MIAMI - The hysteria surrounding the Miami Dolphins as they climb out from under the avalanche of the season opener and await the tsunami of Game 2 is quite unlike anything we have seen down here. I'm not sure whether to laugh out loud or simply shake my head in incredulity.
The Dolphins are really bad, OK? A natural disaster. Deal with it.
Except nobody seems to be dealing with it very well.
Dolphins players and fans appear shocked by what they are seeing, even though they have had an entire offseason to see it coming. And even though the team owner himself warned that the rebuild aimed at sustained winning would mean hard times and demand patience in the meantime.
I heard the first booing of the season with 6:20 left in the first quarter of last Sunday's eventual 59-10 home loss to Baltimore. It was already 14-0. The sound festered as running back Kalen Ballage ran to his right and somehow managed to lose 8 yards. Later a couple of Dolfans unconcerned with originality were seen wearing paper bags over their heads.
Now champion New England comes to town as outrageous 18 1/2-point favorites, as of Wednesday afternoon. It is only the third time in the past 30 years an NFL road team has been favored by that much.
Meaning ugly could get uglier, fast.
It already has gotten ugly in the Dolphins locker room, based on ominous media reports.
First there were threats of a mutiny if Miami dared trade stalwart left tackle Laremy Tunsil. "The backlash would be amazing," the Miami Herald quoted a team source. "Guys would legit revolt."
Well, Miami did trade Tunsil, and receiver Kenny Stills, to Houston, in exchange for two first-round draft picks and a second-rounder.
The Dolphins won that trade. Big time.
The website Pro Football Talk, after Sunday's loss: "Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, multiple Dolphins players contacted their agents after Sunday's season-opening blowout loss and directed them to attempt to engineer trades elsewhere."
Sure, because there's always a lively market out there for guys crying to their agents and ready to hightail it after one game.
I loved the spot-on reaction of Dolphins center Daniel Kilgore: "If you don't want to be here, I don't want you here."
The PFT report went on to say that the coaching staff - "despite claiming that they intend to try to win" - are not serious about trying to win and instead have bought into the idea Miami will take its losses now in the hopes of piling up high draft picks for a better future.
Well that appears to be the damned blueprint here.
Fans, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot have a competitive team and collect the draft picks that build for the future.
For most of the past 20 years, Miami has put being merely competitive above any serious retooling. That is why we've seen the long parade of irrelevance, all of those 7-9 seasons that meant faint wild-card hope in November and draft picks too low to make a real difference.
It's easy to do that. To be mediocre.
What the Dolphins are doing now - finally - is the hard part. It takes nerve. Gumption. It takes on fans wearing paper bags and players threatening mutiny for the broader view. The greater good.
So, yeah, of course the Dolphins are tanking. And, of course, no coach in the history of sports has publicly admitted to tanking. What do you expect rookie head coach Brian Flores to say when asked about that? Of course he is going to say he's trying to win every game. He's a coach.
Fans should be on board with this and accept that one really horrendous season portending much better days ahead beats the hell out of that unending parade of numbing mediocrity.
Players should buy into that, too.
Guys crying to your agents and wanting out - this isn't about you. This is about the Miami Dolphins. How about you cash your big check every two weeks and be a professional?
The Dolphins will have two first-round picks and two second-round picks in each of the next two drafts - and eight additional picks in all because of recent trades.
You might call that tanking. I call it brilliant.
All around us in the NFL we see the difference just the right quarterback means to a franchise, from Patrick Mahomes to Deshaun Watson and on and on.
Now Miami, whether by losing enough to get the No. 1 draft pick or via the accumulated stockpile of high picks, finally seems poised to get the franchise arm it has needed ever since Dan Marino left.
An embarrassing home loss to Baltimore, maybe another coming against the Patriots, four months straight of nearly uninterrupted losing - all of these things are a small and reasonable price to pay if they mean the 2020-21 NFL Drafts will be the fulcrum that turns this franchise around.
Fans should see that light ahead and embrace it.
Just as Dolphins players should step up as professionals and want to be a part of the future instead of crying to their agents at the first sign of hardship.
You're damned right the 2019 Miami Dolphins are tanking, and it is the smartest, boldest, most foresightful thing this franchise has done in two decades.
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