How are you going to grade the Dolphins? Are you going to grade on the curve because the quarterback is a rookie, the coach is in his first season and the culture is new? Or are you going grade like a chemistry professor in a foul mood because this team has tormented you for years, the roster has been made and remade a couple of times and you want a turnaround and great results, like, yesterday?
I’m going to grade the Dolphins now.
And I’m neither going to grade like your nightmare teacher nor on the curve. I’m going to grade the same way Dolphins coaches grade the team, the way players grade themselves and the way the NFL grades everyone.
Based on results.
Let’s stipulate that portions of this roster are still flawed, that the receiver corps needs someone to blow the top off the defense and the defense needs playmakers to keep from getting its top blown off.
I understand Ryan Tannehill has only eight NFL starts to go with his 19 in college. I know the offensive line is still trying to gel and linebackers have been playing with various injuries.
But mostly I know the Dolphins are 4-4 at the season’s halfway point. And although that’s better than many observers (me included) thought they would be, better than expected is still not great.
If you ask coach Joe Philbin, he might not even agree his team is better than expected. He believes, rightly, the Dolphins are neither exceptional nor exceptionally bad.
“I don’t know that anything’s necessarily exceeded my expectations so far,” Philbin said. “I’m not in the tank about any one specific thing, but we expect our guys to play well. As I said to our team … we’ve had some really good film, we’ve had some average film and we’ve had some bad film.
“And that’s why we’re 4-4.”
The Dolphins are a construction site. They are building something. And they are showing good progress.
But much work remains and the job might take several more years. That won’t help this team that has only eight more games together, but there is optimism throughout the organization. Folks believe the future looks bright.
Perhaps that more than their place in the standings or their final record will be this group’s legacy.
The midseason grades:
The bottom line here is points and the Dolphins are averaging 21.3 per game, which is slightly higher than the 20.6 they averaged last season. The running game was impressive early but has struggled the past month. The passing game is better than a season ago by 25 yards per game. This unit has yet to close out a game with a game-winning drive nor has it ended an opponent’s hopes with a successful four-minute drill to protect the lead. But the group isn’t a turnover machine, nor are mistakes a constant malady. Grade: C.
Tannehill is not yet the championship solution but he already has proved he isn’t the problem. “I don’t know that he has exceeded our expectations,” Philbin said. “I think he is playing well. I think his last four or five games have been better. I’m very pleased with his decision-making at this stage of the game, but we have high expectations from the quarterback position.” That’s progress at this position, because for years, Miami fans suffered with quarterbacks that simply weren’t up to the job. Tannehill, a rookie, doesn’t often make throws that cause baldness. He doesn’t throw into double coverage. He doesn’t sling wildly downfield hoping something good happens. He doesn’t always read the open receiver and doesn’t throw players open, but his accuracy is improving, his footwork is more consistent, and he is a hard worker during the week. Grade: B-minus.