I just watched the Monday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs, a game the Rams won 235-231 or thereabouts.
It was a wildly entertaining game. It was eye-popping. And, frankly, it was also sobering.
Because this game between two of the NFL’s elite teams showed how far the Dolphins are from really, truly competing for a championship.
It’s not just the Dolphins by the way. There are six other NFL teams that today have a 5-5 record like the Dolphins. Four of those are in the AFC with the Dolphins.
And all those teams, including the Dolphins, don’t seem to be in the same league with Kansas City. Or the Rams. Or the New Orleans Saints.
Those three are the elite teams this season. And they’re just playing at a much higher level than everyone else. They’re seemingly in a different orbit.
A tier below those three we have Pittsburgh and New England.
And then we have maybe the Chargers, and maybe the Texans another rung down.
And then we have Carolina, Minnesota, and maybe Seattle.
And then we have the Tier 5 group that includes the Dolphins with Chicago, the Redskins, the Cowboys, the Packers, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and the Titans.
If the NFL were an African savanna the Dolphins wouldn’t not be a defenseless but they certainly wouldn’t be kings of the grassland, either. They definitely wouldn’t be lions or leopards or even cheetahs or hyenas.
The Dolphins would be, like, giraffes. Especially when Brock Osweiler plays QB for them.
So what am I saying? Well, right now the Miami Dolphins are battling for a playoff spot and anything can happen that might land them in the postseason.
But let’s be honest: These Dolphins have a long way to go before they can say they’re championship contenders.
Truth is the Dolphins play in the AFC East, which is a disaster of a division save for the Patriots, and we all know Miami doesn’t even have a significant shot of winning its division. The Patriots, you’ll recall, have won the division 14 of the last 15 seasons.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are 197-197 the last 25 seasons.
Not close to a championship.
And this is troubling because there have been moments we thought progress was being made. You must remember that in 2016, the Dolphins beat the Rams in Los Angeles en route to an AFC wild card berth.
At that point the Dolphins were better than the Los Angeles Rams. Obviously, that’s changed as the Rams were 11-5 last season and are 10-1 now.
The Saints were 7-9 in 2016 so they, too, were behind the Dolphins then — although not at quarterback. And now the Saints are 9-1 and looking quite impressive.
My point is the elite teams of today were no better and probably in worse shape than the Dolphins a couple of years ago. And somehow, those teams made the right moves to get themselves way better. Those teams blew the doors off a couple of offseason drafts and free agency periods while the Dolphins languished.
No, not languished. Wrong word.
You recall Miami’s 2017 offseason was meant to fix the defense? The first three players selected in the draft played on defense. And none is a star or looking like they’ll be a star someday. Indeed, first round pick Charles Harris and third-round pick Cordrea Tankersley have been disappointments.
So the Dolphins defense is not anywhere close to being fixed. The unit needs a starting boundary cornerback (which Tankersley isn’t), a consistent pass rusher (which Harris isn’t), perhaps a linebacker that can solidify an inconsistent group (which Raekwon McMillan has not yet been) and probably a defensive tackle.
Remember how we (myself included) believed quarterback Ryan Tannehill could continue to progress and maybe become a straight baller under coach Adam Gase after he played well (not great) while he was healthy in 2016?
That went sideways.
Tannehill is now part of the problem rather than the solution because he’s missed 25 of the past 30 games, he’s making a lot of money, and even when he’s played he’s been merely solid but still not great.
So it could be argued the quarterback position has regressed since 2016.
And that’s mostly because of injuries but that’s part of the game, folks. That counts. You cannot simply dismiss it. It’s a significant thing.
So overall this is a grim picture, I know.
The problem is it’s a realistic picture. You know your team. Tell me where I’m wrong…
Is the defense actually pretty good and I’m missing it?
Is the quarterback situation pointed toward elite?
What would happen if this team played Kansas City or New Orleans or the Rams? Heck, what happened when they played Green Bay and Houston?
The good news is just as the Ramss and Saints and others rose out of their troubles fairly quickly, the Dolphins might be able to do similar at some point.
I don’t actually see that happening anytime soon for reasons I’m not going to get into here. But it could happen someday.
Meanwhile, we can all watch great football played at other NFL outposts while waiting to see if the Dolphins can claw their way near the top of the Tier 5 team — one of which might make the playoffs.
BLOG NOTE: I wasn’t kidding about you telling me where I’m wrong. In fact, to celebrate the mighty Herald’s IT department fixing the comments section, I will come here at 11 a.m. Tuesday and do an old fashioned live blog in the comments section with you. Meet me here then.