Sports

The Miami Dolphins Really Want to Be the Worst Team in NFL History

Kalen Ballage doubles over in dismay after causing an interception.
Kalen Ballage after a New England interception in the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.
Mark Brown/Getty Images

I can’t get enough of the 2019 Miami Dolphins. I don’t have a personal connection to South Florida, nor do I harbor a particular fondness for any of the players on their roster. I enjoy the Dolphins because they are remarkably bad. It’s inspirational, this ineptitude, and in just two games Miami has upended the NFL’s dearly held delusions of parity. Being terrible at football was Miami’s plan heading into the season, and, so far, it’s going better than anyone could have possibly hoped.

The Dolphins have been outscored 102–10 in their first two games. They are, unsurprisingly, last in the league in yards gained on offense and yards allowed on defense. Against the Patriots on Sunday they lost more yards via sacks (44) than they gained rushing (42). Granted, New England is an exceptionally good team (and Miami’s first opponent, the Ravens, isn’t bad either), but the Dolphins’ 43–0 loss was a master class of failure. Consider that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw pick sixes on back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter. The game was already done and dusted at that point, and yet the Dolphins went out of their way to run up the score against themselves.

As a quarterback, everything—at the end of the day—it’s all going to fall on you,” Fitzpatrick said after the loss. “I want that blame.” But the beauty of these Dolphins is that they make losing a team effort. Sure, there’s an I in losing, but there are also a whole bunch of other letters. Fitzpatrick should be willing to share the blame (or, more accurately, “credit”). Stop being so selfish, man.

In fairness, the Dolphins’ players are trying as hard as they can (so far as we know). The organization’s on-field awfulness is an off-the-field project. After last week’s 49-point loss to the Ravens, team owner and Trump lunch hoster Stephen Ross released a statement about the team’s rebuilding plan. “We said it wouldn’t be easy, but it was something we are committed to and believe it’s the only way we can build a team to win continually,” he said. That “it” refers to losing as many games as possible in order to obtain higher draft picks. It has, in fact, looked easy.

Less than a week before the season opener, Miami traded Laremy Tunsil, its best offensive lineman, and Kenny Stills, its best wide receiver, to the Houston Texans for two first-round draft picks, a second-round pick, and a couple of players to fill out its squad. Tunsil plays an incredibly important position and is only 25 years old. He is the exact kind of player a rebuilding team would want to hold on to, but the Dolphins are far too obsessed with immediate futility to consider their future. Stills, meanwhile, criticized Ross for raising money for the Trump campaign and was shipped out of town less than a month later.

Are the two things related? Perhaps, but Stills and his ability to catch footballs were nonetheless a detriment to the franchise’s unwavering commitment to losing, and he had to go.

While it’s too early to tell what horrors will be visited upon the 2019 Dolphins, they are a legitimate contender to be the worst team in modern NFL history. Only three teams have gone winless in a 14- or 16-game season. The first of those was the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As an expansion team, they had excuses for being bad. Tampa Bay couldn’t acquire players via free agency, and the roster consisted entirely of unwanted throwaways. Still, their margin of defeat after two games was 49 points fewer than that of the current-day Dolphins.

The 2008 Detroit Lions were the first team to go 0–16, though they had a few chances to steal wins during the season. Five of their games were one-score affairs, including an infamous loss to the Vikings in which quarterback (and current good Twitter-er) Dan Orlovsky earned a safety by running out of the back of the end zone. Detroit lost that game by two points, so the play ended up being as crucial as it was hilarious.

The 2017 Cleveland Browns likewise failed to win in 16 attempts, though they were actually trying to win, as evidenced by head coach Hue Jackson’s statement before the season that he would jump into Lake Erie should his team go winless. (He made good on that promise.) The Browns, too, were occasionally competitive, with two of their losses coming in overtime.

If the Dolphins want to outdo the Lions and Browns, they should focus on suffering nothing but blowouts for the rest of the season. That is very much in plan given what we’ve seen so far, and the organization is working around the clock to make it happen. The front office is reportedly trying to trade defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, a 2018 first-round pick who, like Tunsil, is the kind of player franchises usually try to build around. Sunday’s game against the Patriots may have been his last in a Dolphins uniform. Afterwards, he acknowledged his widely reported request to leave the team. “I knew eventually it would be out there,” he said. “Obviously, I wished it stayed a little bit hush-hush, but it is what it is.”

Even so, Fitzpatrick put on a brave face and played his part against New England. “I just forgot about all the distractions, all the talk and said just go out there and have fun,” he said. In Miami, nothing says good time like a 49-point humiliation. Long may the fun continue.