Tony Sparano -- Miami Dolphins

"Is anyone looking? I need to put these tacks in my players' cleats."

The concept of tanking is one that, generally, fans and the media believe to be widespread in sports, but coaches and players will never admit to (because of the reverberations; can you imagine the type of scandal and lawsuits from bettors who found themselves in the negative because of it?).

Although the notion of tanking isn’t all that prevalent, leagues like the NBA realize there’s a possibility that a team does tank, hence their lottery system.

Of course, in football we never expect a team to totally tank; nearly all the time, it’s generally understood that the team just sucks and is an absolute mess.

Even when you consider the circumstances (such as now, when Andrew Luck is going to be waiting for his name to be called on draft day 2012), teams don’t tank. Perennial losers don’t get solid TV revenue, nationally-televised games, increased memorabilia sales or jam-packed stadiums. Losing on the field equates to losing financially, and no owner, organization or player wants that.

And then there are those times where we can’t help but wonder what the hell a team is doing.

The Miami Dolphins are winless right now at 0-4 and are looking like one of the sloppiest, least motivated teams in the NFL. Despite having a plethora of talent at the running back, wide-out, linebacker, cornerback and offensive line positions, the team cannot get their stuff together. And the fact that they’re winless through four games after putting up two disappointing, yet remarkably promising, 7-9 seasons makes me think something … fish.

Tony Sparano is still getting a ton of backing from the front office, with both Jeff Ireland and owner Stephen Ross constantly harping on about how they have tremendous amounts of confidence in Sparano. The team isn’t moving to make any deals before the trade deadline and they haven’t made a legitimate effort to sign David Garrard or Trent Edwards. (They rejected the Dolphins’ offer? Maybe because the Dolphins low-balled them enough to ensure they wouldn’t agree; instead, the “offers” would give the fans and the media an illusion that the Fins are “trying.”) The team didn’t draft a quarterback in the 2011 NFL draft, instead opting to bolster the offense with weapons that have proved to be otherwise effective.

Things are fishy with the Fish right now. Any normal organization would realize that the Dolphins have one of the most disappointingly talented teams in the NFL. They can’t win one game against their choice of the Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers or Houston Texans, all of which have looked flighty and inconsistent as hell all season? Each game has been within reach, but not close enough for the Dolphins to get lucky and win at the last minute.

How, oh how, is a defense that ranked in the top-10 in both rushing and passing and sixth overall now arguably one of the worst defenses in the league despite no noticeable changes in coaching staff on that side of the ball? Are you going to convince me that the reason the defense is awful is because Channing Crowder, who under-performed in South Beach, is no longer with the team? Did Jason Taylor’s third signing with the Dolphins make everything go down the drain defensively, to the point where the corners — who provided two years of great coverage on top receivers — get beat constantly by whomever, whenever? No, the Dolphins are just practicing lethargic tackling and have Antonio Cromartie syndrome.

The offense looks decidedly improved, but not by much. The push for Reggie Bush as a feature back has been horrendous and it’s unlikely he gets dealt by the trade deadline Tuesday. The playcalling on offense has been flighty, and the  much-malign redzone offense has seen zero improvement, which is incredible since it had hit rock bottom — presumably — last year.

All this, and Tony Sparano still has his job, and there’s been no indication that’s going to change this year. Jeff Ireland has received no heat from owner Stephen Ross either. In essence, the Dolphins are standing pat with a talented group of misfits while Sparano and Ireland are going to take a year off.

And that’s what a kid as talented as Andrew Luck can do to a team. If the Fins are tanking, they better hope it was worth it.

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