For The Dolphins It’s Now Or Next Year

Michael EgnewWhen we dropped the game to the Colts, I was disappointed, but not heartbroken. We missed some opportunities, and we could not seem to stop Luck converting those big downs – the weakness that has and continues to be our secondary. Point is, it was a game we could have won. It was close, and for the most part I was pleased with the effort, the heart, that most of the team played with.
I said that the Titans game was a must-win game for a playoff contention. It really was, and we embarrassed ourselves. The offense seemed stale, no one looked prepared, and no one looked like they had the heart to put the team on their shoulders and carry it for us. Bush was benched for most of the game, a decision that I personally am not entirely on board with. This loss, to a team that had struggled in every facet of the game all season long, was the turning point in our season. The road gets harder. The loss to the Bills was much the same in way of disappointment, disappointment over the effort and how prepared we appeared to be as a team.
I just read an article by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, in which he asserts that the season is done and, as such, it’s time to get a good look now at the youth on the depth chart before free agency and the draft.
I concur to a point; I am looking towards this weekend’s matchup with the Seahawks as the indicator to call it a done season. At 4-6, and with a tough schedule ahead, I do not like our chances of making it. We lost winnable games to easier opponents; they are the games that champions win. But as I wrote last week, consider the expectations at the start of the season: no one thought this was a playoff team anyway, this was a rebuilding year. Fine, but this team has played some really good football at times. Inconsistent, but the talent is there.
Now, I am not a proponent for tanking a season to get good draft picks, actually I abhor it. Play to win – you should always play to win. However, I am a proponent of doing, of bringing along and developing youth. If it is clear that someone on the roster is underperforming and merely standing in the way of the next generation, then when the ultimate goal of a season, the playoffs, are beyond reach, you sit them and play your youngsters. Why not? With free agency and a draft between the end of the season and the start of the next, you might as well find out exactly what holes need filling. Is TE a huge need? We know that Fasano is not in the same mold as, say, Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis or Rob Gronkowski, but could Egnew be? Might we actually get a chance to see any flashes of what he can do before the season’s over? Will Bush be in Miami next season? No? Then let’s get Miller more involved, let’s bring him along a bit more; if it’s good for Ryan Tannehill then it’s gotta be good for the rest of the guys.
Here’s why we wait until after this bout before we turn to pure evaluation of the youth.
1) The Seahawks are a bad road team, 1-4 this season. Not only are they a very beatable team, but we have the advantage of having not made a long trip. They will be playing in Florida’s heat as well. At 5-6, you don’t just throw in the towel.
2) We still have the Patriots twice, and they have just lost their star TE Gronkowski. He won’t be able to play in the first game, and there is a possibility that he may not be back for the second one, either. Their other starting TE, Hernandez, has also struggled to stay healthy this season. The Patriots will still be a tough opponent, but this definitely improves our chances. I don’t like injuries, so to Gronkowski I wish a full return to health… just not before week 17, okay?
3) If we have Tannehill’s best interest at heart, then we play the best team we can around him. Developing him will be that much harder if his confidence is getting knocked by the sub par poor play of a team of rookies. That said, the last two games will have done nothing for his confidence at all,  and that was with the veterans.
4) A playoff birth still exists for the Dolphins, it’s highly improbable that we can get it, but it does still exist. As long as it does, it’s worth playing for – in the NFL there is only one title, one reason for playing the game, so damn it, you play your guts out every game to try and reach it.
But if we do sink to 4-7, then I say go for it. Right now, we have a mountain to climb, and its unlikely we can do it from here. But a loss on Sunday, and that mountain becomes Everest. Tannehill can start developing the rapport with the guys that actually will be his teammates for years to come – that’s important. WR Matthews got in the game against the Bills and looked competent, let’s see some more.
Always play to win… putting in your younger guys may not give you the best chance of winning, but they will play their hearts out, I’m sure. We will get to really evaluate what we have in terms of talent moving forward into the offseason and maybe, just maybe, we get some really pleasant surprises out of it.
It’s just food for thought. But if the Dolphins are serious about being more than just a 6-10 to 8-8 team season in and season out, perhaps it’s about time we take some serious steps to ensure that we are doing everything possible to really evaluate the players we already do have. Best case scenario, we learn great things about the nucleus of young players on the roster and go into free agency a little less concerned about some of the perceived holes and a middle round draft pick. Worst case scenario, the young guys fall flat, and consequently, we flounder the rest of the season, so what? We then know exactly what to do in free agency, and we get that coveted high draft pick. We can do all this without compromising our integrity, the way the Colts did last season.

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For The Dolphins It’s Now Or Next Year