The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

THE GHOSTS OF SEASONS’ PAST

In a game reminiscent of last season’s debacle, the Dolphins were once again bitten by a ghost of seasons’ past. This ghost was named Reuben Droughns, now one of the leading running backs in the NFL, but previously a member of the Dolphins’ developmental squad. Droughns took his first carry of the day (on the Browns’ first play from scrimmage) 75 yards for a touchdown. He went over 100 yards in the first half and finished with 166 yards for the day.

With Sage Rosenfels starting his second career game and the Dolphins going three and out to start, the last thing the Dolphins needed was a one-play touchdown drive by the Browns on their first possession. Rosenfels has neither the experience nor the talent to enable him to play catch-up football. By the time he was yanked in favor of Gus Frerotte in the third quarter, he had no touchdowns, two interceptions and a grand total of 15 yards passing (for a 1.5-yard average per attempt). At one point he failed to see Chris Chambers alone on the sideline behind all of the Browns’ defenders for what could have been a big play. It never got any better. The Dolphins lost 22-0 and fell to 3-7 for the season.

Poor Sage couldn’t even blame the lack of a running game as both Ricky (13 carries for 83 yards) and Ronnie (12 carries for 56 yards) ran effectively. Their combined total of 139 rushing yards was especially impressive considering that Sage presented no threat throwing the ball and the Dolphins had to play catch-up football all afternoon.

Frerotte was no better in his back-up role, completing 4 passes in 18 attempts (22.2%) for 53 yards (an average of just under 3-yards per attempt). The Dolphins’ net passing for the day totaled 55 yards. A pure embarrassment; too bad Cleo Lemon isn’t a viable option!

And so, for the first time since December 2003 the Dolphins were shut out. The last time it happened was against the Super Bowl-bound Patriots; this time it was at the hands of the lowly Browns, a mere 3-6 team coming into this game. It says something when the Dolphins’ can make a 3-6 team look like champions.

For the fans that were clamoring for Sage Rosenfels to be given his chance, Sunday’s game against the Browns was a rude awakening. It quickly became obvious why every coaching regime that has ever had him on its roster placed him well down on their depth chart. While Sage’s long-term future with the Dolphins is very much in doubt at this point, there is no doubt that he is not the Dolphins’ answer to their quarterback woes. His back-up job may be safe for the remainder of this year when other options are lacking, but it is likely his job is not safe for next year.

Continuing with the bad news, Zach Thomas left the game with what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury. Unfortunately, it had the look of a season-ending injury. Dolfans will anxiously await further reports on his condition, but the way this team is going, it doesn’t seem to matter too much anyway. And that brings up the next question. Is there any hope for the Dolphins in the coming years?

The Dolphins have so many pressing needs (quarterback, defensive backs, offensive line, and wide outs) thanks to poor drafting prior to the arrival of Nick Saban that the solution to their problems is clearly more than a year away. Compounding the dilemma is that several of the team’s key players upon which Saban would otherwise like to rebuild the team, will be past their prime by the time these other issues can be resolved. The irony is that by the time Saban can fix the present problems, he will be faced with having to replace present stars Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor. In the shorter term he will also have to replace Junior Seau who is clearly at the tail end of his illustrious career.

These factors are likely to extend the Dolphins’ rebuilding years beyond that which will please either Dolfans or Coach Saban. It is clear that the Dolphins will be paying for the draft failures of the Wannstedt era for years to come. And that is why Dave Wannstedt is the ultimate ghost of seasons’ past who continues to haunt the Dolphins.

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