These are difficult days for the Miami Dolphins and their fans. The team failed to meet the fan base’s playoff expectations, and now we are all stuck with two meaningless games to finish out the year.
The Dolphins’ fate of a disappointing 2010 may be sealed, but you can argue that there will be plenty to play for from an individual standpoint as several job statuses remain up in the air. With so many crucial decisions pending for Stephen Ross to make, these last two games could make or break tenures in Miami.
1. Chad Henne’s last chance?: With how inconsistent Chad has been this season, we may be on the verge of witnessing his final two games as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback. Fans have already begun to throw out possible replacements like Donovan McNabb in free agency or Cam Newton in the draft, but I still feel like Henne could save his job with back-to-back impressive showings.
Mostly, I’m just a little reluctant to give up on the kind of potential Henne has shown when I think we can all agree that he hasn’t been giving the best chance to succeed this season with Dan Henning calling the shots. To get a definite answer on whether or not they should bring Henne back for a fourth season, the Dolphins should really let him off the leash in these last two games. This football team doesn’t have a whole lot to lose, and conservative play-calling will only be a waste of everybody’s time. It’s time to see Henne air it out early and often.
2. Can Sparano afford to lose to the Lions?: Fans are pretty split on whether or not the Dolphins should fire Tony Sparano for such mediocre results this season. But it’s fairly obvious Sparano’s approval has dropped considerably after the losses to the Browns and Bills. The Patriots are the best team in football right now and if they play their starters I don’t think losing to them to close out the season is going to lead to any firings. But a lose this Sunday to the Lions, which would make three losses in four weeks to an inferior opponent and would drop the Dolphins to a tie with the putrid 07’ squad for a franchise-worst 1-7 at home, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
3. Should get extensive look at young players: Now that they are out of playoff contention, the Dolphins can afford to work in some of the young guys who haven’t received many snaps this season to be able to fully evaluate the roster at the end of the season. Maybe Lex Hilliard gets a few carries in the running game to see if he’s worth bringing back next year. We could also see rookie John Jerry finally make his debut at right tackle after working there in practice for several weeks.
On the defensive side of the football, we probably won’t see many changes on the front seven but I would like to see Reshad Jones get a little bit of work at strong safety. I know he’s been lining up at free safety and even started there last week, but I think he could have the tools to be Yeremiah Bell’s eventual successor at strong safety and could give the Dolphins an excellent, young safety duo with Chris Clemons being the free safety for years to come.
4. Dolphins can still finish with a winning record: I know 9-7 wasn’t what most fans had in mind, but finishing with back-to-back wins would at least give the Dolphins a winning season. Not making the playoffs is a failure for a football team with a defense as talented as the Dolphins have, but this franchise has the best regular season winning percentage in the entire NFL, and another winning season would give us at least something small to be proud about heading into the long offseason. Maybe we should hope that the Patriots clinch home-field advantage this week, though, because beating the Patriots in January, in Foxboro probably isn’t that realistic with how poorly this team has played in recent weeks.
5. Who knows when we will have the privilege of watching Dolphins’ football again: With the possibility of lockout looming in 2011, we all better not take the final two games of this season for granted. Who knows, we may not get to see the Dolphins play again until October or November of next year, or quite possibly September of 2012. I don’t think anybody anticipates the NFL locking out a whole season, but regardless of the standings, if you’re a real fan you will savor every second of Dolphins’ football.