Changing a flat tire on the side of the highway? Nothing extraordinary about accomplishing that fix on the fly.
Changing one in the middle of an electrical storm, well, that’s more like what the Miami Dolphins are trying to accomplish right now. No time to wait for the weather to clear, or for an NFL investigative team to pack up and head back to New York.
Either this wobbly 5-5 season gets repaired, immediately and professionally, or it will be too late to get back on the playoff pace that seemed so natural in September.
That’s right, the postseason is a legitimate topic again, based on Miami’s tie with the New York Jets for the last available AFC wild-card position. Logically speaking, I don’t think Miami can get there from here, but stranger things have happened to these sputtering Dolphins, and are happening still.
Has anybody noticed that Miami is 2-1 since Jonathan Martin walked out on the team?
In related news, Richie Incognito’s suspension for conduct detrimental to the team has done little to affect the Dolphins’ production. Miami is 1-1 since he was shown the door, neither hot nor cold, following the general trend of a franchise mired in mediocrity.
And how about center Mike Pouncey’s reported illness, another issue that coach Joe Philbin declines to discuss? The first missed start of Pouncey’s NFL career turned into a 20-16 victory over San Diego on Sunday. No telling when or if he’ll return to the lineup, but the Dolphins averaged 5.5 yards rushing against the Chargers, which is more than they were managing with Pouncey and Incognito and Martin all working together on the offensive line.
Addition by subtraction, that’s the new math in Miami. And as for the multiplication of media scrutiny that has accompanied Martin’s bullying allegations, good luck finding a player or coach who will admit to the slightest cough in the machine of efficient game preparation.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace even took it one step further Tuesday, insisting, “I honestly don’t even know who Ted Wells is.”
That, of course, would be the high-profile attorney chosen by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to question Miami players and staff on the credibility of Martin’s claims.
If we’re talking distractions, that’s a doozy, but here Philbin goes again, pointing his team toward the only guarantee for this week, that Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are coming to town on a six-game winning streak and it is more than possible to beat them. It is necessary.
Again, it doesn’t make sense that they would, based on all the observations that have been raising your Sunday blood pressure the last few months.
Ryan Tannehill is absorbing an average of 4.1 sacks per game, which makes it a minor miracle that back-up Matt Moore hasn’t been forced into action. Wallace, meanwhile, has one touchdown reception, making his massive contract read like a nursery rhyme, and the rebuilt Dolphins defense, supposedly faster at the linebacker position, is 25th in the league against the run.
For these reasons and more, Miami has lost five of its last seven. They are reasons that existed before the Martin-Incognito brushfire began, and they are reasons to conclude that going 4-2 the rest of the way, which is probably the least it will take to make the playoffs, is a serious stretch.
“The guys are competing every single week,” Philbin said. “Nine out of 10 of our games have really come down to the last couple of minutes, and sometimes the last single play.”
The Dolphins, in other words, are accustomed to intense conflict, and to cooking up just enough team chemistry to get by sometimes.
Maybe that’s the secret. When you live like that on Sunday, what’s a little NFL interrogation between midweek practice sessions?
So the Dolphins muddle on, seeking to reboot a flawed season, huddling together in the midst of the storm.