Greg Cote

Desperate, all-out search for reasons to believe intensifies as Dolphins season nears

A lifelong New York Knicks fan, Evan Perlmutter, put his fan allegiance for sale on eBay this week. For a winning bid of $3,450, the 33-year-old gentleman says he now roots for the Los Angeles Lakers.

I mention this as a public service for any Miami Dolphins fans out there who may be both cash-strapped and at a breaking point with frustration over their team.

The Knicks last won an NBA championship in 1972-73 and have mostly been mired in shades of irrelevant mediocrity since the dawn of the 21st Century. Sound familiar, Dolfans?

While Miami Hurricanes fans overflow with hopefulness on the college side, Dolphins fans are searching for some of that with off a 6-10 season and with their team 0-3 this preseason entering Thursday night’s fake-game finale in Atlanta, a mostly sit-the-starters affair designed to settle fringe roster spots. Whether the Dolphins win might not matter a whole lot, but this is notable:

The Fins have finished 0-4 in exhibition play only three times in 52 franchise seasons (1966, 1989, 2012), and in none of those years did Miami make the playoffs or have a winning record. Small sample size, but it’s pretty clear that if you haven’t found a way to win in August, chances are you won’t find a magic light switch once the real games begin.

That, and last week’s dispiriting 27-10 home spanking by Baltimore, means coach Adam Gase is looking for a preseason-closing performance that will give his team (and its fans) something to feel good about. A puff of tailwind as the Sept. 9 season opener vs. Tennessee chugs into view.

“We just didn’t have a very good game last week,” Gase said. “They didn’t have a great outing and we we have to make sure that we play better.”

One of the bright spots is rising running back Kenyan Drake, 24, who has rushed 15 times for 102 yards this preseason and will be the first Dolphin to go in most fantasy drafts. He shows signs of being a future star — such a needed thing on what has become a relatively low-watt roster. Drake likes his team’s outlook, for what it’s worth.

I feel like the stars are our ceiling, honestly,” he says.

Me, I feel like 9-7 is the ceiling, if Ryan Tannehill (who has looked sharp) stays healthy in his comeback season and everything else goes right.

Most, though, set the Fins’ ceiling much lower. Bump-your-head low. ESPN ranks Miami a dead-last No. 32 in its Power Rankings, an ignominy ordinarily reserved for the Cleveland Browns. That isn’t as ceiling; it’s a cellar.

The Dolphins have zero players among the NFL’s Top 100 for 2018, says the same ESPN, while two Dolphins discards (Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry) both make it. Ouch.

Miami is counting on a lot of very young players (Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jerome Baker, Mike Gesicki, Raekwon McMillan) to be really good really fast. Miami also is counting on a lot of aging guys to still contribute majorly, including Cam Wake, Frank Gore, Danny Amendola and Josh Sitton. In between, there is a lack of Pro Bowl-caliber players in their prime, with Reshad Jones the exception.

Meantime the run defense has been abysmal this preseason and the offense — as sharp as Tannehill has been — has converted only six of 36 third-down chances. That’s awful. Did I mention that DeVante Parker is hurt again? Or does that go without saying by now?

Hope is fragile mainly because it relies on Tannehill’s health, with the backup quarterback situation seeming bad enough to nearly leave one wistful for Jay Cutler.

Although I do think the Dolphins will exceed exceedingly low expectations set by the national media, I would also say that little about the offseason or preseason beyond the return of Tannehill has provided much enthusiasm.

As exhibition play ebbs and the real games arrive, Dolphins fans still ache for something so simple, yet elusive:

Reasons to believe.

Follow the writer on Twitter @gregcote

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