By: Ken LaVicka
PALM BEACH - A bunch of rich guys, front office members, and head coaches. That's the NFL Meetings in a nutshell. It goes much deeper than that for the Dolphins, however. This year, the Fins need the meetings as a platform, way to reach out, a way to save face. It's explanation time, and the Dolphins can't disappoint.
The Breakers is the site, full disclosure, or something to it, is the key for the Dolphins. Without revealing “the plan”, the Fins need to adequately explain why they enter the 2012 NFL Draft with Matt Moore as the starting quarterback, no #1 wide receiver, and no starting strong safety.
Whether it's fair or not, the criticism surrounding the franchise is deafening. If this is part of “the plan” for the Dolphins, it certainly doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. For owner Stephen Ross, fan interest and bodies churning through the turnstiles is the bottom line, and right now, the team is facing all-time lows from that perspective. This is a problem.
Further compounding the issue is Ross' continues loyalty to Jeff Ireland. I don't doubt that Ireland knows a lot about personnel, is capable when it comes to formulating the blue-print for a successful on-field product, and inspires a lot of confidence when football is discussed, but what about the performance of Ireland-built teams has Ross continuing to hold him in high-esteem?
Ireland certainly hasn't made any franchise-crushing moves, has always done a solid job of toeing the financial line, and has constructed a decent core, but where are the wins? That's how you're judged in the NFL, and the results just aren't there. It certainly feels as if Ross' continued loyalty Ireland is hurting him exponentially in the court of public opinion.
The most common question posed to me so far here at the NFL Meetings is: “How did the Dolphins not get Matt Flynn?”. My response has consistently been: “Well apparently they didn't want him.” Every time I say it it sounds more and more ridiculous to me, but who am I to argue with the Fins higher-ups? Here's the thing, though. After that answer, however, I always have to qualify it with: “But I don't know what they're doing.” And that is the major problem.
No one, even very smart football people, can figure out what the Dolphins are doing. Striking out on Peyton Manning, not aggressively pursuing Matt Flynn and Alex Smith, trading Brandon Marshall, and releasing Yeremiah Bell. Where is this going?
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they don't get the benefit of the doubt. This current regime does not have a history of success. This isn't Bill Belichick and the Patriots. There are no rings to show off. After three straight sub-.500 seasons and a bumbling, train-wreck of an off-season last year, this is what they come up with? No addition, just subtraction? Where's the benefit?
This is why the Dolphins use the NFL Meetings as a microphone to their supporters, their fan-base, and the rest of the league. The Fins must convey they are not a circus, that they're not a team with no direction. Most importantly, there must be honesty. More than anything, honestly carries a lot of weight to those opening their wallets to support a pricy product. The Dolphins have not been a team known for being completely truthful over the last few years. This would be a good time to start.
Starting with Ross, moving down to Ireland, and unfortunately trickling down to new head coach Joe Philbin, the Fins must convey a sense of competence, but absolutely must not blow smoke. Don't tell the fans that everything is going “to be alright”. There's nothing the organization can point to right now to make anyone really believe that. If this is re-building, say it. If it's not, then what was the thinking behind the moves of the past several weeks? Either way, it's time to explain, and the Dolphins must provide one hell of a performance at the NFL Meetings.
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