The Dolphins are faced with a interesting task ahead of them on Sunday. They have to beat Chad Henne. Yes, the same Chad Henne that was ridiculed, booed, screamed at, and eventually set free in free agency in Miami only a year ago. With an injury to starter Blaine Gabbert, Henne will face the team that drafted him on Sunday. If the Miami Dolphins can’t win this weekend, they stand to lose far more than another game.
They stand to lose a lot of fans. Well, they already have but a few more will likely walk away.
The Dolphins were not supposed to do anything significant this season. Many in the media predicted a 4 win season so the Dolphins are ahead of the pace by one game. Jeff Ireland is still on the proverbial skewered pitchfork that a lot of fans carry around with them. The thought in Miami is that regardless of how this season finishes out, Ireland will return as GM next season.
A loss to the Jaguars may the tipping point for Stephen Ross and Ireland could very well find himself on a seat much hotter than he is today.
The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the NFL. Second only to the Kansas City Chiefs who currently hold the first pick in the draft. With two wins the Jaguars are a close second but a win by KC and Jacksonville will have the first pick. For the Dolphins, a loss to the Jaguars will show major regression and the anger from the few fans that show up on Sunday’s will likely rattle the walls of Davie.
On the field, nothing from the last two weeks have changed. They are still the team that could have beaten New England and could have beaten San Francisco. A two game swing that easily could have put Miami at 7-5 instead of 5-7. Instead of talking about Jeff Ireland’s future…AGAIN…we would be talking about the playoffs and the great job Joe Philbin has done.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen. The team that plays Sunday may not show up as the same team from the last two weeks. They may be the team that showed up to play the Tennessee Titans on November 11th. In other words, the team could come out flat and lose. While on paper this game is billed as the Miami Dolphins vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, the subsequent pages will say, it’s Jeff Ireland’s decisions vs. Chad Henne.
Regardless of whether you liked, disliked, or loathed Henne, there is no refuting the fact that his stay in Miami was tumultuous. In the end, Henne’s demeanor and Ireland’s inability to find a solution to QB tied the two together as failures for the Dolphins. Miami is trying to win back the fans that have vacated the stadium. Each home game brings a decrease in crowd. While they sold-out the New England game, many of those fans were there for the Patriots.
This Sunday is more about Ireland’s decision to draft Henne, let Henne go, and drafting Ryan Tannehill. It’s his vs. his and he can only win in the public eye by leaving the stadium Sunday with a victory. For Stephen Ross, a backlash from a loss to a Henne led Jaguar team may push him to make a decision that many believe he is unwilling to make. At some point Ross will have to make a business decision. If that is after the 2013 season with no improvement then so be it but if the fans do not start returning to Sunday’s, the Dolphins are going to have to fix what is wrong far sooner than later.
When it comes to Miami fans it’s almost as if there is an entitlement to a better product. A “we demand better because we are better than all of you” kind of attitude. I absolutely hate the phrase, “I wish they would have won it all, their fans really deserve it”. No fan deserves anything. You root for a team because you are a fan of that team. You root for your team win or lose in good and bad because that’s what a fan does.
You don’t change allegiance midway through your life because the other guy is winning.
On Sunday’s the stadium is full. For the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs. History isn’t on their side yet the rabid fan bases of all three teams fill the stadiums to capacity each and every week. For a product on the field that is far less intimidating than the one the Dolphins provide. To say anything about cultural difference is simply saying, “we are better than you and thus we expect more or we are not going to support it”.
I’m not sure what message is being sent by the fans who no longer renew their season tickets but I can tell you the message that Ross is getting is the same one that the rest of the NFL fans are seeing as well. Dolphins fans hold their team to a higher standard and won’t pay to see crap. Cleveland, KC, Detroit…knock yourself out. While I don’t buy into that form of support and then call myself a fan, I don’t live in Miami so I can’t speak for the thousands of fans who now stay at home.
If there is good news this week should the Dolphins lose, many of those fans who opted to stay away won’t see it. The game is not expected to sell out and Ross and company are not expected to buy up remaining tickets moving forward. In other words, the game is going to be blacked out.
The Dolphins should not have a problem winning this game. They have a solid running game, a decent passing game, a run stopping defense, and are facing a QB they are not only familiar with but doesn’t possess a killing instinct. It will be interesting to see how Henne approaches this game as well. Will he finally show some attitude and try and stick it to the team that gave up on him or will he continue his lackluster leadership on the field with a ho-hum shrug?
Dolphins are about to find out. In this game it’s more complicated than a win or lose game. The hope that still clings on the shoulders of the faithful Dolphins fans will be tested clearly in a loss this weekend. Ross will be tested to make a decision that fans have been crying for, for three years and Jeff Ireland will feel more pressure than he has felt since his arrival. While not a guarantee by any means, a loss this weekend could cost Ireland a 60 million dollar checkbook this off-season and Stehpen Ross millions more in gate receipts.
When the dust settles Sunday, should the Dolphins lose, Ireland will take the heat. When that begins to subside, those that are left will point at Joe Philbin and the questions for him will start as well…putting that micro-scope a little bit closer.