The New England Patriots aren’t a highlight reel this year. They’re a how-to manual. And the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, who meet in their annual Rebuilding Bowl on Sunday, should be alternately sick, embarrassed and suffering a pinched expression of jealousy whenever Bill Belichick is mentioned.
The Patriots coach did in one year what the Dolphins haven’t in two decades, what the Jets didn’t sustain for longer than a deep breath — the very thing these struggling franchise’s blueprints proclaimed was impossible.
Belichick re-built Rome in a day.
Smart free-agent spending. A drafted quarterback no one else wanted. Solid selecting and coaching for an offensive line that includes a starting Dolphins cast-off, Ted Karras. And an immaculately refurbished defense. Who knew it could be done this way?
Didn’t good players first have to be thrown overboard to accumulate draft picks like Monopoly money? Weren’t three, four, maybe even five seasons necessary to build a roster properly?
The Patriots had a rebuilding 7-9 season last year. They’re now back contending for the AFC East title as well as the larger prize of the conference championship. The 3-7 Dolphins, meanwhile, hope to make a run through a soft part of the schedule to sea-level 7-7.
You remember 7-7. That’s the exact season the Dolphins were rebuilding to avoid, the even-steven mark they shunned, the very ending as professed at the start of this rebuild that was the repetitive, “definition of insanity.”
Now that’s the giddy goal?
Let’s repeat something else said at the start of this era: The franchise dumb enough to tank for a franchise quarterback isn’t smart enough to build around him. The Dolphins and Jets are proving that true.
The Dolphins feel they whiffed so badly on Tua Tagovailoa they’re still hoping Deshaun Watson’s 22 sexual-assault allegations disappear this offseason. In the meantime, Tua is either hurt or protected by a sagging line, no running game, receivers who are as injured as their careers predicted and an offensive flow chart of coaching that a gumshoe detective is needed to unravel.
The Jets? They start quarterback Joe Flacco on Sunday. He’s not even their Jacoby Brissett, the Dolphins’ backup. He’s a third-string sacrifice against a creative Dolphins defense that is suddenly as strong as it was … last year.
The Jets, like the Dolphins, had such a flimsy program for their young quarterback, Zach Wilson, that two weeks ago it called a belated audible. It imported his personal coach — just like the Dolphins did in hiring Charlie Frye a year after drafting Tua.
Wilson’s personal coach is John Beck. You remember Beck, a good guy who stepped into a pile of coach Cam Cameron and became a failed hope in 2007. Beck was the 13th quarterback after Dan Marino. Tua is 23rd. Has anything changed?
Sunday’s game underscores Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh’s proclamation that, “Organizations make quarterbacks.” The support. The system. The nurturing. How many can achieve that to properly raise a talent?
Walsh also said he only worried about eight teams a year. The others would beat themselves. The AFC East is proving that. The Dolphins and Jets have been the textbook examples of franchises beating themselves for years.
Buffalo smartly and aggressively rebuilt, not tossing away seasons and recognizing the special in quarterback Josh Allen.
Now we see the surprise outcome of BradyGate, Belichick’s premature divorce with the game’s greatest quarterback, Tom Brady. The Patriots looked dead, right? Belichick seemed destined to wander his final years in search of a quarterback, didn’t he?
Enter Mac Jones. He isn’t a finished product. He’s an improving one, though. He’s in the right organization, too. He’s proof the Patriots are bottom-line smarter than the two teams in Sunday’s Rebuild Bowl in the Meadowlands.
The Dolphins are in the third year of their perpetual rebuild. The Jets are 2-7 in the first or second year of theirs, depending on who’s keeping score. What both franchises need is substance. Sunday won’t provide that. It will only offer relief in season trending as they often do.
Source: Berkshire mont