It has to be maddening to Dolphins fans. Johnson goes to New England, the move is lauded, he behaves and he somehow fails quietly all season while the team keeps winning and his failure isn’t an indictment of anyone but himself. Here, he produces more drops than catches in a preseason game, and more controversies than drops before being terminated, this marriage barely lasting longer than his real one, and it looks like the Dolphins don’t know what they are doing. Watch Brandon Marshall behave, stay out of handcuffs and somehow take the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl, just to mock you.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross isn’t really going to lose money, mind you. Very few things appreciate the way football teams do. The salary cap protects the owners from themselves, making the business model moron-proof, which is why the Cleveland Browns can sell for more than $1 billion. There aren’t a lot of businesses in the real world that can do what the Dolphins and Browns have the past decade and stay in business, never mind grow in value. But you can lose and be interesting, as the Carolina Panthers of Cam Newton did last year while going a 6-10 that felt more hopeful than Miami’s, or you can do it the Ross way and try to drape the losing in some sparkle.
Faking their way
The Johnson fiasco is what desperation looks like, at receiver and in reality. There is a dirty transaction at the heart of the Reality Television Generation, dignity traded for dollars, the shortcut to fame going around the usual addresses where you actually have to earn it. But the Dolphins aren’t in a position to lock the voyeurs out, so they Kardashian their way to the eyeballs this preseason because the biggest move of the offseason, if you are paying attention to the business, wasn’t bringing in David Garrard or trading Marshall.
It was lowering the number of seats that have to be sold on Sundays (51,128 now instead of 60,000) to keep the games on television. That wasn’t altruism. The Dolphins are bleeding customers. They have to keep the games on free TV, even if it means selling a slice of their soul and selling out their first-year coach on paid TV, because fans are looking for exits and the next exit ramp right after “uninteresting” is marked “irrelevant.”