Davis: Fans taking big leap of faith in support of Dolphins' tank job

Brian Flores says he's adverse to tanking, but he's participating in an extreme example of one with the Dolphins.Steve Mitchell for USA Today


An interesting aspect of the Dolphins’ radical rebuilding project that must be recognized is it seems to have significant fan support.

This isn’t a scientific assessment, but it appears that the majority commenting on social media believe Dolphins management is doing what needs to be done.

Good for them, because it will take a high level of faith to endure the atrocities this team is committing to the game of football Sunday after Sunday.

One could argue how much of it is blind faith in a franchise that hasn’t gotten much right through a revolving door of executives and coaches over the past 20 years.

But I get it, fans are fed up with the old one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back routine.

So many of them are all in on writing off this season of epic humiliation for the promise of an influx of fresh talent through a boatload of draft picks and salary cap space accumulated via an epic roster purge.

Tanking shouldn't be rewarded

Personally, I hate the concept of tanking that has become a trend in the various team sports. The NFL should institute a lottery system so that such a blatant dive for the top pick as the Dolphins are doing isn’t rewarded.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores is correct is saying that such a strategy is disrespectful to the game, even as he participates in one of the most extreme tank jobs that has been undertaken.

It’s worse than disrespecting the game, it’s a disgrace. Smart teams don’t have to tank to stay competitive.

The Dolphins haven’t been in that category for too long, so they have taken desperate measures.

As always with desperation, it’s a tenuous undertaking.

It’s also tougher to pull off in the NFL than in other team sports, particularly the NBA.

It was good to see Dolphins GM Chris Grier speak publicly Tuesday in the wake of the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade to let fans know there is a method to what has appeared to be madness in the roster turnover of the past few weeks.

Grier explained that the Dolphins couldn’t resist when the Texans kept offering more for Laremy Tunsil, and only ceded to Fitzpatrick’s trade request only after all the top brass, including owner Steve Ross, were unable to talk him out of it.

Those deals inflated their impressive cache of high draft picks, Of course, they will have to expend some to replace those young former first-rounders.

And you see gaping holes to fill everywhere you look on the depth chart.

Maven view: No quick fix to this Dolphins mess

Grier aims for rapid turnaround

There is a belief pervading comments on social media that the Dolphins will be much better next year after a draft that includes three first-round picks and two in the second and with ample money to spend on free agents.

Grier somewhat fed that notion Tuesday.

“I don’t know if you really put a time frame with it. For us, we’ve positioned ourselves to where we think the organization will be in a good place shortly,” he said.

“How long that takes? Like I said, we’ll be aggressive in free agency. Again, we’re not going to sit back and not do anything. We’re going to be proactive and try and get this turned quickly.”

Maybe they will, and I hope for this long disappointed fan base will finally be rewarded.

They certainly have a wealth of draft capital to play in the next two years.

It is a stretch to think you can turn them all into winning players.

Look at the handful of draft picks from the first three rounds that remain on this stripped down roster and only Xavien Howard can be considered Pro Bowl caliber.

This year’s draft produced immediate starters in Christian Wilkins and Michael Deiter, so that’s a positive.

Looking at previous years, Kenyan Drake has potential that hasn’t been fully utilized. Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan are contributors but nothing special so far. DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Charles Harris have fallen well short of expectations.

All of the rest are gone.

Yes, they have mined some gems in later rounds over the years, such as Reshad Jones and Jakeem Grant, and solid players such as Davon Godchaux and Bobby McCain, as well as Lamar Miller, Jay Ajayi and Rishard Matthews, the latter three long gone from Miami.

Draft a hit-or-miss proposition

But even the overall success rate of first-rounders is only about 50-50.

They will get their pick of the quarterback litter. They’d better choose wisely.

The best choice isn’t always the first one. Keep in mind, the Dolphins could have taken the quarterback who shredded them in Week 1. Instead, Lamar Jackson was available to the Ravens at No. 32 in 2018, when the Dolphins took Fitzpatrick at No. 11.

As for filling more needs with established players, experience here has shown that you have to overpay for prime free agents and they generally underperform.

What we know for sure is that a franchise that has had more than its share of bizarre chapters has never had one quite like this.

Grier has certainly heaped a mountain of pressure on his own back. Watching how he plays out this rebuilding game will be a lot more fascinating than anything the Dolphins do on the field the rest of this sorry season.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

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