The Miami Dolphins get help now because T.J. McDonald is a new (and they believe awesome) starting safety. And Ted Larsen is the team’s new (and the Dolphins believe pretty solid) starting left guard.
So the Dolphins expect that these two additions, whose debuts come against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football, will improve the team.
But let me let you in on a little secret: Internally, these Dolphins acknowledge they are not a finished product. They believe it will take another year (I think it’s going to take longer) to get the roster to where they really, really like it. And what happened last year in getting to the playoffs and whatever good comes out of the rest of this season is — as they say around Thanksgiving — gravy.
The Dolphins, you see, are flawed. They know it. I assume you know it because if you’ve been watching, it’s quite apparent. And if you haven’t been watching, their record speaks for itself.
So that’s the reality of the situation that no victory or defeat on the Monday Night Football stage is going to change.
These Dolphins ain’t it, folks. This team is not going to win a Super Bowl. Or go to the Super Bowl. Or even win their division — unless Foxborough, Massachusetts, gets swallowed up by the Earth.
Having said all that, this season still has a chance to matter. And these Dolphins have a chance to matter, again, regardless of what happens Monday night.
Well, because while the Dolphins are a mediocre, incomplete team struggling from week to week to keep their helmets above water, the conference rivals they’re going to compete with for a playoff spot are also mediocre, incomplete teams struggling from week to week to keep their helmets above water.
My dear friend, the late and great Edwin Pope, used to refer to this scenario as a battle of piss-ants.
No, being a piss-ant is not a compliment. But it’s not a terrible thing if your piss-ant is fighting, well, other comparable piss-ants.
In that scenario, the Dolphins matter. They have a chance against other piss-ants. Good stuff can happen regardless of their flaws and the mountain of work yet to be completed on their roster.
So let’s be clear that the competition is as defective and inconsistent as the Dolphins:
Miami is hovering around the .500 mark right now, which means it is solidly located “in the running” for a wild card playoff spot.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans are the cream of the wild card berth gang. They’re the class of the class.
And I’m trying not to laugh because neither of those teams suggests insurmountable. Or championship.
The Jaguars have found a way to win three consecutive games and that’s good, but raise your hand if you trust quarterback Blake Bortles to lead them. Their defense is often impressive, especially in how they pressure opposing quarterbacks. But a complete team?
Certain to keep the good times rolling?
The Titans currently lead the AFC South despite having the same 6-3 record as the Jaguars. I like the Titans. They’re a plucky team. They’re physical.
But that plucky, physical team lost to the Dolphins. So there’s that.
And that, I remind you, is the best of the best of the “in the running” for a wild card berth group.
The rest of that group?
Baltimore, Buffalo, Oakland, and the Dolphins.
None of the teams whose name I just typed is outstanding. They have their strengths. They have their weaknesses. Only two began Week 10 of this NFL season without a losing record — the Bills and the Dolphins.
Yet one and perhaps two of them are going to make the playoffs.
So what does this mean? It means it is a seriously down year for the AFC. It means the conference playoffs might include a 9-7 and perhaps even an 8-8 team.
And, oh yeah, it means the Dolphins are likely to be in the race with all their other incomplete, flawed, inconsistent friends.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero