CLEVELAND -- Jeff Ireland escorted a visibly angry Mike Wallace toward the Dolphins locker room Sunday afternoon, the general manager’s arm locked around the player’s waist as he led him away from other people. Ireland talked to the visibly upset and sullen Wallace the entire time as Wallace shook his head in disgust until they both disappeared into the Miami locker room.
The winning locker room.
The same Dolphins locker room where everyone else would soon be celebrating.
Minutes later, a nattily dressed Jared Odrick grabbed the microphone from a TV reporter and, trying to contain his humor, turned to fellow defensive lineman Cameron Wake to conduct an interview.
Odrick promised Wake he’d ask only one question but in true media member fashion went on a four-question barrage in which the two discussed Wake’s 2 1/2 sacks, the possibilities for the defense in the future and, yes, their vastly different philosophies about pocket squares.
(Odrick is more colorful, and Wake is more conservative.)
And in these two snapshots — Wallace and Ireland on one hand, Odrick and Wake on the other — you see where the Dolphins are today.
They are troubled on offense.
They are feeling great and playing well on defense.
And the direction this team travels in 2013 will be determined by which feeling lasts longer.
Let’s start with the offense, which showed no running game, feeble pass-blocking and curiously didn’t try to throw to Wallace even once in the first half.
There are issues there, folks, and it begins with Wallace and how he perceives his role and the culture in Miami.
Wallace, who signed a $60 million contract in the spring, was disturbed about catching only one pass for 15 yards and not even being on the radar for the Dolphins passing game the entire first half, a club source said.
That’s not an entirely bad thing. You don’t want him satisfied with merely cashing a check. And the Dolphins, after all, didn’t pay him to become the NFL’s highest-paid decoy, so he has something of a point.
But when his simmering frustration boils over so publicly after a victory, it suggests he’s more concerned with “me” than “we.”
And that’s bad for the Dolphins.
Yet that’s exactly how it looked when Wallace was among the first players to get dressed and leave the locker room while still wearing a scowl on his face.
“I don’t feel like talking, man,” he said, as he walked past me.
He was asked about not being targeted in the first half.
“Ask coach,” he said. “It’s not my game plan.”
He was asked if he complained (of course he did) at halftime when the Dolphins were trailing 7-6 and quarterback Ryan Tannehill hadn’t thrown to him and hadn’t even looked his way. This, by the way, is problematic because Wallace was being single-covered throughout the game by Cleveland’s Joe Haden, and if your best wide receiver isn’t getting the ball when he’s single-covered, when is he going to get it?
Anyway, Wallace wanted nothing to do with the topic. But his non-answer showed clearly where his displeasure was directed.
“Ask coach,” he said.
The Dolphins must resolve this issue — immediately. That’s because it’s actually multiple issues wrapped into a problem that can avalanche.