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Dolphin daze


The paper bag has a long history as the ultimate expression of fan dissatisfaction, but who would have predicted that so many would end up in Miami?

The Dolphins are 0-7 in CamCameron's first season as head coach, and the frowns for a proud franchise continue to pile up. Injuries. Questionable midseason trades. A trans-Atlantic flight to London so the old world can see what the new world already knows: Miami is a mess.

Whether it was Ricky Williams deserting them or Nick Saban dumping them, the Dolphins have made little good news of late. (Not that Saban was any great shakes as Miami's head coach.)

With Notre Dame's Brady Quinn sitting in the green room of April's draft, Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller surprised many by taking Ohio State receiver Ted Ginn Jr. instead. Ginn may one day prove to be a top-flight NFL receiver, but he has only six catches this season. Meanwhile, the Dolphins still have that big hole at quarterback.

Years from now, conspiracy theorists will wonder if the communications system was faulty in the Dolphins draft room that day. ("I said Quinn, not Ginn! Quinn! Quinn!!!!")

It's a long shot to think that Miami could stumble around and finish 0-16, but maybe it isn't that farfetched. The offense is thin, the defense is old, and the fan base is angry.

Quarterback Trent Green (concussion) and running back Ronnie Brown (knee) are done for the year. Receiver Chris Chambers is gone to San Diego. Dan Marino and Don Shula aren't walking through that door, and if they do they will be old and gray (though maybe slimmer after the NutriSystem weight loss plan).

There isn't much positive on the immediate horizon for the Dolphins, either. A "home" game against the Giants at Wembley Stadium. A home game against fast-improving Buffalo. Then road games at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and a home game against a Jets team that already beat them in New Jersey this season.

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Miami closes out the year at Buffalo, at home against Baltimore, and at New England and Cincinnati. Nine more bad games and the deed is done.

Prideful veterans like Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas will surely keep scrapping, but they can only account for so much on a miserable team.

It is amazing the opposite years that Cameron and Dallas coach Wade Phillips are having after their time as coordinators in San Diego.

Could the Dolphins really go the entire season without a win, 35 years after they went without a loss? If Phillips is thinking of sending an anniversary gift to Miami, he ought to send running back Julius Jones instead of the customary coral and jade.

Nearly two months after New England's spying incident against the Jets, the Patriots are 7-0 and obliterating one team after another. Don't think that the issues are unrelated. The Patriots will use this as motivation all the way to the Super Bowl if they have to, and if a few records fall along the way, that's even better.

Don't believe for a second that Tom Brady doesn't know that he is exactly 23 touchdown passes shy of breaking Peyton Manning's record of 49. Sure, Brady cares about winning games and championships, but he is also a rival and competitor of Manning. That means something, too.

With the possible exception of the Yankees and the Red Sox, no two teams in American sports have become so inextricably linked as the Patriots and the Colts. Who has the better offense? The better defense? The better quarterback?

Rare is the professional athlete who isn't type-A, manic in competitiveness, and motivated by any slight (see Woods, Tiger). Brady has the goods and the will and the urge to throw for more than 50 touchdowns this year. If he does, he can expect Manning -- quietly, and saying the right things all the way -- to try to break back in 2008.

I bumped into the retired offensive lineman Ray Brown in the pressbox at Cardinals-Redskins, and it was difficult to tell that he was no longer playing. Even at 44, Brown has stayed in great shape after walking away from football in January 2006 following a 20-year career that included stops with the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions and Redskins again. Though Brown co-hosts Redskins pregame and postgame shows on Comcast SportsNet, I could easily see a team with a depleted offensive line giving him a call in a pinch. There may not be an offensive system he hasn't played in.

I was reminded last weekend by Brian Murphy, the co-host of the morning drive show on KNBR-680 in San Francisco, of the praise once given Brown by the late Bobb McKittrick, the coach who molded championship offensive lines for Joe Montana and Steve Young: "Ray Brown is a man I'd both want to have with me in a dark alley, and at dinner in a fine restaurant."