Armando Salguero

Maybe next season for the Miami Dolphins? Reasons not to get your hopes up

The Miami Dolphins believe Ryan Tannehill, injured the past two seasons, can be a championship caliber quarterback.
The Miami Dolphins believe Ryan Tannehill, injured the past two seasons, can be a championship caliber quarterback. AP

That frustration you’re carrying today? That disquiet you cannot shake but also cannot fully identify even as it refuses to go away?

It’s there because you’re a Miami Dolphins fan.

Or a New York Jets fan.

Or a Buffalo Bills fan.

Your team plays in the AFC East. And deep down in your spirit there’s a knowing that no matter what happens in Super Bowl 52 in 13 days, no matter what happens this offseason in free agency or the draft, no matter how well your team practices next training camp, you really have no chance.

Your team has zero chance to win the Super Bowl next season.

Your team has no real chance to win the AFC East next year, either.

Your team will be playing for second place in the division. Again.

Because, barring an injury or unforeseen bitter divorce between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, nothing is going to change for the 2018 NFL season. The dynamics are going to be like they were during the 2017 season. And 2016. And ’15...

...And practically every year since 2001 when the Patriots happened upon the scene and began writing NFL history for the new millennium.

You know this is true. You know it to be the case because you’ve lived it and you’re tired of it. But you know it simply is not going to stop until Brady or Belichick or both go away.

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks about the Fins' bizarre season and Jarvis Landry's ejection after their final game of the season, a loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Your team has no chance of beating them. We know this. It’s proven. Oh, there might be a small, meaningless win here or there. But the narrative-changer? The seismic power shift?

That’s not coming because of anything that will happen in Buffalo or Miami or New Jersey this offseason. Those franchises are bit players in the New England legend. Nothing more.

Blips on the radar screen of NFL history.

And the only thing that will change the course of New England’s reign is time. Tom Brady has to get, well, even older than his 40 years. Belichick has to get older or bored or something that makes him simply gone.

Then things might shift. But not until then.

This sounds defeatist. And right now the puffed-up chest crowd is lying to themselves, saying anything can happen when we regather for a new season. They’re saying fortunes can change unpredictably. They’re saying no one knows what will happen.

But sanity and reality know different. Because both have witnessed the past 17 years. And nothing that’s about to happen — in Foxborough, but just as importantly in Miami, Buffalo and New Jersey — is going to change things .

Let’s start with Foxborough: Hey look, the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl. That’s different and refreshing, right?

No. It isn’t.

Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins coach, talks to the media about injured quarterback Ryan Tannehill's surgery on Aug. 28, 2017.

It’s the same old story that has repeated over and over and over. The Patriots are going to their eighth Super Bowl since 2001. Said another way, Brady has completed 16 uninjured seasons in his career and this will be his eighth Super Bowl trip in those 16 years.

Brady passed childhood hero Joe Montana long ago. He’s trying to catch 1950-60s Bill Russell, folks.

But forget that Super Bowl thing because, let’s face it, the Bills, Dolphins and Jets are nowhere near that level. It will be years, many years, before any of these teams can raise themselves to that kind of level.

For the Dolphins, I’ll be long gone from the beat, before they matter in a championship conversation. I know this.

I know it because I’ve seen how things have played out in the past and see how things are playing out now. And this franchise’s current course suggests it’s not going to be Super Bowl relevant for years because there is no plan for doing that. None.

So forget that dream Super Bowl trip, people. Not happening.

And, you have a right to disregard my opinion. After all, that’s all it is. But I’ve seen how things work from relatively close quarters. You haven’t. And I know that based on what I see, I have a good idea how things are going to go.

I remind you two years ago, before Adam Gase coached his first regular-season game in Miami, I told you the Dolphins offense was going to struggle for a while and the team was going to feel like the early 1980s Washington Redskins, who lost a lot under Joe Gibbs early in his first year and then got things right after a couple of months.

I told you those Dolphins also would figure it out after a couple of months. And this is precisely what happened.

Before the 2017 season, I told you even if the Dolphins were better (on paper), they might get worse results in Gase’s second season. No, I never thought they’d be 6-10 because who could predict a QB who didn’t have surgery to repair his ACL would succumb to another ACL injury. But last season was never going to be an uptick from 10-6 regardless of the QB.

It just wasn’t.

And next season isn’t going to be a 13-3, 12-4, 11-5 renaissance from what we saw in 2017. It just isn’t.

The Dolphins are surely going to do all they can to improve. They’ve already made the coaching staff better. But ...

This team is just ... wrong.

It’s hard to describe. It’s hard to pinpoint. But I know they are not right.

Bill Parcells once explained to me how team-building is way more than simply collecting the most talent. And, despite his failures in Miami, he was absolutely right about this.

How many times do you watch the Dolphins lose and scratch your head because they are more talented than the team that just beat them? It happened twice against Buffalo last season alone.

