The Miami Dolphins will spend a lot of time this offseason tweaking their roster and trying to improve their talent so next season doesn’t turn out as horrible as this one. But there had better be more to it than that.
The Dolphins, you see, have a dysfunction that runs throughout the roster and into parts of the coaching staff, all the way up to the head coach and possibly into the personnel department.
And if the defect isn’t addressed, there’s simply no way this organization can compete on the same level with perennial playoff teams for a spot in the postseason.
The flaw is a lack of maturity and discipline.
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A lack of professionalism.
A lack of attention to detail and doing what is right.
The Dolphins simply don’t have it, and I first noticed it after the team’s 40-0 loss at Baltimore.
That should have been a sobering moment. The blowout loss should have been a signal something was wrong that needed immediate attention. And yet I walked into that postgame locker room and there were guys laughing and joking and seemingly moving on as if what had just happened was no biggie.
The Dolphins lost four consecutive games after that night. And they had 10 losses in 2017. That’s not a season where the team fell just short. Ten losses means you stink. You’re among NFL leaders in terrible.
And for weeks after those losses, the Dolphins locker room didn’t seem to notice stuff was wrong. Coaches would chew out players for dropping passes, missing assignments on defense, running wrong routes on offense and committing dumb penalties.
And many times, nothing would change. Or it would take weeks to sink in.
It was as if the players were inattentive, which kind of makes sense because this team practices while music provided by an in-house DJ blares over the field.
I mean, is this team working during practice or having a house party?
I’m with former Carolina Panthers general manager and recently hired New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, whom I have great respect for.
“If you walk into a room of football players and football coaches and ask, ‘Who loves to win?’ everybody is going to raise their hands,” Gettleman said. “The question you have to ask is, ‘Who hates to lose?’ ”
I know the Dolphins love to win. But Dolphins management needs to ask itself who hates to lose?
Because they drafted or signed too many players not on that list.
True story: After they were eliminated from playoff contention, the Dolphins reported back to work last Wednesday morning. And every single player was in his seat for the first team meeting of the week well before it began. And most seemed ready to take notes.
And several coaches privately asked themselves, “Where’s this been all season?”
This issue with professionalism and steadfastness to the assignment and details isn’t always hidden behind closed door meetings. You saw an example of it Sunday night when Jarvis Landry and Kenyan Drake got ejected from the game against Buffalo.
Both players had legitimate grievances. And if either was involved in a street incident, I’d understand them acting in self defense — Landry taking a poke at a Buffalo defender who hit him in the throat and Drake and others coming to Landry’s aid.
The problem is this happened at an NFL game, not some Fort Lauderdale beach bar. The problem is Landry and Drake got ejected with over six minutes to play.
So the Dolphins lost two key offensive weapons because both lost their cool. Neither maintained his professionalism.
“I don’t really know what happened, man. I was just [peeved] off that it took place,” said Dolphins center Mike Pouncey. “You have seven minutes left in the game and there’s no place for that. Honestly. It’s just a common sense thing. You don’t ... It’s a football game. You don’t need that out there. You just don’t.
“I think both those guys, I just think you get caught up in the moment, it’s a division game for us, emotions get brought into it and a lot of guys want to win this football game. It’s just that as a football team, we have to be smarter in those situations. You have to know we can’t have guys get kicked out of the game at that point. Hopefully both those guys will learn from it.”
Here’s the parallel problem:
The Dolphins culture doesn’t correct players quickly or strongly enough. You remember Rey Maualuga getting cut after he was arrested at a club at 8:30 in the morning on a practice day? Well, that wasn’t Maualuga’s first incident.
He was often out all night and everyone in the Dolphins building knew it. He was multiple times late to meetings. But he remained on the team — coaches and administrators putting up with the unprofessional behavior — until it became a legal matter that involved an arrest.
This is as much a team culture problem as the pervasive penalties we’ve seen for two seasons. The Dolphins are an undisciplined team that was second in the NFL in penalties this year after being second in penalties last season.
Adam Gase has said he hates the pre-snap penalties and he should because they suggest a player not ready to compete even before the ball is snapped, which reflects poorly on coaching. But Gase has also said penalties of aggression don’t bother him much because he wants an aggressive team.
They all should bother Gase because they’re symptoms of a discipline problem that got his team to 6-10.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero