Are the Miami Dolphins better than anybody? Anybody at all?
There is a good possibility, by which I mean an awful possibility, that South Florida is home to the worst team in the NFL this season for the first time since the 1-15 embarrassment of Cam Cameron's 2007.
Miami is 1-4 now after Sunday's dispiriting 30-17 home loss to the lowly Tennessee Titans and should be 0-5, but for the plain luck of an overtime home win over miserable Cleveland due only to the charity of the Browns missing easy field goals.
The Dolphins keep sinking. Sunday's final score flattered the team's abysmal performance in an afternoon wrapped in booing and chanting -- the sounds of mounting frustration, and impatience rising from simmer to boil.
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"We can't get out of our own way right now," as first-year coach Adam Gase put it post-mortem on Sunday -- accurately.
The booing and chanting targeted Ryan Tannehill, of course, because the frustration has to go someplace, so it goes to the easy place, finds the biggest target. Sunday, though, Tannehill made it easy, invited it, with a pair of interceptions and a season-high six sacks, some owing to his maddening tendency to hold onto the football too long.
Tannehill is in danger of becoming scarred, every which way. Sunday marked his 200th career sack in less than 4 1/2 seasons, not a milestone to celebrate. But the physical pounding is compounded when you hear the doubt, the booing. When you hear the crowd erupt as it did Sunday into a "We want Moore!" chant for backup QB Matt Moore.
Miami doesn't need Moore. Miami needs more -- more of everything. More blocking. More tackling. Just more.
There is no quarterback controversy. To his credit, Gase stamped out that fire before it could even smolder when asked Sunday if he ever considered taking Tannehill out of the game.
"Nope," he said. "He's not coming out. You can ask me a hundred times. He's going to be in there the rest of the season."
It isn't just Tannehill. It's everybody, everything, including Tannehill, who is now 30-39 in his career and oh-for-the-playoffs. It might start with him, but the surrounding mess is so deep and wide that it consumes an entire team and franchise. There is little doubt Tannehill may be playing for his future, but the problems all across the roster are such, you could argue Tannehill is closer to the least of them than the biggest.
The offensive line can't protect its quarterback and can't run the ball. After Sunday, these Dolphins are now on pace to average fewer rushing yards per game than any Dolphins team in the club's 51 seasons. I know. Miami was missing two line starters Sunday. But that's part of the point. Good teams have the depth to make up for such things. The Miamis of the league do not.
One of Miami's TDs Sunday was a gorgeous punt-return score by Jakeem Grant. That means this offense has scored a lone TD in three of five games.
At one point during the latest sleepy offensive show Sunday, the loudspeakers played the dance anthem "Jump Around" at a time when the offense wasn't even doing enough to muster modest applause. Asking this crowd to "Jump Around" right then was like beseeching a cadaver to sit bolt upright.
Contrast the Dolphins' flaccid running game to the offensive ground domination we saw from (of all teams) Tennessee. The Titans ran for 235 yards and 5.7 per carry, the Fins helpless to halt them. On one series the Titans had 10 consecutive carries for 71 yards -- men against boys. Miami's defense also allowed three touchdown passes by Marcus Mariota. What has been a weak Titans offense was made to look unstoppable in one of the worst all-round defensive performances in memory.
Did I mention Miami's alleged all-star defensive line featuring Ndamukong Suh, Cam Wake and Mario Williams had zero sacks Sunday and put little pressure on Mariota?
And now this monumentally disappointing defense faces Ben Roethlisberger and mighty Pittsburgh next? Good lord.
"We need to make a big stride," noted Tannehill, of the team in general. ""All it takes ia one good week."
This, theoretically, would have been a very well-timed week for that, versus a Tennessee team that also was 1-3. The thing is, there are no easy opponents for Miami. Every game is losable. Who is Miami better than? Seriously. If I give you Cleveland ... who else?
Meanwhile Tom Brady returned from his four-game suspension rust-free Sunday, throwing for about 6,000 yards and 63 touchdowns for a New England Patriots team that continues to be better than Miami to roughly the degree Usain Bolt continues to run faster than I do.
One night earlier at Hard Rock Stadium, even in defeat, we saw a Miami Hurricanes program on the rise.
Sunday it was Hard Luck Stadium again as the Dolphins fouled it with a continuation of the quagmire Dolfans have endured for most of this century.
And so there was booing, yes. And chanting.
"Just got to keep playing. Keep my focus," Tannehill said of the dissonant noise aimed his way. "Do I like it? No. But it doesn't affect how I play or what I think of myself. Coach has confidence in me. I have confidence in myself. I think the guys have confidence in me."
The thing is, all of that faith and confidence is tested and challenged by games like Sunday's, and by 1-4 starts that make it seem like a fifth straight season out of the playoffs will be this team's lot under Tannehill's guidance.
The winning has to start someplace, sometime, somewhere, somehow.
It should have happened Sunday, at home, vs. the Titans.
Instead, it was one of those games that can get people fired, and make even loyal fans boo.
I don't know if the Miami Dolphins deserve any better than they got Sunday.
But I know their fans sure as hell do.