Here was the idea: Talk to some 2007 Miami Dolphins. Tap into their remembered pain. Dredge up the darkness inside that 1-15 season to grasp how these struggling Dolphins feel today.
Only the 2007 Dolphins weren’t buying it.
“This start isn’t like our season,” Hall of Fame defensive end Jason Taylor said.
“I don’t think the two seasons are related at all,” said Randy Mueller, the team’s general manager at the time.
“I looked up some numbers the other day,” 2007 linebacker Channing Crowder said. “We lost six games by three points – games we were in until the end, last-second games, like our opener we lost in overtime to Washington. We were competitive. We weren’t getting dragged up and down the field (like this year).”
This becomes the most sobering thought of all about this season’s September: Even the 1-15 Dolphins can’t fathom what it’s like. Even that dreadful year wasn’t as dreadful as these first few games that the Dolphins have lost by an average of 39 points.
Planning to be bad, as these Dolphins were for a quick rebuild, is one thing. But taking the roster so far down that players off the street are starting, young talent doesn’t want to stay and getting crushed by record numbers is startling to even the 2007 team.
“Even after being 0-4 or 0-5, we’d look back and say that one, third-down conversion we allowed that cost us a field goal was the difference,” said Crowder, now a 560-AM radio host. “These guys got run off the field in the first two games and lost (by 25 points to Dallas) the third.
“Halftime of that Ravens (opening game), I might’ve cried over what was happening. Every time they touched the ball, they scored. The pace of the 2007 game where (New England’s) Randy Moss and Tom Brady were together, it wasn’t like that. You got frustrated as hell playing them. But they weren’t scoring every time they got the ball.”
There are comparisons. The losing. The first-year regime. But while this year’s roster is stripped of talent by organic planning, the 2007 Dolphins were trying to be competitive with a strong veteran core. Their bad start became compounded by injuries to running back Ronnie Brown and linebacker Zach Thomas. Three defensive backs also were lost to injury in the opening weeks.
“There were some flaws, but it was an unlucky team that was snake-bit with a first-time NFL head coach,” Mueller said.
Ah, Cam Cameron. He lost such control of the team that defensive end Joey Porter interrupted Cameron’s team talk by shouting that the coach didn’t know what he was doing.
“Well, at least we got that aired out,” Cameron said.
After 13 straight losses, the 2007 Dolphins’ lone win came against Baltimore on a 64-yard pass in overtime from Cleo Lemon to Greg Camarillo. Team owner H. Wayne Huizenga wasn’t alone in crying tears of relief in the post-game locker room.
“There were more tears in the locker room after that win than I’ve seen after most any win,” Mueller said. “That was based on how hard the guys were trying. How we’d been snake-bitten. That told me how much it meant to everyone. I had tears in my eyes, too.”
Huizenga either felt such joy in the win or sensed a good business opening that he phoned Steve Ross the next morning. The sale price of the team just went up $40 million, he told Ross.
A decade later, Ross faces a similar season – if not the same business model. Taylor sees the difference.
“They’re going through a process right now with this team,” he said after the Dolphins were 0-2. “People have to be patient. I understand they want to win and are buying tickets. At the end of the day, do you want to be 6-10 to 9-7 or be patient and tear it down and do it the right way, build it from the ground up?”
Taylor says, to that end, “If they need help, they can call me.” He chuckles from retirement: “I’ve got one play left.”
After that one play, he knows, he’d be finished. Which is what everyone hopes this 2019 season would be sooner than it can be.
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com