This time last year, winning eight games would have been a huge disappointment for Stephen Ross and the Dolphins. (Now imagine how disappointed they were when they didn’t even win that many.)
Twelve months later, the basically acknowledged that a .500 record would be cause for celebration.
So yeah, this is uncharted territory for an organization that was once the NFL’s gold standard.
“Everyone keeps saying [we’re] tanking and we’re going to go and be crap,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said here Monday, when asked specifically what is reaction would be if the Dolphins win eight games in 2019.
“So I don’t know what we’ll be. If these guys go out and we have some good young players and they play well and we win eight games, we go, ‘All right, we’ve won eight games and we’ve got right now 11 or 12 picks for next year with the draft still approaching.’”
The odds suggest the Dolphins will win far fewer than eight games.
They are 100-to-1 to win the AFC East.
Their roster is closer to that of an expansion team than a world champion.
They have seven offensive linemen, and most are backups. They are trying to trade their best (only?) pass rusher.
And their quarterback had no other starting options in free agency.
“Work in progress” is how Grier described his roster.
So yeah, they are going to be bad.
But for how long? If they are not tanking — and the Dolphins insist they’re not — then what is the plan?
Grier tried to answer that Monday:
“We’re going to keep building it from Day 1. We made the change. We talked about building the foundation and building it up the right way. So that’s all it is. There’s no tanking. You say you want tough, competitive guys who love ball and you bring them in and say, ‘Hey let’s do it but not this year, let’s just relax and enjoy this year? And we’ll come back next year and be tough and competitive?’ So you draft those types of guys. ... As Brian [Flores] has talked about we’re competing but we’re going to build it the right way. We’re going to be smart about it. And just acquiring picks is another way to hopefully speed up the process for us.”
But what if that process works too well?
While it’s all basically impossible to see how the Dolphins make the playoffs or even have a winning record this year, it’s not hard to envision Ryan Fitzpatrick getting hot and playing well enough to cost the Dolphins a top 3 draft pick.
The difference between 3-13 and 6-10 last year is the difference between having picks 1 and 11 in April’s draft.
If the Dolphins pick 11th in 2020, they have basically no chance to land Tua Tagovailoa.
Most would see that as a failure. Grier would see it as success, because it means he hit on a bunch of draft picks.
Of course, the Dolphins could hedge against that risk by simply trading away their first-round pick this year for a second one last year, which Grier suggested is on the table.
“You always need a partner, to do a move like that,” Grier said. “So we’re not going to do anything just to do it and say let’s do it. And then we come out and it looks bad on a move. All options are on the table. We’ve talked about looking at this in a two-year window. And we should always look at it in a two year or three year window.”