One of the enduring frustrations Miami Dolphins fans have had this millennium has been that, with rare exceptions, their team is mostly just mediocre.
The Dolphins since 1994 to present have a 196-196 record.
So 25 seasons of what? Mediocrity.
And this year, with a 4-4 record at the halfway point in the season, the team is what? Mediocre.
With what? A head coach whose record is 20-20.
We are on a merry-go-round, folks, and this stinks because the Miami Dolphins are supposed to be an NFL franchise and not a lame carnival ride.
So the assignment should be to escape the mediocrity because mediocrity is obviously not as good as excellence and, counter to intuition, it also is not as good as being terrible.
Sounds crazy but it’s true. Mediocrity is worse than utter futility.
Why? Because utter futility has wonderful benefits for NFL teams.
Terrible teams pick very high in the NFL draft. Terrible teams often have terrible players they can jettison and create tons of salary cap space.
Terrible teams are rewarded by the NFL’s system with a path to greatness if they make the right moves.
What are the benefits of mediocrity?
The Dolphins are looking at another year of not-bad but also not-good results. And that’s going to get them a slot somewhere in the mid to late teens again in next April’s first round of the draft. And in free agency, the team that spent a big amount for players that delivered the 14th most cap space at present (according to overthecap.com), will have to make a sizable number of moves next offseason to find itself where?
Around the middle of the pack in available cap space for 2019.
Cap space, you must understand, is important for teams wanting to improve in free agency. And it’s not just about cap space but cap space relative to other teams. Because if the Dolphins have $25 million in space, that may sound like a lot, but if they’re competing with teams that have $60 million in cap space, they’re not likely to land the players they really want.
So, again, for the 2019 offseason the mediocre Dolphins on a 25-year streak of mediocrity will probably get a middle of the pack draft slot and have middle of the pack salary cap space.
I hate to break it to you folks, but that strongly suggests things are going to stay on a largely mediocre course for the foreseeable future.
Something amazing to the point of being miraculous would have to happen for the Dolphins to break out of their swirling vortex of mediocrity.
I’m talking utter craziness like the Colts would have to offer Andrew Luck to Miami or something. And then the Broncos would have to decide Von Miller would look really cool in a Dolphins jersey the remainder of his career.
Either that fantasy comes true or the people who run the Dolphins would have to get seriously aggressive to the point of gambling their jobs to break free of mediocrity’s strong grip by going in the other direction.
And I doubt that will happen.
Why do I doubt it? Because folks like their jobs. And they like collecting million-dollar salaries.
And so they do everything they can to what?
Keep from sinking into the muck of terrible so that they can eventually rise to the glory of greatness.
Because there is no guarantee that dive into the muck -- even when done as part of a plan -- will work. And there’s no guarantee the architects that dive will be allowed to remain long enough to enjoy the benefits of high draft picks and big salary cap room by a team owner who is 78 years old and wants to win now.
So what does that all mean?
Get ready for more mediocrity.
The current NFL trade deadline is a perfect example of the Dolphins being unable to escape the cycle of mediocrity.
Coach Adam Gase seemed to say Monday that he likes the status quo of his team.
“I like where we’re at right now,” he said. “I like this group. I’d like to stay healthy from here on out. I don’t think we have much more room for losing guys for the year. I think we’ve maxed out on that.
“For the most part, I feel like we have the right guys. We just have to clean up … Especially on defense, we have to clean up a couple of things that could help us prevent these explosive plays because that’s hurting us more than anything.”
And I cannot argue with this logic. Gase is a competitor. He wants to win now. He’s not going to willingly be part of a organizational tanking during the remainder of the 2018 season -- especially it might cost him his job.
He’s more likely hoping the Dolphins add talent and try to save this season even when most of us understand any player the Dolphins might realistically add isn’t going to raise them from mediocrity.
So the 4-4 Dolphins this trade deadline are -- barring a pleasant surprise -- going to do nothing or keep doing things that will keep them on their familiar mediocre track.
Except that’s exactly not what they should be doing if they want to, you know, have a chance to ever escape mediocre.
If I am running the Miami Dolphins today, I’m selling. Hard.
I know other NFL general managers are smarter than I am. So they’re not going to unload their better players. They’re going to unload problem players, declining players, player who need a change of scenery or come with injury concerns.
So I’m not buying those guys for my mediocre team.
I’m selling those guys off my mediocre team. I’m trying really hard to trade wide receiver DeVante Parker.
The Dolphins have taken phone calls on Parker. But they say privately those calls were initiated by other teams.
I want the Dolphins calling everybody -- including the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. I want to offer Parker to 31 other teams and trade him if I can get my price
And I understand, with Kenny Stills nursing a groin injury, the Dolphins need more not fewer receivers. But Parker is an asset.
And after he caught six passes for 134 yards last week against Houston, his value is the highest it has been in a long time. So I want a second-round pick for him.
No, I don’t take a third-rounder unless that team has what looks to be a high third coming next year.
The point is DeVante Parker does not make it out of Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline with this team because he is simply not part of the future in Miami. He just isn’t.
So why keep him? Because he might help you remain mediocre this season?
I’d even offer Gase an appeasement and trade for Denver’s Demaryius Thomas. No, I’m not giving up the second or third for Thomas. If he’s traded, Thomas will probably go for a third-day pick -- maybe a fifth- or sixth-rounder.
So I’d be trading Parker and a fifth-rounder for Thomas and a second- or high third-rounder.
Neither Parker nor Thomas are going to be on the 2019 Miami Dolphins. But at least I got a good draft pick for the moves.
Oh, yeah, I’m also offering Ryan Tannehill in trade. He’s not it, folks. I’ve already said the Dolphins are not going to win a Super Bowl with him at quarterback. And he’s going to cost $26 million on the cap next year.
So maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars offer a third-round pick for him. Maybe they go quarterback blind. Maybe the Giants, or Broncos would take him for a third.
Brock Osweiler is not your future and is obviously not better than Tannehill over the long term. But I can live with him for two months as the starter the remainder of this season.
And what would this mean? It would mean the Dolphins are going to sink like a rock these last eight weeks of the season. They are going to lose. They’d probably lose a lot more than if they had Tannehill.
I’m fine with that because to escape a quarter-century of blah one needs to do something outside the box and unorthodox.
And a third-round pick for Tannehill plus a second- or third-round pick for Parker, plus a record that is going to be well below mediocre the final eight games is going to get us closer to that.
If someone wants to pay a fourth-round pick for Frank Gore, I’m doing that. Doubt someone would pay it, but the Dolphins have Kalen Ballage in the wings and, well, you get my drift.
If I’m running the 2018 Miami Dolphins starting today, I am aggressively selling at the trade deadline. Because I’ve seen the past 25 years.
And I already understand that standing your ground for the sake of mediocrity is insanity. That ground is not worth protecting.