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The Jacksonville Jaguars may not win a game this season, but from a front office perspective, they might be Florida's lone outpost of NFL stability. The problems with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been well-documented, and reports indicate that the Miami Dolphins have their own issues to address. Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, a second-round draft pick in 2012, recently left the team without notice and is currently seeking mental counseling.
Unfortunately, this appears to be the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the Dolphins' problems. Center Mike Pouncey was recently served with a grand jury subpoena related to the Aaron Hernandez case. It's not specifically known how Pouncey may be involved, but he and Hernandez were close friends at the University of Florida, and it's been one more distraction for the team.
Closer to the heart of the matter is the fact that offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has come in for criticism from his own players. Guard Richie Incognito, never afraid to express his opinions, recently told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald that "I think we should just keep running the football 30, 40 times a game. That's our blueprint for success. We have to run the football for four quarters."
Of course, it might help if Incognito, Pouncey, and their friends blocked more effectively for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami's second-year quarterback has been sacked 32 times this season, the most in the league, and that's a bad situation for an offense that must face the Cincinnati Bengals' impressive front seven on Thursday night.
Moreover, one high-ranking source told Salguero that Sherman is missing the boat on "101 things" -- i.e., the basic mechanics of the offensive philosophy. The course said that he was "dumbfounded" by Sherman's approach.
One part of that approach was supposed to be an effective chemistry between Tannehill and former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, signed by the Dolphins to a five-year, $60 million contract in March. Wallace has caught just 30 passes for 398 yards and one touchdowns, and he has repeatedly expressed his own frustration with his new offense.
“We’ve got to be able to throw the ball deep,” Wallace recently told Barry Jackson of the Herald. “We have to be able to back people up and not have people sitting us. We have to balance it out.”
So, everyone seems to have a different idea how this offense should run. Second-year head coach Joe Philbin said this week in a conference call with the Cincinnati media that he's not concerned about Wallace's outbursts.
“He’s doing a good job. He’s fitting in well in the locker room. He’s been productive on the field. I think he’s improving and we’re looking forward to seeing if we can spring him loose obviously a few more times than we have. He’s got one touchdown pass in seven games but we like the fact, we’re a little bit like the Bengals, I think it’s a positive that we have a number of receivers that have multiple catches as well as the tight end. I think that’s good for our football team.”
But as Salguero reported, Philbin has an advisor to help him deal with the media, as his encounters with the fifth estate had become increasingly tense. Executive Vice President of Football Administration Dawn Aponte, hired during the Bill Parcells era to help manage the salary cap, now meets with Philbin before nearly every interview to go over the game plan. Aponte took that responsibility when she clashed with general manager Jeff Ireland.
Not every team in trouble has a winless record to show for its efforts. The 3-4 Dolphins have the look of a contender at times, but they appear to be failing what John Updike once called the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill.” And at this rate, it won't be long before many in the Dolphins' front office are prompted to say, "Adieu."