As Bill Parcells begins to sift through the rubble of a decimated franchise, it's fair to say that the Dolphins have fallen on hard times.
In fact, the Dolphins have been living in the basement with the other NFL also-rans for so long that they've been relegated to the dreaded "once-proud" status, a designation that no franchise ever wants to bear.
The more time that has passed since a team's success, the more tightly fans hold onto past glory. In the NFL, where success is measured in championships, Miami fans cling to the memory of the Dolphins' back-to-back Super Bowl wins in 1973-74 like the manager at the Piggly Wiggly refusing to put away his moth-eaten varsity letterman's jacket, breaking it out every year for his high school reunion.
To put Miami's futility in historical perspective, let's take a trip down memory lane.
- The last time the Dolphins won a playoff game, Bill Clinton was President and the Sept. 11 attacks had not yet happened.
- The last time the Dolphins made it to the playoffs, Wikipedia didn't exist.
- The Dolphins last played in a Super Bowl more than 25 years ago. Super Bowl XIX was played the same day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office for his second term.
- When the Dolphins last won a Super Bowl (VIII, against Minnesota), the President of the United States was Richard Nixon.
- Since the Dolphins last went to the Super Bowl (without a ticket, that is), 10 different teams have represented the AFC in the game. The only AFC teams with longer runs of futility are Kansas City, Cleveland and the Jets. The Texans weren't even part of the NFL the last time Miami the playoffs, and Jacksonville didn't have a team until 10 years after the Dolphins' last Super Bowl appearance.
The good news is that the Dolphins have money to spend (somewhere in the neighborhood of $30-plus million) and the brain trust is in place to reverse this historical run of ineptitude. The decision to release nine players on Monday was a good start to cleaning house and getting rid of guys who did not fit in an organization trying to build a framework within which it can be successful.
Zach Thomas' release, among others, also put the remaining players on notice that no one is safe. You're either part of the solution or you're gone.
Frankly, with 31 other teams competing for the limited available talent, it's doubtful that Parcells and Co. will be able to amass enough capable bodies to do much more than double last year's win total. In particular, the offensive line was so abysmal that it will take seasons—plural—to put a unit together that will give this once-proud franchise much to look forward to. Yet another year of looking back at past glories.
There is—and will be—much speculation about what the Dolphins will do in free agency and in April's NFL draft.
But one thing is certain: The Dolphins have been down so long that Parcells and the team itself have nowhere to go but up.