This is a curious business model the Miami Dolphins seem to have going here. Give them this much credit, at least. It is a bold and ground-breaking direction — one likely far too daring for other NFL teams to emulate.
The apparent strategy:
Get better by systematically getting rid of all of your best players.
Hey, it could prove to be a genius move. It could. Addition by subtraction, or something like that. Alas, until and unless it does prove to be a genius move, the Dolphins volunteer themselves as a laughingstock.
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First Miami rids itself of the burden of having a gifted, dynamic young running back in Jay Ajayi. Then the Fins trade a prolific, productive young receiver in Jarvis Landry (getting in return a used tackling sled and a box of kicking tees). Now the team reportedly plans to release behemoth run-stopping force Ndamukong Suh, who consistently has been the team’s best and steadiest defensive player — and whom Pro Football Focus rated No. 5 among 122 NFL interior linemen in 2017. Speculation is that center Mike Pouncey could be next out the door. All four of these guys have made the Pro Bowl for Miami, which seems to be bucking the trend by behaving as if talent and playmaking ability are overrated commodities.
Each move can be explained, I suppose, if not justified. Ajayi was a complainer. Landry was about to get very pricey. Suh is 31. Pouncey has had an injury history. Collectively, though, this is Miami parting ways with its top tier in terms of talent — men who were far closer to the solution than the problem. This also is Miami losing much of what little starpower it had and becoming one of the most uninteresting, low-watt teams in football.
Anybody honestly believe the Fins are better without Ajayi, Landry and Suh? It’s like you own a car dealership and your first order of business is to fire your most productive, top-earning salesmen.
Can we give the people running the Dolphins organization a group Breathalyzer?
I thought the idea was to keep the wheat and get rid of the chaff. To build around your top talent.
The Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon this offseason, but at least everybody knew why. New boss Derek Jeter said it was to stock a barren farm system. Marlins fans brayed collective laughter, knowing very well that the fire sale was just a massive salary dump to increase the new owners’ profit margin even as it shamefully decimated what would have been a competitive team.
The Dolphins’ rebuild is being sold as a culture shift, a weeding out of problem children.
Winning creates culture, of course, not vice versa. Nobody complained about the culture when Miami went 10-6 and made the playoffs in Adam Gase’s first season as coach. But the Dolphins go 6-10 his sophomore year and now it’s a culture issue?
The rebuild also is being sold as a strategy to create salary cap room so Miami can be a major player in the free agency period that commences Wednesday. The trouble is, it’s a grand leap of faith, given this club’s recent track record, to trust those cap dollars will be put to smart and great use and bring in talent that exceeds that of Ajayi, Landry and Suh.
It must be seen to be believed. That is the residue of doubt in a franchise that hasn’t really been relevant in pro football for 15-plus years now.
The default assumption of so many Dolfans has become one of low expectations. I have no doubt some fans are happy to be rid of Ajayi, Landry and Suh, and think Miami will kick butt in free agency, and then enjoy a great draft, and that this rebuild will forge a path to sustained winning. But I would only bet everything I own that those optimists are far from a majority.
Credibility is achieved and maintained via results — truer in the relentlessly quantifiable orbit of sports than in most endeavors.
So if Bill Belichick gets rid of Ajayi, Landry and Suh, you assume a method to the madness and lend all benefit of doubt. He has earned that.
When Miami does it, you go, “Huh?,” because it looks and feels like more of the same stuff that has the Dolphins stuck in a rut and spinning wheels.