Dolphins reeling, coach rolling

DAVIE ( - Dave Wannstedt stared off into the distance earlier this week, let out an incredulous laugh, and said, "It's just endless, really."

In the middle of trying to put a positive spin on Saturday's dreary loss to the Redskins -- and that could be accomplished only by claiming victory that Matt Turk was ambulatory after punting eight times -- Wannstedt seemed to let down his guard for a moment. It was a rare glimpse of candor in a season of mixed messages.

He was in the middle of talking about his inability to properly evaluate the running game (what running game?) due to the Dolphins' anemic (my words, not his) offense when, for a brief moment, he seemed to give in to all that has besieged this franchise.

"It's just endless, really."

And it is. Three weeks from the opening of the regular season and Wannstedt faces a tremendous task and endless questions. He must make this team believe they can win also while making them believe management's personnel decisions were in the team's best interests.

It's not going to be easy.

Here is Wannstedt trying to spin an offense that still doesn't have a starting quarterback, whose offensive line can't seem to pick up simple blitzes, and whose running game is simply abysmal.

Where do you turn for hope if you're Wannstedt? Travis Minor? A.J. Feeley? Derrius Thompson? Marty Booker?

And how do you put a positive spin on certain things? How do you explain giving A.J. Feeley a $3 million signing bonus and a fat contract and then have him sit on the sidelines? How do you continue splitting time at quarterback after countless minicamps, quarterback schools and training camp?

How do you explain not drafting a wide receiver to back up often-injured David Boston and then having to hustle to sign that mystery man out of Chicago? How do you explain an offensive line that's been unsettled now for three seasons and is not starting No. 1 draft pick Vernon Carey?

After Saturday's loss to the Redskins, the Dolphins' offense looks bleak. They're regressing instead of moving forward. Things appear so unsettled that Wannstedt opened his news conference Sunday by focusing on the positives from Saturday's game -- young players on special teams.


Obviously, Wannstedt has a tremendous amount of work to do with his offense. But the trading over the weekend of Adewale Ogunleye sent an extremely mixed message this weekend to fans and, maybe, players.

With so many questions on offense, the Dolphins are hoping the defense can carry this team through the season. Yet, just 20 days before the season opener, they trade one of their most valuable defenders.

While it's clear the Dolphins underestimated Ogunleye's resolve, it's unclear whether they underestimated his worth to the team. Maybe he did benefit from playing opposite Jason Taylor. I'm certainly not inclined to calling him a franchise-type player, certainly not the equivalent of Taylor, but it's unsettling what the Dolphins got for Ogunleye. Booker is a good receiver, but he's not great. And he doesn't possess blinding speed.

So was Booker the only option? Could a running back have been obtained? A higher draft pick in return? Some help along the offensive line?

Under normal circumstances, the results of two preseason games wouldn't be reason for alarm. But things aren't normal this season with the Dolphins. There's an air of uncertainty about way too many positions and way too many moves by management. There's just too many questions without any answers, and things could get ugly if the Dolphins don't find some hope Saturday evening at Tampa.

You know, Wannstedt's right.

It's just endless, really.

By Dave Joseph
Aug 24, 2004
© Copyright 2004-2005

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