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  Managing Expectations
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule | Links |  
         

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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With the lockout turning out to be much worse than we hoped, and an offseason beset by confusion, disappointment, and betrayal, the 2011 season is shaping up to be the most unpredictable in recent memory.

 

Do we even know when this season will begin?

 

Do we know many games will be played, or how long will teams have to prepare for them? Will there be a free agency period and how long will it last? What will be the quality of the product that we see on the field?

 

All of these questions certainly impact the Miami Dolphins, top to bottom, but perhaps more so than other, more stable situations. That’s why it’s best to keep our expectations for this season in check.

 

Here’s a sampling of what I mean.

 

Front office: Pay cuts have hit morale very hard. Owner Stephen Ross royally bungled the coaching situation and PR aspects of his position. CEO Mike Dee sought and failed to gain the support of local and state government for stadium improvements, stuff that prior owner Wayne Huizenga would have already funded and implemented on his own. The departure of long time and respected Finance VP Jill Strafaci, who had been with the team more than 20 years, was unexpected and suspicious in its timing. GM Jeff Ireland, in his first season as the personnel major domo, served up an underwhelming draft, made changes to his personnel staff, and has been unable to pursue free agents (or re-sign his own) due to the lockout.

 

Football Operations: Coach Tony Sparano is still raw from his bad treatment by Ross and Ireland. His new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, hasn’t had a chance to implement his new system yet, which will turn into a sloppy rush job if a normal training camp isn’t provided for. Some of the players are training on their own, but how much faith do you place on a bunch of players trying to teach each other a new system? And Sparano has no idea who his players will even be at this point. This holds especially true for his QB, a position that increasingly appears to once again belong to the disappointing Chad Henne by default.

 

Personnel: The longer the Dolphins’ own free agents stay on the market, the more risk is introduced into the mix. Normally the key free agents have been signed by now. Instead, there’s more time to think and reflect on potential options and come to terms with the idea that change might not be such a bad thing. And what about rookie salaries? What if the owners and players decide to implement a wage scale that drastically cuts what top draftees have been getting in prior years? Do you think that agents will take that lying down? Could holdouts and lawsuits be in the future?

 

Big, disruptive change events such as these only serve to raise questions as to the readiness of team leadership for the start of the season. In reality, few organizations can absorb these sorts of things and not miss a beat.

 

And trust me, there is a lot more going on than has been made public.

 

Ironically, the one thing that has driven the owners and players apart in this entire dispute is the one thing that will eventually bring them together.

 

Money.

 

Owners stand to lose billions if the strike is prolonged into the season, exceeding any concessions they will get from the players. And the players that have been living beyond their means will be the first to start caving in as they cannot afford to go very long without their paychecks. Even coaches, many of whom have had their salaries cut, have signed a petition against the owner-imposed lockout.

 

So it’s lose-lose if a deal isn’t struck, and soon.

 

Just remember that the issues I have stated won’t be water off a duck’s back when this stand off ends. It can’t be, because human nature doesn’t allow it to be. This is why the product on the field in 2011 will not be of the quality we are accustomed to seeing.

 

I believe many Dolfans and corporate customers have already come to this conclusion. Ticket sales are brutally slow right now. Innovative “4 game flex packs” and other promotions designed to stimulate buying have been received rather tepidly by the public. Sponsorship money in a down economy is tighter and the Miami Heat are siphoning off an increasing percentage that used to flow into the Dolphins’ coffers.

 

So my advice to you the fan is to temper your expectations for the 2011 season. The Miami Dolphins, as they are constructed today, are not a playoff team and the wherewithal on and off the field to make that jump was probably lost when the labor standoff stretched past April.

 

In short, 2011 is shaping up to be a wasted season.

 
     
   
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