And there are other bothersome things about the Dolphins that aren’t going to be right anytime soon.

They pay some players like they’re elite and those players are most definitely not elite.

They think some players are great and, frankly, they’re not great.

They don’t always maximize some of their other talent. (We saw this when Kenyan Drake had little presence in the offense while Jay Ajayi was on the team. I believe I see it with Jakeem Grant.)

They devalue some players that need to play but don’t. They value other players that shouldn’t be playing but do.

They have problems that go years and years and years without ever being resolved — yeah, when is the last time the Dolphins had an effective tight end? Or they covered the opposing tight end? Or they found a defensive end not named Cameron Wake? Or they got the offensive line right?

(None of those problems exist for lack of trying. They’ve tried to fix all those problems. They’ve thrown tons of resources at the issues. And, still, not right.)

Another thing about the Dolphins that’s wrong: They pay a defensive tackle as if he was a quarterback.

And that’s just stuff off the top of my head. It’s crazy.

So this team is just ... wrong.

And you think they’re going to topple the Patriots?

The three AFC East teams not named New England are at a severe disadvantage because of two major issues:

New England’s head coach is better.

New England’s quarterback is way better.

The three wannabe contenders, meanwhile, are led by fine coordinators.

Adam Gase is proven as an offensive coordinator. Todd Bowles and Sean McDermott are proven defensive coordinators. But none has proven anything as a head coach.

Belichick, meanwhile, has a few pelts on the wall. He has a system. He’s instilled a culture. He maximizes players. And he’s a cold-blooded assassin who uses up players and unemotionally replaces them as if they were a set of tires on his truck.

The same Belichick who coveted Wes Welker in 2007 turned his back on Wes Welker six years later because Welker wanted more money than Belichick wanted to pay. There was no wringing of hands that a player who caught a million passes was headed to rival Denver.

Within days of Welker signing with Denver for more money, Belichick signed Danny Amendola for less money. And he re-signed and promoted little proven Julian Edelman.

Both Amendola and Edelman have signed lower-tier contracts and then restructured — yeah, pay cuts — at various times.

They restructured because if they didn’t they would have been cut. And Dolphins fans are freaking about Jarvis Landry? And Gase last year was freaking that Kenny Stills might go elsewhere?

The Pats wash, rinse, repeat.

Richard Seymour? Too much money. Traded.

Jamie Collins? Too much money. Traded.

Chandler Jones? Too much money. Traded.

Super Bowl hero Dont’a Hightower? Too much money. Let him go into free agency and when his price comes way, way down, then re-sign him.

Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler? Too much money. No extension. In fact, we’ll sign Stephon Gilmore off the rival (not really) Bills and wave the contract in Butler’s face. Will he be upset? We don’t care. He’ll play because he wants to get paid — even if it’s someone else paying him.

My goodness, the Patriots even get Brady to take less money. His cap number this year was $14 million.

Ndamukong Suh’s cap number with the Dolphins this year was $19.1 million.

Brady’s cap number next season will be $22 million. Suh’s 2018 cap number is scheduled to be $26.1 million.

This is one team weighing a player’s ability and the importance of his position and underpaying. Meanwhile another team weighs another player’s ability and the importance of his position and overpays.

None of this says Suh isn’t a good player. None of this blames him for getting the most money he could.

All of this is on the Dolphins simply being ... wrong.

And you wonder why one team wins and all the others don’t?

The Bills don’t have a quarterback because they paid Tyrod Taylor in free agency and thought that would solve things. The Jets don’t have a quarterback because they drafted Geno Smith and Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg and missed on all of them.

The Dolphins don’t have a quarterback because ... oh, wait. The Dolphins believe they have a quarterback.

Look, I like Ryan Tannehill. He’s shown himself to be mostly solid and even good at times.

But no one can make the case he’s elite. No one can show any evidence he’s championship caliber. That’s not a knock. Look, I’m not Pulitzer Prize caliber. You know why? I’ve never freaking won one. That’s a fact.

Just like it’s a fact Tannehill is not championship caliber because he’s never freaking won one.

But the Dolphins believe Tannehill can be championship caliber.

So the same team that believed in Jay Cutler, believed in Matt Moore, believed in Julius Thomas, believed in Jordan Cameron before that, believed in Dallas Thomas, believed in Billy Turner, believed in Lawrence Timmons, believed Koa Misi could stay healthy, believed in Byron Maxwell, believed in Mario Williams, believed Laremy Tunsil was a future Hall of Famer, believed in Sam Young, then cut Sam Young, then signed Sam Young, then found out Sam Young’s not bad (talk about being all over the place), wants you to believe that what they believe is right.

No.

Sorry. I believe everything they do requires skepticism. That’s what 6-10 has earned the Dolphins.

And what have the New England Patriots earned?

They’ve earned me thinking nothing is going to change with them or in the AFC East until Tom Brady and Bill Belichick go away.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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