How bad are things for the winless Miami Dolphins?
The two most talked about players in South Florida this week were Andrew Luck and Tim Tebow.
The latter plays quarterback for the Denver Broncos (1-4), who will visit Miami this weekend. The former might someday play for the struggling Dolphins (0-5) if they continue to lose and secure the No. 1 overall pick.
That brings me to this thought: Miami is much better off losing Sunday's "Andrew Luck Bowl" against Denver than winning it. The loser of this game will win in the long run by having the inside track to one of the best quarterback prospects of the past decade.
For the record, I am not a proponent of "tanking" games. Dolphins players and coaches, for the sake of their own professionalism and job security, should work as hard as they can to try to turn the team around.
But there is nothing wrong with those not associated with the team objectively looking at the big picture -- and that is where Dolphins fans are 100 percent correct. Miami already lost its first five games and will not make the playoffs this season. Therefore, the more the Dolphins lose in 2011, the better off they will be in 2012.
It's not what embattled Dolphins coach Tony Sparano wants to hear. But that is the sad reality facing Miami the rest of the season.
"What bothers me about it most is that we have a lot of players in that locker room, every player in that locker room, every coach upstairs, every [public relations person] in this building ... with one agenda and that agenda is to win, period," Sparano said. "So we have no other agenda here. It's to win, and those players go out there every single week and they put themselves at risk. I think that part of it, yeah, that angers me a little."
Sparano's reaction is predictable. He's coaching for his job and his future with the team is in doubt. The quickest way to turn an organization around in the NFL is through a coaching and quarterback change. Sparano is on his way out, barring a miraculous turnaround. Now, the Dolphins have to find their franchise quarterback. One is clearly sitting there in the draft.
The "Suck for Andrew Luck" campaign is getting very popular in Miami. That has angered many players in the Dolphins' locker room, who are proud and paid a lot of money to do their jobs.
"It's ridiculous," Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor told the Miami Herald. "Acknowledging it is condoning the stupidity. It’s illegal for a player to throw a game whether it’s for pay or for a pick. People are talking about ruining the integrity of a game for a draft pick ... Nothing amazes me anymore. There is no tanking, no ‘Suck for Luck’ in this locker room."
Teammate Karlos Dansby's insinuation that Miami still has a chance to win 11 straight games and make the playoffs is preposterous. Yes, players have to think that way. But what have we seen in the first five games from Miami to believe a playoff run is possible?
What is possible is Miami winning its first game of the season on Sunday.
Denver is similar to Miami. The Broncos have a lot of problems. Denver is making a quarterback switch to the popular Tebow, who will make his first start of the season. Miami did the same thing last week with former backup Matt Moore, who threw two big interceptions in a loss to the New York Jets.
Denver currently has the worst record of any team remaining on Miami's schedule. If Miami can't beat Tebow and the Broncos at home, there isn't much hope for picking up wins the rest of the season.
Miami is an abysmal 1-11 at Sun Life Stadium in its past dozen games. The Dolphins lost their first two games at home to the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, then played increasingly worse during their three-game road trip.
When asked this week why Dolphins fans still should believe in this season's team, Sparano's answer was not inspiring.
"Well, the only thing I can say in that situation is the team is playing hard," Sparano said. "These guys are playing hard and they practice hard. If you want hope, I mean, they're playing hard, they're practicing hard, there's improvement in different areas. There really is."
As strange as it sounds, most Dolphins fans hope there isn't too much improvement this week. Losing to Denver could eventually provide the gateway to Andrew Luck -- and that's a good thing.