This one ended with a once-proud defense shredded on the field and questioned from within off it. It ended with the team’s highest-paid player out of the game, sitting on the bench after he had words with a coach and the quarterback.
This loss left a feeling that there is incompetence at the very top of this franchise seeping down through the ranks and nothing about that is about to change anytime soon.
At the end of this 37-24 drubbing of the Dolphins by the New York Jets, the winners gathered around their coach and celebrated. They hugged Rex Ryan. They high-fived him. They showed him love even though he’ll likely soon be fired.
Dolphins players, meanwhile, were requesting anonymity or speaking through a teammate (more on that in a minute) or even skipping out of the locker room as soon as possible because, while they have complaints about the team’s direction or coach Joe Philbin or his assistants, they also know the head coach isn’t going anywhere because ownership endorsed him despite losing three of the final four games this year and missing the playoffs three consecutive seasons.
“Man, I’m part of this team and this organization,” one player said. “And I don’t understand how the [heck] some decisions that get made around here get made. And I ain’t alone, neither.”
And that leads me to this: If your temptation is to equate this season’s awful and embarrassing 8-8 record with last year’s mediocre and somewhat less disappointing 8-8 record, resist that with all your might.
This year’s 8-8 is much worse than the seemingly same record of a season ago.
The Dolphins fell to this year’s .500 mark after wasting precious years for Brent Grimes and Cameron Wake.
They’re .500 despite the fact quarterback Ryan Tannehill improved. They are 8-8 despite having a 1,000-yard runner.
In other words, what’s it going to take to rise out of this awful mediocrity? How close to rotting are other areas of the team when improvement by the quarterback, running back and Pro Bowl years by Wake and Grimes don’t get you any better?
Something is amiss within the bones of this franchise that we do not see. Oh, we see the symptoms of what’s wrong on game days.
But the patient is sick and apparently no one knows how to fully cure the disease.
The bad news doesn’t stop there because as seasons lead to dead ends we see issues that, let’s face it, aren’t about to get solved.
How else to put it when the lack of agreement between quarterback Ryan Tannehill and receiver Mike Wallace that was only a simmering suggestion in the duo’s inability to connect on deep passes, was brought to a boil at the end of the first half when the quarterback targeted Wallace only once.
It is unclear what words the two exchanged because neither wanted to discuss the incident, but Wallace and assistant receiver coach Phil McGeoghan had a heated exchange. And Philbin tried in vain to calm Wallace.
And Wallace, continuing to voice his displeasure, either no longer wanted to play or got benched
“You know, um, differences in opinion led us to Mike probably not playing in the second half,” said receiver Brandon Gibson. “So that was a decision by the coaches.
“That was kind of the way we went.”
Why, you may ask, is Gibson discussing this rather than Wallace? Because Wallace asked him to. And so the duo conducted a locker room news conference shoulder to shoulder with reporters asking Wallace questions and Gibson answering for his teammate.
“Just don’t want my dog to say anything wrong,” Gibson said, explaining the strategy.
Seriously, whatever you may think of Mike Wallace, he is an explosive deep threat receiver. The Dolphins have been misusing him for two years. Tannehill has some sort of mental block about completing deep passes to him.
And so in the final game Wallace lets his emotions off the leash. If he quit, there is no excuse for that. If he was benched, that was a bad decision.
The question now is whether Wallace and Tannehill will have problems next year.
“I don’t think so,” Tannehill said. “That’s what teammates do.
“You stick together and you find a way to make it happen. [Sunday’s events] happened, but moving forward I don’t have any question about it.”
We’ll see. I’m more optimistic Tannehill and Wallace can get straightened out than the Miami defense can in one offseason.
That defense has been steadily, inexorably broken by this coaching staff.
It was good when they got here. It allowed 28, 41, 35 and 37 points the last four games of this season and Sunday’s performance was so terrible it made inept New York quarterback Geno Smith seem like a latter-day Joe Namath.
“I feel like there definitely needs to be a change,” linebacker Phillip Wheeler said. “I think we should change some of the ways we do things. [Defensive coordinator Kevin] Coyle is a solid coach. I think we got solid players. I believe in what we can do.
“But at times, even Coach Coyle will say we’re not in the best defense. At times it’s us as players not executing well. It might be the way we’re learning.”
How does that make you feel?
Despite the same record, it should make you feel worse than you felt a year ago.