The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

DOLPHINS NOW 0-2 (CONTINENTS, THAT IS)

Sunday in London the Dolphins reached the halfway point in their season of futility, proving that they are now the worst team on two continents. Even a career-worst passing performance by the “other” Manning (36.4%, 59 yards, no TDs) was enough to beat the lowly Fins 13-10. The previously prevailing attitude that they will eventually win one is giving in to the stark reality that they may not, that they are indeed capable of a winless season. It truly looks like there is no NFL team on their schedule capable of losing to this Fins’ team. Eight down, eight to go.
Since the NFL has now exported American football to Europe, perhaps it is time to import a traditionally European aspect of sports called relegation to the NFL. As explained by Wikipedia, “relegation means the mandated transfer of the least successful team(s) of a higher division into a lower division at the end of the season. The system is seen as the defining characteristic of the ‘European’ form of professional sports league organization. [This has] the effect of regularly rearranging the leagues according to the teams’ playing strengths. At the same time, they maintain the importance of games played by many low-ranked teams near the end of the season, whereas a low-ranked North American team’s final games serve little purpose; losing may even be beneficial to such teams, yielding a better position in the next year’s draft.”
Maybe this is a concept whose time has come. Do these Dolphins really belong in the NFL? Or should such doormats of the NFL be relegated to a lower division until they earn their way back? The first half of this winless season has shown that the Fins do not belong on the same field as any quality NFL team, so why pretend, why not relegate them to where they belong, say, Pop Warner football.
As for Sunday, the Fins’ found a new way to lose. With the Giants riding a 5-game winning streak and playing down to the winless Dolphins, it was the offense that proved to be the chief culprit. A Cleo Lemon fumble late in the first half gave the Giants a field goal and a 13-0 lead. That field goal proved to be the game winner. The Fins closed the game to 13-10 with their only TD, a 21-yard reception by Ted Ginn for his first NFL touchdown, with 1:54 remaining in the game. With the Fins’ hopes then riding on the obvious on-sides kickoff attempt, Jay Feely’s misguided boot went out of bounds (with the ball even failing to travel the mandatory 10-yards to enable a legal recovery by the kicking team). With that, the game was over as the Fins had no time-outs and the Giants only had to take a knee to get the win, which brought a chorus of boos from the remaining crowd of Londoners who had never even heard the name Joe Pisarcik!
With all the debate about whether or not John Beck should start at quarterback (and he should), the poor performance of Cleo Lemon (17 for 30, 149 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble) at Wembley Stadium more than justifies Cameron pulling the trigger after the upcoming bye week. At this point there is no denying that Beck needs to play. That is not to say that playing behind this inferior Dolphins’ team will provide any clear cut answers about his ability to succeed as an NFL quarterback, but some information about his level of talent is better than none. The point is that the Fins desperately need to find out if he may be the future of the franchise before they select what is looking more and more like the first pick in the 2008 draft. If they don’t need a top ranked QB, they need to find that out before this season comes to its merciful close. If they do need a top ranked QB, the 2008 draft will be the best chance they will have to acquire one.
The remainder of this season is not about wins. It can’t be, because quite plainly there may not be any in 2007. Moreover, other than the draft slot, what difference will a 1-15 or 2-14 season make for this franchise? Even if some opponent stumbles and the Fins get a win, it is meaningless (because there is no relegation in American football). This Fins’ team is beyond hope and only a significant number of wisely used draft selections will get them pointed in the right direction for the future. Thus, they need to play Beck and the other young players (yes, even Lorenzo Booker) to see what they can do. They need to see if the young players on their roster are part of the solution rather than part of the problem. This must be sorted out before April. Having the veterans on the field will not provide any meaningful wins; having the young players sitting on the bench will provide none of the answers which are so desperately needed.
The overriding question, of course, is should the 2008 draft (with all the promise of a top pick) be trusted to the Mueller/Cameron team? From the evidence available to date, that is questionable at best. That is why we need to see John Beck and a lot more of Ted Ginn. We need to see if they hit on any pick this year other than Samson Satele . We know that the Satan-Mueller drafts were not tremendous successes (don’t we Jason Allen!). We also know that Cameron’s evaluation of talent might be suspect given his belief from his arrival in January through the first two regular season games that Ronnie Brown wasn’t a clear cut first-string player (and that he could be sacrificed on kickoff return duty in the preseason).
For now, the most we can say about these Fins is that they are the worst pro football team on two continents. The best news for the Fins is that the NFL has not adopted the concept of relegation. For if Roger Goodell were to bring relegation home with him from London, then he might just have to leave these Dolphins behind!

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