Behind Enemy Lines: How the Dolphins and Colts Aren’t So Different
This is the article I have been waiting to write all year. For those that aren’t aware, I’ve been biding my time writing fantasy football articles for The Deep End so that I, perhaps the greatest Miami Dolphins’ writer that is also a Colts’ fan in history, could write just about how awesome Andrew Luck and the Colts are. Even more amazing, is that this upcoming game against the Colts is going to be my first Colts game, after nearly a decade of devoted fandom. But, as fate would have it, Andrew Luck isn’t playing this week and the Colts are one of the biggest jokes in the entire NFL. Some may call it “Bad Luck.” Scumbag Patriots fans call it “Karma”. I call it, “The event that pushes me off the deep end, so that I move to Indianapolis where I will spend every hour of every day staring into Ryan Grigson’s office menacingly until he’s fired or succumbs to my intense, cold, ominous gaze of pure, unadulterated hatred.”
We aren’t so different, Dolphins fans. In fact, our teams have a lot of similar issues that led to the massive failures that were our teams’ respective seasons. Crippling organizational dysfunction, awful coaching, and regression of a promising 4th year quarterback have plagued us both. All of this has led to an unprecedented step back, in what were supposed to be great seasons for our two franchises. Let’s take a look at our deterioration, shall we?
Most Dolphins’ fans go absolutely crazy merely thinking about how overly complicated Stephen Ross has made his front office. Bringing in Mike Tannenbaum as VP this year effectively eliminated GM Dennis Hickey’s ability to manage the front office, and has led to a power struggle, which Tannenbaum clearly won. The resulting lack of cohesion has restrained the Dolphins’ front office, and made Dennis Hickey a sort of neutered dog. I’m actually pretty sure that Dennis Hickey had a conversation with Stephen Ross that went a little something like this:
Hickey: “Hey… uh… Mr. Ross?”
Ross: “Yeah, Dennis?”
Hickey: “So, now that Mike Tannenbaum is the VP, what is my job exactly?”
Ross: “I don’t know, just kind of sit around the office doing nothing. You have Solitaire on your computer, right?”
Hickey: “Yes, why?
Ross: “[Expletive] it. Just do that all day.”
Hickey: “But, what about scouting for the draft? What about building the best Dolphins’ team I can? This is just ridiculous Mr. Ross!”
Ross: “Fall in line, Dennis! One more outburst like that and I’ll send your ass to Cleveland faster than you can say “Tim Couch.”
Hickey: “Solitaire it is then.”
The Colts’ front office, much like the Dolphins’ front office, is a complete disaster. When you look up “History of terrible sports GMs” on Google, the first picture is of Jeff Ireland. But, if you look closely at good old Jeff, he’s holding a framed picture of Ryan Grigson. However, you can’t place all of the blame on Grigsy. When you have a bat-[expletive] crazy owner like Jim Irsay, doing a job well is that much harder. I even have a saying about Colts’ Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian that fits this idea pretty well. “Bill Polian isn’t in the Hall of Fame because he transformed the Colts into a perennial Super Bowl Contender by drafting over a dozen Pro Bowlers. Bill Polian is in the Hall of Fame because he managed to win a Super Bowl with Jim Irsay as his boss.” Still, this doesn’t excuse Grigson’s catastrophic failures such as:
- Drafting a number 4 WR in the first round this year when we needed literally everything else.
- Drafting Bjoern Werner in the 1st round, who has just 6.5 sacks in 3 years.
- Handing out massive contracts to huge busts like Greg “Burnt Toast” Toler, LaRon “Never Skip Arm Day” Landry, and the 60 year old man formerly known as Andre Johnson.
- Never addressing the O-line so Andrew Luck continues to take a beating.
- And, of course, trading a first round pick for the human equivalent of acid reflux, Trent Richardson.
You are all likely familiar with the Dolphins’ coaches, so I’ll spare you the pain of going into detail. Whether it’s poor game planning, personnel decisions, or some other third thing, Miami’s coaches seem to screw things up somehow. While there have been some improvements under Man Campbell, he is still making some of the same mistakes that his predecessor, Joe Philbin, frequently made. In all fairness, Campbell wasn’t exactly set up for success. Considering he was a tight ends coach with no head coaching experience who took over a sinking ship a quarter of the way through the season, I think he’s done reasonably well.
Similarly, the Colts’ coaching staff were set up to fail from the get go. Chuck Pagano had never shown any major indications of being any less than an above average coach before this waste of a season. 11-5 for three straight years, two division titles, and three playoff game wins honestly don’t do the man justice. Excluding playoff games against the Patriots, Chuck squeezed out as much talent out of a talent poor defense as a fan could reasonably ask for, especially over the last two years. Additionally, he oversaw a very positive atmosphere; the players loved him and he also had control over the locker room. You’d think those type of accolades would give him some wiggle room, but when Ryan Grigson is your GM, expect stupidity. After Pagano’s handpicked offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, left to become head coach of the Cardinals, Grigson refused to give Pagano control over who to replace him with. Grigson forced Pep “Jim Caldwell 2.0” Hamilton on Pagano and, as his mid-season firing shows, it turned out to be a bad idea. Pagano also was never given full control over personnel decisions, and Grigson would often force him to play players that he didn’t want too. Worst of all, Grigson and Jim Irsay made it abundantly clear before the season started that Pagano was replaceable. They refused to offer him anything longer than a one year extension to his contract, and essentially made it seem as though it was a Super Bowl or bust kind of season. Few coaches could succeed under those restrictions and pressures, so I really don’t blame Pagano for his first bad season. There’s also a lot of talk that Chuck is a prime candidate for the Dolphins’ head coaching job, so let me reassure you guys that you could certainly do worse.
There’s no position in any sport as important to a team’s success as the QB position in football. That’s why the regression of Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck had such a big impact on the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts, respectively. While Luck has missed over half of the year due to injury, and looked to be getting back on track before lacerating his kidney in week 9, there was obviously some major regression in his mechanics. Luck often forced balls into tight coverage or held on to the ball too long, and while his terrible O-line didn’t help matters, it looked like it was on him. Luck went from the league leader in TDs and prime MVP candidate, to looking like he was a rookie again. Without an MVP caliber Luck for most of the season, the Colts never really stood a chance.
Similarly, Ryan Tannehill’s regression contributed to the worst Dolphins season since 2011, when they went 6-10. Tannehill looked to be steadily improving, and with the additions of DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Jordan Cameron, and Greg Jennings, it looked as though that trend would continue. But alas, as with the Colts, the young QB’s play fell off a cliff, primarily due to a porous O-line giving no time to set feet or make a play. Whether or not new coaching staffs can correct course for the young QBs will be a huge story line next season, and while the jury’s not out on Tannehill, I think that Luck at least will pick up where he left off last season. Or not. What do I know? I am just a fantasy football writer after all.
Well guys, thanks for taking out the time to read my first non-fantasy article for The Deep End. I’m looking forward to a hopefully hard-fought, entertaining game between our two teams, and I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas.