Miami's 0-3 start conjures 2007 feelings


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

By the sounds of it, Dolfans have given up on 2009 already.

Can't say I blame them. They're 0-3, and only three times in NFL history has a team started out so poorly yet rebounded to make the playoffs. Their quarterback and leader, Chad Pennington, will be out indefinitely with an injury to his throwing shoulder suffered in Sunday's 23-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Their defense isn't getting it done. Joey Porter's hurt.

True, Miami opened last season 0-2 and eventually won the AFC East, but this situation is much direr and potentially calamitous.

Pennington's condition is particularly disheartening. There's a reason -- several, actually -- he was runner-up for league MVP last year. He was the player most responsible for guiding Miami to the playoffs.

On my regular segment with Jorge Sedano on Miami sports radio station 790 The Ticket, I could almost hear Dolfans whimpering in the background. The more Sedano and I spoke, the more my mind drifted back to 2007.

These are the blahs felt on Monday mornings when the Dolphins were going 1-15 with Cam Cameron as head coach, Randy Mueller as general manager and Trent Green/Cleo Lemon/John Beck as quarterback.

But it's not 2007 anymore. It's not going to be another 2008, either. In fact, it's probably time to forget about 2009 already and start working on 2010.

Let me stress, this year's Dolphins aren't nearly as pathetic as they were two years ago. But the taste of morning-after disappointment given last year's achievements is familiar.

Still, this season could get worse. Some fans would be satisfied if the Dolphins didn't make the playoffs but learned what they had on the roster, especially when it comes to the team's supposed quarterback of the future, Chad Henne.

Last year's second-round draft pick out of Michigan will get his shot now that Pennington is hurt, a development that had to be at least half-expected when considering Pennington's voluminous medical chart. He has won two Comeback Player of the Year Awards because he's constantly returning from some injury.

But what if Henne doesn't perform? Merely two years ago, Dolfans were so excited to see Beck. He was their quarterback of the future, too, a second-round draft choice out of Brigham Young. He was comically bad when given the chance to start. He was cut during the offseason.

Of the 10 players taken in 2007 -- Mueller's final draft class before Bill Parcells came in and fired him -- two remain on the team, and neither has endeared himself.

The headliner, ninth overall pick Ted Ginn, continues to be a disappointment. He bumbles passes, doesn't get open, runs out of bounds rather than fight for extra yards. He had more drops Sunday.

The Dolphins have players up and down the roster they can concentrate on learning more about in game situations.

The Dolphins kept 14 rookie or first-year players on their opening-day roster, more than any other NFL team. The league average was 9.6 rookie or first-year players.

One year after pulling off the greatest single-season turnaround in NFL history, rebuilding time has arrived again.

Time to clear the bench and see what they can do.