A quick survey of the Dolphins locker room these days gives you an interesting perspective of the players' world versus the real world.
In the players' world, this team is much better than its record. This team is truly gifted. This team has the horses to compete with anyone. In the players' world, the season still offers some grand opportunities and, depending on whom you ask, the Dolphins still have a chance at the playoffs -- it's the "We're not out of it until we're out of it" mentality.
You have to take some of this in stride. I love an optimist as much as anyone. I admire men who fight to the last bullet and then, lacking ammo, throw the gun at the opponent. I will never criticize the idea that until the math says otherwise, any reach at extending the season is possible.
But I draw the line at cross-eyed analysis of what is otherwise a very clear picture.
On Monday I heard Davone Bess say the Dolphins "can play with upper-tier teams." His suggestion is that Miami is every bit the equal of those teams.
Well, that is simply not true.
The Dolphins have not beaten a winning team this year. The Chiefs, Bills, and Redskins -- the teams Miami has beaten -- are all under .500. Overall, the Dolphins are 3-2 against teams that are under .500.
And the Dolphins are 0-6 against teams currently at .500 or better.
Miami has five games left, with three of those -- Sunday versus Oakland, at New England and the Jets in the finale -- against teams that are over .500. The Eagles and Bills are currently under .500 so one assumes Miami has a good chance of actually winning in those games given the season's trend.
Talk to other players and the common thinking in the locker room is there is lots of talent in there. I had a very enlightening sit-down with Brandon Marshall a few weeks back and one part of the conversation that was not published was our exchange about the talent on the team.
I told him flatly, that the team doesn't have enough talent.
"I don't agree with you," he said. "We have ballers in there. I look at all that talent and talent isn't the problem. We're just not executing."
Marshall and I had to agree to disagree on the topic because while the Dolphins do have ballers -- Jake Long, Marshall, Yeremiah Bell, Bess usually, Cameron Wake, Karlos Dansby among them -- they don't have enough ballers. They don't have consistent ballers. And they don't have ballers in all the right places.
They don't have ballers in positions that make a big difference -- such as OLB, WR, KOR, FS, PR, QB, and RB.
They have solid players at TE, CB and DE, but none of those guys have proven to be difference-makers (Jared Odrick has potential, so the jury is still out there and I still have not given up on Vontae Davis).
So "all that talent" talk is relative. There is talent.
But it's not busting out the seams of the locker room. Dolphins coaches didn't pound their heads on desks in disgust, knowing good players were about to be let go, when they needed to make roster cuts. There hasn't been a big number of players that have left Miami this year and gone on to grand accomplishments with other teams.
So that abundance of talent is a myth.
Quick, name me which offensive players on the Dolphins would start on the Patriots? Marshall. Long. Mike Pouncey. That's it.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have eight players that would start on the Miami offense. That's the talent gulf between the teams on offense.
Marshall, Long, Incognito are the only Miami starters who would start tomorrow for New York. Sorry, Nick Mangold would start ahead of Pouncey and Matt Moore would not start ahead of Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is no prize. I'm not a fan. But he's more consistent than Moore.
This is not to put down Miami players.
I'm simply trying to be real here and not write about elves and unicorns.
The interesting thing I see in the Dolphins locker room is an attitude that I would expect in a college locker room. I see guys giggling about celebration dances. Really?
I don't see grown men understanding that they have issues and then talking seriously about those issues so that they can find solutions.
I don't hear players saying, "We need to fix what is obviously broken because we realize if we don't, we might not be around here next year."
I don't hear, "What has happened this year is unacceptable and I am making it my business to pick my personal game up the final five games so that I can be counted among players who are part of the solution rather than part of the problem."
I don't hear guys saying, "I am focused on playing at the top of my game the final five games, better than I've played at any portion of my career."
Last week, Clyde Gates told the Miami Herald he was "having fun" playing this year and seemed oblivious to the idea that he has been a non-factor on offense this year. I grant you he is a rookie, but, c'mon man! This is professional football. Stay at the facility an extra couple of hours and learn how to break down the opponent. Ask more questions so you can know what exactly you must work on. And stay on the field after practice and work on those things until you bully your way into some gameday snaps. December arrives tomorrow. Giddyup!
You know, the Dolphins coaching staff and personnel department talks about getting players with "the right makeup."
I grant you a never-say-die-attitude should be part of that right makeup. But a sober and stubborn desire to improve something that's obviously not right or good enough should also be part of that makeup.
And that means recognizing and then addressing those things that are messed up. That means not wasting time thinking that there is enough talent and the goal is still to make the playoffs when, in fact, every shred of tangible evidence says that's not reality.