Monday, September 20, 2004

Dolphins vs. Bengals (Part II)

There is so much blame to go around that one post simply doesn't suffice. Last night's performance was truly one of the worst in the Dolphins long history. Though the score was close, it was an abysmal performance by this abomination of a football team. I put it down with the 62-10 loss to the Jaguars in 2000.

First, a comment about the defense. After thinking it over, I need to clarify my criticism of the defense. I did not emphasize enough that coaching, not just a bad effort, is partly to blame for the last 2:00 of the Cincinnati game. Simply put, the team choked. It can't be attributed to fatigue or anything like that. This defense was performing very well in the prior possession. This defense lacks the killer instinct of the 1985 Bears or 2002 Baltimore Ravens, two teams that Miami's D is often compared to.

Before everybody gets excited about the late 10 points, think about a few things. The TD was more the result of good receiving rather than competent passing. Randy McMichael made the big play to get us in scoring position. The Chris Chambers TD pass was deflected before being caught. McMichael was right to verbally lambaste his teammates on the sidelines during the 4th Quarter. He showed his teammates the venom previously reserved only for his spouse. These two men can make plays, but there is nobody to get them the ball on a consistent basis. The second FG was a result of a good punt return by Lamont Brightful.

Now, about Lamont Brightful. The Dolphins can't keep letting this guy return punts. He flubbed two returns last night and one last week. All the solid returns in the world doesn't make up for the inability to catch and hold onto a football. His performance last night was a disgrace.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I miss Jay Fiedler as starting QB. That's not to say Fiedler is good. He's not. But I've never seen Fiedler play as bad as Feeley did last night. Jay would make two or so bad plays a game. Last night, there were about 8 passes that should have been intercepted by Feeley. If I were Wannstedt, I'd have pulled him after that bonehead INT in the 3rd Quarter. The Dolphins would have likely won the game if not for the change of momentum perpetrated by the Simmons TD return.

I keep hearing people saying that we can build on this performance. My question is this: What is there to build on? Has A.J. Feeley improved at all since training camp opened? Reporters were saying then that Feeley wasn't performing very well. The same mistakes that he made in training camp were made this week versus the Bengals. The Eagles have to be laughing all the way to the bank on this one. There's a reason this guy never made 2nd string in Philadelphia. He wasn't even a reliable starter in the Pac-10 at Oregon. We invested a second round pick on a guy who is not ready to play in this league, and may never be. Fiedler at least has the mobility to avoid the inevitable pass rush. Honestly, we should start Fiedler and clean house completely after the season. Use our top 10 pick, if Wanny doesn't trade it away between now and then, to get a young QB. Get a Jeff Garcia or Mark Brunell type to tutor him for a year or two.

I keep going back to the poor O-Line play. There is no excuse for the mistakes that were made last night. I don't think Wade Smith has improved any since the Indianapolis and Tennessee disasters of last season. The offensive penalites are killing any chance we have of getting first downs. 1st and 10 is enough of a challenge. Feeley can't start with 1st and 20, 2nd and 15. Eventually, these guys need to learn to execute simple tasks. The offensive line isn't that new. They have had a month of training camp and two weeks of regular season games. It's not really that difficult. I don't see anybody on that line who can block or refrain from committing false starts. Then there's Donald Lee. When will that guy ever learn to stop holding? I swear, when they actually decide to give a little effort, they can't play within the rules. Miami was spoiled for years with a great coach in Don Shula. Those Dolphin teams were consistently the least penalized in the NFL. It provides a stark contrast to the inadequate coaching of Mr. Wannstedt.

I can't see one worthwile thing to take from this performance, at least offensively. The defense is falling apart by the day. Reggie Howard, Pat Surtain, and Will Poole have all been injured. Now I'm hearing that Larry Chester is out for the year. I wouldn't be surprised if Jeff Zgonina is starting at DT before the end of this year. Besides Chambers and McMichael, there is nobody on offense worth keeping. I've been disappointed with the performance of Marty Booker. I'm beginning to think he wasn't worth trading for Adewale Ogunleye. Nothing makes me believe that this group improves with time. Unfortunately, there are so many holes offensively that it might take years to fill. Wannstedt, over the course of 4 + years, has destroyed any offensive credibility this team once had.

This is it. I'm done picking the Dolphins to win anymore games. I'll go on record now in picking Pittsburgh to win next week in Miami.


Blogger Eric Cioffoletti said...

I agree with most everything you say. The Bengals are improved certainly but this was still a game that the Dolphins should have been able to win. I believe that 7 out of the 8 ESPN experts did choose the Bengals to win however.

I'm not sure of Feeley is as bad as you say. The pressure from the defensive line never gave him the time he needed to make good passing decisions. This is not to say he played well but a QB needs at least two seconds to make a good pass and he rarely had that much time back in the pocket.

Wannstedt should have been fired after the end of last season. I believe that now with every fiber of my being.

September 20, 2004 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger tsias said...

Fair point.

I'm basing a lot of what I say on those who've seen this team more than I. Orlando Alzugary of WQAM flat-out said that Feeley's not making the reads in practice. The decision not to start Feeley in Week 1 said a lot to me. I said during the summer that Feeley would be the starter unless he was completely unprepared to be a QB. I'm sure Huizenga and management wanted Feeley to be the next "Dan Marino", as Wayne talked about. There hasn't been sufficient improvement since training camp began six weeks ago.

The point about our line is indisputable. Something is totally messed up. These are guys that the team hand-picked to play for us. All I heard about this off-season was how good Jeno James is. If you remember, we used our 20th Draft Pick to select Vernon Carey, OL from the University of Miami. How much must this guy suck not to be able to start on this line? I don't think it's fair to expect Feeley to start with this OL. He's nowhere the athlete that Jay was. If you really want Feeley to succeed, I'll lift him for this season. Bring him back when the OL has improved to the point of mediocrity. I doubt he'll survive if he continues to get beat up game after game.

Wannstedt should be relieved after the season. I don't care if it's now or in January. There's nobody out there that can turn this mess around. We're once again seeing Chicago Dave at work. His best work was years 2 and 3, when he won 9 games. By the time he was gone, the team had 2 straight 4-12 years. Despite this week's upset of Green Bay, Chicago hasn't done much of anything since Wanny's departure.

September 20, 2004 at 7:41 PM  

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