Miami Dolphins' Problem Is Not Losing Jeff Fisher, It's Lost Respect

Robert HoffmanCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Jeff Fischer of the Tennessee Titans watches the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Alltel Stadium on December 22, 2002 in Jacksonville, Florida.  The Titans defeated the Jaguars 26-10. (Photo By Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

I purposely waited an extra day to write this column to let things settle down and gain perspective when very little is available in the face of raw emotion from the fans and media alike.

Jeff Fisher was a good head coaching candidate. But, he was hardly an elite one. With a lifetime coaching record of 147-126 and not one Super Bowl ring to his credit, no other conclusion can be made. Furthermore, Fisher was a debatable fit in South Florida anyhow.

He would have changed the existing 3-4 defense to a 4-3 and would have likely kept a "ground-and-pound" offensive attack in an age when air attacks rule the NFL. So, the world won't end because Fisher isn't the Dolphins' head coach in 2012.

However, there is something far more troubling with a franchise that once was so proud and respected. Fisher was the Dolphins' first and really only choice and they couldn't close the deal for the second year in a row.

It was bad enough losing Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers last year. The search was clumsy enough in that Tony Sparano was still head coach. At least you could understand that Harbaugh didn't ever want to leave the Bay Area and, furthermore, the Niners have their own proud history as a selling point.

But the Dolphins lost Fisher to the St. Louis Rams—or is it the Los Angeles Rams? A third-rate franchise that, short of a brief run under Dick Vermeil and Kurt Warner, has consistently been one of the worst franchises in the league. Yet today, they stand ahead of the Miami Dolphins in the NFL pecking order, a thought that would have been unspeakable even a few weeks ago (and should still be unspeakable).

The Dolphins simply don't have the cache they once had. Some blame owner Stephen Ross, who many fans regard as either naive or incompetent depending on their current state of anger and frustration.

Some blame general manager Jeff Ireland, who has mixed moderate personnel success (at best) with questionable interview tactics of draft prospects, a perceived lack of loyalty to Sparano, and his presence on a milk carton when it comes to addressing the state of the team.

If you believe most reports, one can blame Ross' trust in Ireland as the reason Fisher chose the Rams. Fisher clearly wanted full personnel control and Ross wasn't willing to diminish Ireland's role with the team.

Just blaming Ireland and/or Ross is shortsighted, however. The reality is that the Dolphins haven't been relevant for at least the last 10 years. When you make the playoffs just once during that span, the entire league takes notice. Prospective coaches don't line up for a job they see as a dead end, and players don't flock to a place that doesn't have a chance to raise the Lombardi Trophy.

As a side note, yesterday was the 38th anniversary of the Dolphins' last Super Bowl win (a 24-7 victory over the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII). Almost four decades. Think about that.

That's the real story of what Fisher's rejection means. The once mighty Miami Dolphins remain submerged under the glorious waters of the NFL's elite.