a Mike Wallace breakdown, the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bromance, the end of Jeff (“Is your mother a prostitute”) Ireland’s tenure as GM, and something involving Lauren Tannehill and guns in a rental car. On the field, Philbin continued the long tradition of putting the team in position to make the playoffs in November only to end the season on a losing streak and fuck that up.
Moving on to a really bad analysis of the current team, Bill Lazor enters his 2nd season as OC and with a full off season of work with the team we should see more of the Chip Kelly-style offense we were promised when he was hired. At QB, Tannehill, like Philbin, is in his 4th year. He’s improved each year, but I believe the ceiling isn’t much above his head now. His QBR last year put him at 16th, right behind Mark Sanchez. He’s achieved adequacy, maybe even proficiency, and after the quarterback-go-round of the last several years, it looks like the Dolphins finally have someone who will be set at the position for several years. So we’ve got that going for us. The running backs, led by Lamar Miller who rushed for just under 1100 yards last year, are also adequate. The receiving corps is very young and fast and might actually be really good, but for now we’ll stick with adequate. The real concern on offense is the line. Mike Pouncey, when not advocating for the freedom of murderers, is good and will be moving back to center this year. Brandon Albert is a stud at LT but will be trying to return from ACL and MCL surgeries and might not hold up. The rest of the line is a guess. I’m going with less than adequate, which means Tannehill will continue to be among the most harassed and sacked QB’s in the league.
Over on defense, the front four, already a strength, got stronger and much more expensive with the addition of Ndamukong Suh. If he can keep from nut-stomping people and being suspended, he and Cameron Wake should be a force and hopefully strike fear in Dreamboat. The secondary is somewhat of a concern. It was shut-down good for the first half of the season, but injuries and fatigue set in and big plays began to happen. The linebacking corps is a train wreck. Last year, Dolphin linebackers had real trouble with strong running games and talented tight ends, in other words, all the good teams in the NFL, and with no upgrades it looks like that trend will continue.
Overall, it looks like the Dolphins will score points, but so will their opponents and when the defense needs to produce a stop and get off the field, they won’t, which is pretty much the hallmark of every mediocre team in the NFL. Fortunately, the clockwork orange and aqua dolphin is here to reaffirm my allegiance. All hail our aquatic overlords!
Prediction: 9-7, just so Philbin can go out at .500. Folks over at Harvard Sports Analysis Collective (collective? must be bolshies) have the Dolphins with the best odds of all AFC teams to make the Super Bowl. Haha, fuck them and everyone else who says anything similar. This year, with electronic banking becoming ever more popular, saying “this is the Dolphins year” will officially surpass “the check is in the mail” as a bigger lie. Vegas has Miami tied at 16th with something called the Texans and a bunch of other mediocrities at 30-1 odds. Go with Vegas.
Fantasy analysis: Don’t take any Dolphins on your team.
Final analysis: Just beat the fucking Jets in Miami and I’ll call the season adequate. Beat the Patriots and it’s a success. And don’t go to Florida if you don’t have to. If you’re already there, move.
And for today’s puzzle, which of the products featured in Balls’ underwear review is Brent Grimes modeling?