COMMENTARY | Perhaps, the AP panel tapped into its inner-sympathy arsenal by saving the Miami Dolphins from a near-snub of the 2013 NFL All-Pro team.
Thanks to the selection of Dolphins punter Brandon Fields to the All-Pro Second Team, Miami wasn't denied a place on the coveted roster. All things considered, The Associated Press could have given the troubled franchise a "three-finger-salute" in Ctrl+Alt+Del-style.
Instead, it gave an entry nod to Fields, who is one of the most formidable and reliable precision punters in the league. No matter what else is going on, Fields plants the football on the receiving team's side as if he were shooting 3-pointers from downtown like the Miami Heat's Ray Allen. He's just that good.
Had this been a story about the Pro-Bowl selections, which are determined by consensus votes from NFL coaches, players and fans, one could make a strong argument that the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin bullying scandal did Miami in.
However, All-Pro team selections are based on objectivity and statistics. In other words, a player's likability plays no part; it's all about the numbers. Besides, Incognito is out on indefinite suspension and Martin, by his own choosing, may not suit up as a Dolphin ever again.
Meanwhile, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin survived Black Monday and Miami earned the 19th pick for the 2014 NFL draft. In the general scheme of things, matters can't get worse for the Dolphins. Technically, they can, but I'm on the side of Coach, who said this back in September: "We got a helluva team in the making!"
In retrospect, that was during a time in which Miami was 2-0 after the front-office struck gold on offseason shopping moves in the free-agent market. And, mind you, it was before the NFL hazing scandal reared its beastly persona in the media.
This is one bold NFL prediction, but minus the controversy that shook up the Dolphins' locker room, I strongly believe Miami can get back to form with minimal sweat equity and without breaking the bank on the salary cap side.
Like many fans, I felt angry, betrayed and was left searching for reasons why the team was imploding right before my eyes. But that's what future Hall of Fame clubs often go through. I'm taking a leap of faith on the Hall prediction, but Miami has a band of talent that just needs to coalesce. In short order, it will and this time next year in the postseason, I have a hunch the Dolphins won't be watching the playoffs on their TVs and tablets.
The team's future is fair to partly cloudy at the moment, but it only takes revamping key positions, particularly on the offensive line. Incognito, at guard, and Martin, at the offensive tackle position, played key roles in protecting the quarterback. And, here's another hunch: The drama swirling around at the time likely weighed heavily on their performance -- or the lack thereof -- in getting the job done.
Therefore, the moves made in the coming days, weeks and months by the front office will determine if the Dolphins can get back on track.
And aside from being the most-sacked quarterback in the league during the regular season, Ryan Tannehill appears to have done enough to keep his path to becoming the franchise quarterback intact. It just may take a few near-misses before he gets a firm handle on the squad and become more comfortable with his receivers and tight ends.
If the 2014 NFL mock draft comes to fruition, Cyrus Kouandjio, offensive tackle with the Alabama Crimson Tide, could help shore up the kinks. It's no secret Miami's offensive line was a mess this past year and could use his services.
I'll admit that Kouandjio's lack of lateral prowess in putting those broad shoulders to good use was apparent in this year's Sugar Bowl. Additionally, scouts likely zoomed in on his inability to secure proper hand placements against agile rushers on the pass.
But those traits can be picked up with ease in the offseason. Moreover, one can't discount the former soccer player's impressive size and athleticism for a big man. At 6-7 and tipping the scales at 310 pounds, Miami would commit a daffy move for not giving Kouandjio a closer look.
Had the Dolphins made good on the last two games, we probably wouldn't be speculating about their future.
But they didn't. And here we are.
That's why the near-snub in the 2013 All-Pro roster made sense, all things considered. At the end of the day, Miami's collective performance didn't score well enough to be in a regular or postseason conversation, despite the team getting off to a noteworthy start.
Tannehill and the Dolphins were simply the little train that could, but didn't this time around.
In the final analysis, The Associated Press made the right call with the Dolphins.
Bradley is a professional writer, journalist, sportswriter and avid follower of the Olympics, NBA, NFL, NCAA, PGA and tennis. He keeps a watchful eye on Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins developments.
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