Opposite of Perfect; Dolphins Are Trying to Avoid Winless Season
Byline: David Elfin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
As the steamrolling New England Patriots threaten the 1972 Dolphins' status as the NFL's only perfect team, Miami's current team is heading toward a record at the opposite end of the spectrum.
No NFL team has gone 0-16. The expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the mark with an 0-14 record in 1976, but after blowing a fourth-quarter lead last week against the visiting Buffalo Bills, Miami (0-9) is looking at remaining winless heading into December.
The Dolphins' next two games are at Philadelphia (4-5), which is riding high after rallying to win at Washington, and at Pittsburgh (7-2, 5-0 at home), which rebounded to beat red-hot Cleveland last week. The Eagles and the Steelers are simply better than the Dolphins.
Miami has scored at least 20 points only four times, and it surrendered 37, 31, 41 and 49 points in those games. The Dolphins allowed an average of 19.8 points in their other five games but scored an average of just 13.8.
Rookie coach Cam Cameron is on his third quarterback, rookie John Beck, after veteran Trent Green suffered a possible career-ending concussion and young backup Cleo Lemon struggled. With this year lost, Miami traded top receiver Chris Chambers to the Chargers for draft picks at the Oct. 19 deadline. That same week, running back Ronnie Brown, who was leading the league in yards from scrimmage, had season-ending knee surgery. And yesterday, Cameron decided troubled running back Ricky Williams, reinstated by the NFL on Wednesday after an 18-month drug suspension, could return to the field for his inexperienced offense starting Monday.
The defense, which kept Miami decent though not good enough to make the playoffs since 2001, has plunged from fourth last year to 20th. Cameron's housecleaning - which also negatively overhauled the special teams - hurt the line's depth. Perennial Pro Bowl middle linebacker Zach Thomas likely will miss a fifth straight game with migraines, and new outside linebacker Joey Porter hasn't been the playmaker he was in Pittsburgh. Coordinator Dom Capers' defense is also on its fifth starting strong safety.
What ultimately might make these Dolphins a team for the history books is that they don't have a player left from their 1998 to 2003 drafts. Trading picks in a constant mortgaging of the future has taken its toll with what will be a third double-digit losing season in the past four.
It's going to be a long road back for Miami, by which point Thomas, 34; sack king Jason Taylor, 33; and Porter, 30, all will be gone. The Dolphins' only true building block is third-year back Brown.
In the meantime, the goal is to avoid that 0-16 season. Of the seven teams to finish 1-15, only two have stayed winless longer than these Dolphins. San Diego won its 12th game in 2000, while New Orleans won its 15th game in 1980.
The Dolphins' best shot for a victory is the Dec. …