It used to be that the overarching conversation surrounding Jake Long was about whether he indeed was the right pick as the No. 1 overall selection in 2008 over Matt Ryan. And the argument could be made that even if Ryan turned out to be a franchise quarterback, picking a Hall of Fame left tackle was still a wise choice.
Well, Long has not been playing like a Hall of Fame left tackle this year.
And on Sunday he didn't play like a Pro Bowl left tackle. Or even a good left tackle.
Matched against Dwight Freeney, who had been struggling with injuries and production prior to this game, Long was beaten soundly in the matchup. Freeney got a sack that stripped the ball from Ryan Tannehill and, ironically, Long plucked the pigskin out of the air and ran for a couple of yards.
It was a good save. But it wasn't a good look for Long.
He also yielded two other QB hits and at least one more pressure that forced Tannehill to get rid of the ball early. He also had a false start and had a holding call that was declined.
"Yeah, it appeared there were a couple of times, it looked like he got beat a couple of times," coach Joe Philbin said. "We'll have to take a look at the tapes to see if it's a technique thing. It might have been minor little things and some adjustments he'll have to make. But, yeah, we expect better protection."
Long echoed his coach after the game, giving credit to Freeney and his well-chronicled spin move. Long also promised an attempt at improvement.
"He got me on the one," Long said. "He gets off the ball quick and it's a hell of a move. He did well on that one and I just have to correct it and get better."
The truth is Long has not been Miami's best offensive lineman this year as he was in years past. That mantle has been passed to Mike Pouncey.
But the problem is where do the Dolphins and Long go from here? Long, you see, is a free agent after this season. And general manager Jeff Ireland is on record as saying he will not let Long get away from the Dolphins.
I get that because letting Long walk only creates another hole that has to be filled and the Dolphins have plenty of those as is. In fact, my column in today's Miami Herald makes the point that because quarterback Ryan Tannehill is good (but not great) the Dolphins have to surround him with more weapons and a better team to compete with teams that indeed do get great quarterback play.
And, by the way, Andrew Luck delivered great quarterback play against Miami on Sunday and has convinced me he's going to be great. Indeed, Luck has thrown for 2,404 yards this season. Peyton Manning? He's thrown for 2,404 yards this season.
The point is the Dolphins need to add talent, not lose some they already have.
Which brings me back to Long. It's going to be a hard negotiation if Long's agent, Tom Condon, is going to insist on having Long paid as the best left tackle in football -- which is exactly what Long was coming out of college as the No. 1 pick. Long was the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL.
But after gutting through a couple of injury plagued seasons in 2010 and 2011 and still not playing at his highest level this year, I don't see how the Dolphins can justify paying Long like the best tackle in football. He's probably in the top 10 some games. But not every game.
Certainly not on Sunday.
"They're a hell of a defese. Their front line got a few on us. We just have to watch the film and get better and we will."