Thanksgiving Day might have been a wonderful holiday for us all, but it also had to serve up a heaping helping of solemn reality for the Dolphins.
On Thursday, you see, the New England Patriots won yet again. And the New York Jets won yet again.
Both have a 9-2 record today.
That means the only way the 5-5 Dolphins can be certain of passing either of these teams is if Miami wins at least all but one of the games remaining on its schedule and those teams lose all but one game remaining on their schedule.
The chances of that happening are remote and that is being kind.
The truth is as I was watching Miami's two division rivals play on Thursday, I got the sense that Miami cannot catch either club and shouldn't catch either team because both of them are just plain better than Miami right now.
There are reasons that last sentence is true today.
The Jets are better than Miami because their personnel department has done a better job than Miami's in recent years. The Jets are better than Miami because their special teams coaching is better than Miami's and it's been that way for a long time. The Jets are better than Miami because that coaching staff seems to be able to hide the roster's flaws much better than Miami's coaches hide the Dolphins flaws.
The Jets were not more talented than Miami in 2008. It was possible at that point to say the Dolphins were ahead of the Jets because they beat out the Jets for the AFC East title. The Jets had no quarterback. They were about to fire their coach. The defense was unspectacular.
But fast foward to today and the Jets have zipped past the Dolphins the past two years, adding star players such as Santonio Holmes and gap-fillers like Trevor Pryce alike. The Jets have been aggressive, adding not one but two former 1,000-yard receivers and trading up to find a their young quarterback.
All this while the Dolphins were slow to address the need for a playmaking receiver in 2009 and paid a premium (two second-round draft picks) for Brandon Marshall in 2010 without finding a complementary wide out to help the cause.
In the all-important quarterback spot the Jets front office is also currently holding an advantage over Miami. Right now Mark Sanchez is trumping Chad Henne because he's been able to remain on the field while Henne was benched two weeks ago.
I'm not saying the Jets have drafted better than Miami of late. The opposite seems to be true, in fact. But the Jets have made better trades and have picked up free agents that are bigtime contributors -- with LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie coming to mind. Miami has added notable free agents in Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake, but others such as Jake Grove and Gibril Wilson and Justin Smiley flopped badly and set the club back.
The Jets are a flawed team. They cannot get a pass-rush without generating it through schemes and blitzes. The quarterback is still inconsistent. And the running game is not as dominant as it was previously.
But the Jets have overcome the pass-rush woes with their coaching schemes and it has worked so far. They are managing Sanchez to the point where they haven't had to bench him. And they are nonethelesss milking production from the running game. They never seem to have a problem abandoning the running game or, as Miami offensive coordinator Dan Henning would say, letting the running game abandon them.
So bottom line, the Jets have done and are continuing to do better work than Miami. It is not perfect work. But it is inarguably better work.
The Patriots are better than the Dolphins because, let's face it, their quarterback is head-and-shoulders better than any player on Miami's roster and better than any player on Miami's roster the past decade.
There's not much today's Dolphins coaches, players or front office could do about that.
But there is more to the Patriots than Tom Brady.
They, too, get better special teams coaching than Miami. They, too, get better offensive line coaching than Miami to the point where New England was without Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins the first two months of the season and it didn't seem to ruin anything. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have spent three years trying to figure out their interior offensive line problems.
The Patriots are rebuilding as we speak and are still winning and beating fine teams such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore. In a rebuilding year!
They're doing this by throwing the ball to Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker and handing off to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. If those names don't scare you it's because they're not scary. These are working class players that the New England coaching staff is getting more production out of than anyone thought was possible.
Meanwhile, the Miami coaching staff is getting less production out of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams than anyone thought possible.
The Patriots personnel department drafted a pair of rookie tight ends that look to be keepers and are already better than Anthony Fasano. Do you think the Dolphins would trade Fasano for Aaron Hernandez today? In a heartbeat. Would the Pats make that trade? Never! So why is it the Dolphins always address the tight end position on the cheap -- continually bringing in players discarded from other teams and acting like they've found some sort of treasure?
The interesting thing in comparing the Dolphins and Patriots is that Miami has a better defense. The Dolphins have more talent on defense.
Yet the Patriots still have twice as many interceptions as Miami (perhaps because their guys can catch the football) and their overall turnover numbers are better. In games against great offenses, such as San Diego and Indianapolis, that unimpressive defense seems to respond. And the Patriots stop the run better than Miami, which simply boggles my mind.
Inferior talent. Yet they are holding their own. How is that possible?
Guess it's all part of being better.