NAPLES — This Miami Dolphins regime has stopped playing it safe. Great. Because that wasn't getting it done. General manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano have a lot of ground to make up and not a lot of time to do it.
Three years into this marriage, the Dolphins have gone 25-24 and not developed a franchise quarterback. They have no more than a handful of impact players (Brandon Marshall, Jake Long, Karlos Dansby, Cameron Wake).
You don't need many more "impact" guys if the rest of the roster is solid, but in Miami, that's far from the case. The offensive line is an unsettled mess. There's not one proven running back on the roster. The quarterback stinks, and they have no one that strikes any fear into the other team.
At this rate, the Dolphins will finish behind the Jets and Patriots longer than it will take us to balance a budget.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross either realized this or said, "We went 1-7 at home last year and we're boring. I gotta do something." He tried to fire Sparano in January, and turn the franchise over to then-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. When Harbaugh chose the 49ers instead, Ross rehired Ireland/Sparano for three years. But with plenty of empty seats, boo birds in those that are occupied, and Bill Cowher itching to get back into coaching, how long do you think Ireland and Sparano really have to turn this ship around?
So now tell me what you think of the Dolphins giving up a little bit of salary cap space and some mid-level draft picks for quarterback Kyle Orton and running back Reggie Bush?
I say without these moves -- the Bush deal has been finished, while the Orton one is still being negotiated with Denver -- this team had no chance. None!
If Orton and Bush were on the Dolphins last year, they would have gone no worse than 10-6 (instead, they went 7-9). Kyle Orton is not flashy, in fact his name, demeanor and game are all a little dull. Yet Orton threw 41 TDs against just 21 INTs the last two seasons. "Check down" Chad Henne threw 27 TDs to 31 INTs.
Orton is a legit starting quarterback in the league. Not a star, but a starter. Henne -- after three years -- is still a project. Marshall was a top-five wide receiver before Henne (catching 100 passes from Orton in 2009). With Henne, he became just another guy.
Kyle Orton will be the best Dolphins quarterback since Dan Marino, and it won't even be close.
And he's only 28 years old.
Then there's Reggie Bush. This guy has got some baggage. The USC scandal, three years dating a Kardashian, and worst of all, he can't seem to stay healthy.
But he can play! He's a home run threat (running, receiving and on special teams) the Dolphins have not had since Marino was hooking up with Duper and Clayton. He is an impact player, one the opposition has to account for on every play.
Ireland and Sparano are trying to give the Dolphins -- and themselves -- a chance.
Miami would still only be the third-best team in the AFC East.
But if they get Orton they have hope.
With Henne, they have no chance.