Amid the ups and downs of this season and the drama and controversy of the past three weeks, one constant that has remained (unfortunately for the Dolphins) has been that the offensive line has always been at the core of the issues.
You know the facts: Forty-one sacks allowed to lead the NFL. Two starting linemen gone from the team because they were frenemies or something, guys benched, etc ...
And to me, that begs the question what responsibility does offensive line coach Jim Turner have in all this.
Well, let's get to the news. Whatever part Turner has played in any or all of Miami's offensive line problems and drama, he apparently has the blessing of his boss. That's because on Tuesday, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin gave Turner a pretty solid endorsement when I asked what kind of job the assistant has done so far this season.
"I thought he did a great job," Philbin began. "It’s evidence in the play of our guys the other day. We had a lot of moving parts and we’ve had some moving parts throughout the course of the season. I think his players believe in him. I think he works hard every single day and he’s done a good job."
Now, I understand Philbin isn't going to throw Turner under the bus if he believes the assistant has stunk. That's simply not done. But there are ways to finesse this if the head coach wants to without losing credibility.
You'll recall Tony Sparano was asked in 2008 what kind of job then offensive line coach Mike Maser was doing. I recall because I asked the question. And Sparano said something akin to "he's busy doing his job and he'll be evaluated at the end of the season just like we'll all be evaluated at the end of the season."
That was no an endorsement, particually in light of the fact he was being effusive about other assistants when asked. And apparently Sparano took that tact for good reason because after a season in which Dolphins quarterbacks were sacked 26 times, Maser was fired. Seems Maser rubbed some players the wrong way and actually, get this, was a bit of a bully at times, according to club sources who spoke to me at the time.
Anyway, that's not the approach Philbin took on Tuesday. His was a full-blown attaboy for Turner. And that is fine if that's how Philbin feels.
But I'm not so sure the facts jibe with the kudos. The Dolphins have given up 78 sacks in the two years Turner's been the offensive line coach -- and there are still six games to play this season.
Now, sacks are not the full measure of an offensive line coach. After all, quarterback awareness in the pocket affects that number as does inexperienced or poor pass protection from backs. But then there's this:
One player was very good before Turner arrived and has been very good after leaving didn't play nearly as well under Turner. Jake Long was ProFootballFocus's No. 21-rated tackled in 2011 before Turner joined the Dolphins. Last year under Turner, Long dropped to the No. 46-rated tackle in the NFL, according to PFF. This year with the St. Louis Rams, he is the No. 7 rated offensive tackle.
And it is not just Long.
Last year with Atlanta, right tackle Tyson Clabo was the No. 14-rated offensive tackle in the NFL, according to PFF. He allowed only five sacks, including none in the final 14 games he played including the playoffs.
This year with the Dolphins?
Clabo has allowed 10 sacks, has not been able to string together even two games without allowing a sack and is the No. 66-rated tackle in the NFL, per PFF. Did he suddenly forget how to play the game? Did he suddenly lose not one, but several steps at age 32?
Center Mike Pouncey is pass blocking much better now under Turner than he did as a rookie in 2011 before Turner. But how much of that is the fact Pouncey's simply more experienced? And his run blocking in 2013 actually is not as good as it was in 2011.
Now, I'm not saying everyone takes a step back under Turner. Richie Incognito's work got much better under Turner. And John Jerry became a full-time starter under Turner.
But Jerry has already given up twice as many sacks this year (4) as he did last year (2) and there are still six more games to play. And Incognito ... well, let's not go there.