There is building a franchise. Don Shula did that and it resulted in a couple of Super Bowl titles.
There is rebuilding a franchise. Jimmy Johnson did that and the nucleus of players he brought in were flawed on offense, very good on defense, and ultimately good enough overall to contend for playoffs spots from 1997 through 2003.
What we have now, however, is something much different. What we are seeing with the Miami Dolphins now is in some respects rebuilding position that we though had already been rebuilt. Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland are in the midst of doing that and so far the results are mixed.
Miami's dynamic and enigmatic personnel duo corrected a lot of wrongs their first season, turning a 1-15 disaster into a division winner and playoff team. But last year was a step-back season as the Dolphins dropped to third place in the AFC East with a 7-9 record. (Some of you may not accept it was a step-back year, but the facts are impossible to ignore.)
Now, after two years of building the team as they would want it, the Dolphins find themselves in the curious position of rebuilding the same team.
After two years on the job, Parcells and Ireland got about the business this offseason of rebuilding practically the entire defense. The defensive coordinator is new. At least three of the four opening-day starters at LB will be new. The starting nose tackle will be different in the 2010 regular-season opener than he was in 2008 and 2009. The starting free safety will be new for the third time in three regular-season openers. Miami's right defensive end will be new -- again -- as the Dolphins will start Jared Odrick or Phillip Merling or Tony McDaniel as the fourth person to fill that starting job in three years.
All these are facts. And all the facts speak of the Dolphins having to cover ground in rebuilding that they already supposedly addressed in their initial rebuilding of this team the past two years.
Let's face it, the club has failed to properly address the free safety spot -- first giving the job to Jason Allen, then Chris Crocker, then Renaldo Hill, then Gibril Wilson, and now another player to be named at a later time.
Let's face it, the Dolphins invested two years, a modest draft pick, and millions of dollars in ILB Akin Ayodele only to find out he wasn't very good at stopping the run or in coverage.
Let's face it, the nose tackle position was an issue before last season began. Everyone knew Jason Ferguson was a stopgap measure and I remember Ireland being asked why he didn't address the position in the 2009 draft. He basically answered there are only so many big bodies to go around and one of them didn't fall to the Dolphins.
So Miami went into 2009 with Ferguson and he broke down. The Dolphins finally addressed the issue this offseason by moving Randy Starks to nose tackle.
The greater point here is Miami has reached a stage where the fixes need to finally take. The club cannot keep addressing the defensive line time and again. The club cannot keep addressing the free safety spot year after year.
And this rebuilding upon a rebuilt position also affects the offense. For all the money and resources the Dolphins have invested on the offensive line, the unit is still not completely resolved. In 2008, the right guard spot was an issue. In 2009, the right guard and left guard spots were issues.
Can we get the guards addressed once and for all, please?
The Dolphins believe they have done that at right guard where Richie Incognito is expected to compete for a starting job with Donald Thomas and perhaps Nate Garner.
The left guard spot is much less certain. Garner and rookie John Jerry seem the most likely challengers for the job. Justin Smiley, who Miami signed to a 5-year, $25 million contract in 2008, lasted only two years. He is now on the trade block because of shoulder injuries that one might have seen on the horizon when he was with San Francisco and was forced to miss the latter part of 2007 with a shoulder issue.
So three years into rebuilding their offensive line ... the Dolphins are still rebuilding the offensive line.
My greater point is this: Everyone accepts the Dolphins needed a thorough rebuilding. Everyone accepts it was going to take time to do. But it is hard to accept that the Dolphins are already in Year 3 and still rebuilding what they already supposedly rebuilt. They are having to double-back, so to speak, to address issues they supposedly already addressed.
That slows things down.
And it cannot continue because, as with all teams, new issues pop up every year. Next offseason the Dolphins could be looking for help at running back or tight end, and perhaps wide receive. Next year the Dolphins could be looking for more backup quarterback help. Anyone looking off into distance can see that.
The last thing the team needs is to have those concerns, while also needing to address OLB (again) or FS (again) or CB (again) or OL (again).
Therre is still a lot of building being done around the construction site that is the Dolphins roster. Here's hoping the work currently being done won't soon require that it be redone. Again.