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Dolphins standards must regain former levels

Welcome back ....

When last we convened seven days ago, the Dolphins had hopes of running the table en route to a 9-7 season. There were whispers the team had found a quarterback. There was a movement among some fans that maybe, just maybe, this administration was right all along and it might merit another year.


Today, this Dolphins' season turns for home and we already know 2011 will mark the third consecutive season this administration fails to post a winning record. That is disappointing by any measure.

Remember when these guys were new?

Remember what happened after that magical, fateful 2008 season? After winning 11 games and the AFC East, Bill Parcells went on ESPN during the Super Bowl and proclaimed the team wasn't good enough. He said that despite the 11-5 record, everyone in the organization knew they weren't there yet and much work needed to be done.

What would he say now?

That not-good-enough 11-5 has been followed by two seasons under. 500 and this year, which will be a break-even event at best. (No it won't because the Dolphins aren't done losing, but that's just a prediction.)

Judging by 2008 standards, these guys suck.

But I would say to you the Dolphins would not agree with that because they have lowered their own standards in recent years.

Whereas you never heard how hard the team played in 2008, I've been hearing that spoken of as some sort of feat worthy of applause way too often this year. Whereas players that didn't execute got benched or cut in 2008 (remember Chris Crocker, Derek Hagan, Ernest Wilford), now guys that do something to hurt the team in eight of 11 games (Marc Colombo) keep their starting job and the coach defends them with gusto.

I got news for these folks running the Dolphins: Nobody gives a flip that players are playing hard. That is assumed in the NFL. It is merely the starting point. These men are getting paid. That means that by playing hard, they are doing the bare minimum portion of their jobs.

South Florida knows football. It is football country. It produces more football players per capita than any place in the United States and third overall behind Texas and California. We do not accept that a player paying hard is an accomplishment. Activity does not equal accomplishment.

Accomplishment equals accomplishment.

Playing hard is what 90 percent of NFL teams do every week.

Playing well is what winning NFL teams do.

Mention playing hard and my eyes roll to the back of my head in boredom. Mention playing well and if you have proof of it, you've said something worth paying attention to and worth sitting up straight for.

But, of course, the Dolphins are giving us precious little worth sitting up for. It says something when the stories that draw the biggest interest on this and other Dolphins sites are stories about what is coming next year -- be it in the form of the next quarterback, the next coach, the next general mananger or the next uniform scheme.

This year? You basically stopped buying the propaganda in October. You know that what the Dolphins are putting on the field every week truly is not good enough by NFL standards. Not good enough playing. Not good enough coaching. Not good enough drafting. Not good enough owning. Not good enough ticket-selling. Not good enough fight song playing. Not good enough anything.

The Dolphins have seemingly lowered their standards and I fear many fans and some journalists have bought into the thinking.

Folks, 8-8 is not good. It is mediocre at best. The truth is Don Shula was coaxed into retirement because he couldn't do consistently better than 10-6. Dave Wannstedt was reviled because he kept missing the playoffs with 10-6 records. And now we're ok with 8-8?

Some people, stunningly, are apparently comfortable with 8-8 as the status quo. They're good with inconsistency or mediocrity. They've been numbed into such thinking.

Some fans see a quarterback play well for three games and find a way to forget the three previous terrible starts. Worse, some fans see three nice games by a quarterback and believe he's the answer longterm because they've not seen anything close to an answer for nearly a decade.

Some journalists likewise see mediocrity and call it good. I read somewhere that Miami's 2011 rookie class was doing a job well done on its own merits. Stop. Mike Pouncey is doing a great job. Period. End of story.

Daniel Thomas has been inconsistent and has basically proven zero this year. Thomas hasn't shown enough to suggest he'll be a rushing leader in three years any more than he's shown enough to convince me he won't be out of the league. He's still a question mark. Charles Clay is coming on lately and has fine potential but that doesn't change the fact he was invisible until late October. Clyde Gates has been, with two notable exceptions, unexceptional on kickoffs and he is nowhere ready to play on offense. Jimmy Wilson has been excellent on special teams and everything you would ask of a seventh-round pick. Considering the investment and draft position, Wilson might be the next best rookie behind Pouncey or third behind Pouncey and Clay.

That is not a job well done overall. Acceptable, yes. But that's it.

I must say, not everything is terrible. Brandon Fields is outstanding. Brandon Marshall is having a good year. Davone Bess is among the NFL's better slot receivers. The left side of the offensive line is very good most weeks. Cameron Wake has been solid and Jared Odrick is getting better. Yeremiah Bell is a sledgehammer in the secondary.

I'm also impressed with the job coaches have done with Matt Moore. He is a better player today than in July when he came to the Dolphins. That says something good about him and the men teaching him. (It doesn't say he's the future, however.)

I'm sure I'm missing some things to point out as outstanding. But I'm sure I'm also missing some things that are highly troubling and questionable as well.

(For instance, no one last week brought up the two-point conversion coach Tony Sparano opted not to try when the team went up 15-10 vs. Dallas. The two-point conversion chart says go for 2. Sparano followed the chart in the Denver game when his team went up 12-0. Why not follow it this time? I don't know if Sparano has been asked that question. I know I haven't seen an answer.)

Further evidence the standards around here are lower.