The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

SAVING FACE AND LOSING TIME

With a 22-16 overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens, whose own losing streak hit 8, the Miami Dolphins have ended their imperfect season. The win came on a third and 8 pass by Cleo Lemon to Greg Camarillo that resulted in a 64-yard touchdown and set off a big celebration on and off the field at the Stadium formerly known as Joe Robbie. Even that big play was only made possible by a 44-yard field goal miss by Baltimore’s Matt Stover on the opening possession of overtime.

But don’t kid yourself, the only thing this win did was save face for a team (and its fans) that desperately did not want to go 0-16. This will still be a 14 or 15 loss season, which will be good enough to earn the Fins the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. And that’s why this team may have saved face on Sunday, but it lost some crucial time.

The win came at the cost of precious time for further evaluation of John Beck, last April’s “QB of the future” draft selection by Coach No Cam Do. There’s little doubt that starting Cleo Lemon gave the team a better chance to win then had Cam started Beck. And there’s also little doubt that pulling off a win would give Coach Cam a better chance at saving his own neck. After all, an 0-16 season may have forced a coaching change for fear of a season-ticket holder backlash. But did Cam sacrifice Beck to save his own neck? That’s what it looks like from here and that’s another reason for a coaching change. When a coach places his interests above those of his team, it’s time for a change.

One thing that is known is that Cleo Lemon is not the QB of this (or any other) franchise’s future. He is a back-up, plain and simple. A home overtime win against a team on a long losing streak does not say otherwise. In fact, nothing Cleo could have done against the Ravens would say otherwise and that is why Cleo should have been on the bench so the Fins could have further time to evaluate whether Beck can be a starting QB in the NFL. With only 3 games remaining going into the Ravens game, the value of the remaining season was to evaluate Beck as much as possible before having to decide what to do with the first overall selection next April. Cam has now squandered one-third of that time to try to save face (and his job).

It is unlikely that Cam went back to Cleo because he believed he had seen enough of Beck to conclude that he wasted a second round pick on him. If that was the case, isn’t that just another nail in Cam’s coffin? While it is quite true that Beck did not look good to date, it would be hard to close the book on him so soon, especially since some very big-name QBs (including Peyton Manning) have had some very rough beginnings. So why not say “who cares” about trying for a win (which has no meaning outside of avoiding an imperfect season), and say “let’s see what the kid’s got” instead?

The upcoming draft is going to have some very top-notch players available at key positions including quarterback, running back and defensive line, all positions of need for this team. So why not get as much information as possible before April on whether or not the Fins can afford to take a difference-maker at a different position? That’s why it looks like Cam was really trying to save his own neck by going back to Cleo. That’s why the Fins should say “what the Beck,” and fire Cameron. In the final analysis, they may have saved face on Sunday, but they lost some very precious time.

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