End of an Era in Miami: Dolphins Cut Zach Thomas Loose

Jason Sarney Correspondent IFebruary 19, 2008

The Miami Dolphins released Zach Thomas last week, ending his 12 year run with the only franchise he has ever known. 

The new Miami regime made the decision, no doubt based on Thomas’ recent concussion issues. 

He has not been the same spark plug middle linebacker Miami fans knew and grew to admire since 2006, and unfortunately, it was time. 

Thomas, an under-sized, yet over-achieving middle linebacker, was drafted in the fifth round in the 1996 NFL Draft, the 154th overall selection, out of Texas Tech.  He immediately became a fan favorite as it seemed he was in on every tackle the Miami Defense recorded.  His stopping the run, dropping back in pass coverage, and taking the occasional ball to the house, have Dolphin fans collectively reminiscing today.

With a year remaining on his contract, Thomas will look for employment with a contender, should there be a roster spot for him.  As a lifelong Dolphin fan, I can only pray that contender doesn’t play their home games in Massachusetts.  It would be a devastating blow to “Miami Die-Hards.” 

We’ve suffered enough, haven’t we?

If Thomas plays in 2008, I hope he succeeds, and if the Dolphins can’t pull a miraculous run to a Super Bowl title, then I hope the team he is on wins it…other than that team in Massachusetts of course.

If I had my way, I would like to see him on a NFC contender like Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, or Seattle, to name a few.  If he wears a Jet, Bill or Patriot jersey, I don’t know what I would do.  How would I be able to root against one of my all-time favorite players, on a rival team no less?

So that’s it.  The Dolphins defense is no longer anchored by the seven time Pro-Bowler. 

No more juggernaut-like plugs into the gaps of the defensive line preventing a first down.  No more sideline to sideline pursuits of premier running backs.  No more swan dives into the end zone after taking back a “pick 6.” 

For 12 years, Zach Thomas led the Miami defense, and in his prime, anchored one of the NFL’s most fearsome units.   While defense reigned supreme in South Florida, offense lacked in the Post-Marino era, and few players did more for the Dolphins, than Zach Thomas. 

There have been many debates if Thomas ranks among the greats.  Is he a Hall-of-Famer, or just a gritty, football player who had a nose for the ball?  Well, I say it is certainly the former. 

In the last 12 seasons, you would be hard pressed to find a better middle linebacker than Zach Thomas.  If you could, you would be able to count them on one hand.  And you wouldn’t even need all of those digits.

The only middle linebacker that shoots instantly out as a Hall of Fame player is Ray Lewis.  There aren’t many decade long consistent forces at the position, better than Thomas.  I will not be the only Dolphin fan who will miss number 54. 

I can only hope he ends up on a tolerable team, which I can still enjoy watching him plug those gaps.  If not another team, I wish him well, and would bet good money to see him pop up on one of the networks as an analyst. 

I don’t know if Canton on the horizon, but one thing is for sure…He more than deserves it.

Thanks Zach.