Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Skinned Pigs: I am more than a little gratified by this column over at Football Outsiders. For years I have always had to explain why, despite living in southeast Michigan for pretty much my entire life, was I more of a Miami Dolphins fan than a Detroit Lions fan. The answer is that when I was but a mere lad, circa 1972, the family went on one of those excruciating family road trips all the way down to Florida. Those with even a minor knowledge of football history will recall that 1972 was the year of the Dolphins famed undefeated season; the only such season in the history of the NFL. A bond was formed. (Of course, it's also true that the Lions are one of the most pathetic franchises in the history of sports, but that's not the reason. Really it's not.)

Well apparently I am not the only expatriate Dolphins fan. And I offer a bit of thanks to the writer for making me feel less like a total freak of nature.

The Dolphins have had an abysmal off season. Early on, legend Dan Marino took a job as GM. Ex-players do not usually make good executives, but at least it meant Marino would be around and something good might rub off from that. If he sucked at the job, maybe they could have just let him continue as a figurehead and let the professional talent evaluators do the real work. Then, suddenly, Marino changed his mind and resigned after only a few days. Pundits postulated that he was probably just surprised to find out it was a bit more demanding than the announcers booth. Or maybe he got a whiff of an administration that hasn’t produced a Super Bowl winner in 30 years, in spite of having reams of talented players, and saw the futility. We'll never know, but things didn’t get any better.

Brian Griese -- Wolverine alum and son of Bob Griese, the quarterback from the undefeated season -- was let go and AJ Feeley, third string QB at Philadelphia behind Donovan McNabb was brought in as the new back-up. Nothing wrong with that move, Feeley had a couple of good games subbing for McNabb, but unless somebody saw something spectacular in the kid, the QB job is still Jay Fiedler's. Fiedler is steady at best. If he goes the season without injury, things should be OK. If not, it's a gamble on Feeley, which is not any better than a gamble on Griese. Call it a wash.

They added receiver David Boston who has talent but is a confirmed head case. They did not fire Dave Wannstedt, who has shown definite Grady Little tendencies over the years. The offensive coordinator requested a demotion because of exhaustion even before Ricky Williams retired. Odd because all he really ever had to do was draw up a game plan for Ricky to carry the ball about 40 times.

See, it was already a mess even before the bomb dropped. Which brings us to Ricky, who retired last week to...well, we don’t really know what to do. To live, too roam, to be. Whatever he does, it's a fair bet that it will involve tooting a monster spliff.

You see, Ricky retired almost simultaneously with the NFL narcs putting the touch on him for tastin' the ganja -- for the third time. How much of a inveterate pothead do you have to be to get caught three times? "Yeah I know I'll be peeing in a cup tomorrow, but that sleepy dude with the bong said that Little Debbies will mask it, so I guess it's OK." Ricky's retirement is supposed to be the death knell for the Dolphins season.

But maybe not. Last year, the Dolphins were 10-6, despite injuries to Fiedler. The defense was sound and still is. And the fact of the matter is, although Ricky made lots of yards last year he was a less than mediocre performer. Maybe it's because he spent the previous year getting his bell rung 35-40 times a week in the course of leading the league in rushing, but last year he got his bell rung 35-40 times a week for a miniscule 3.5 yards per carry behind a horrendous offensive line. And the Dolphins were still 10-6. Now the offensive line is a bit better, so with an average RB as a replacement and a healthy first string QB. Is there any reason Miami shouldn’t get 10 wins again?

Psychology you say. They have the talent but the loss of their go-to guy is going to take a toll in morale. They won’t believe they can win, so they can't. Again, maybe not. They could just as easily use Ricky's "betrayal" as motivation. Or maybe they'll just be happy to be rid of him in the locker room. According to Peter King, besides just being flat-out weird, Ricky had a bit of a problem with personal hygiene:

I had various mates tell me over the years that he and his locker smelled of severe B.O. (which I can confirm), that he was alarmingly antisocial, and that he had no interest in being their friend. None of which, by the way, makes him a bad person.

So maybe things aren't so bad as they seem. Which brings to another topic. Gambling. Scooting around web sports betting sites, there is an over/under for total wins for Miami at -130 for over 8 wins. That means a hundred dollar bet will yield $130 if the Dolphins win 9 games (8 wins is a .500 season). I'd take that without hesitation. Other potentials are -150 for 9 wins. That means if Miami duplicates last year's record of 10-6, a hundred dollar bet returns $150. I'd take that too with maybe a bit of hesitation.

And while were at it, here're some other good bets in my fevered mind:

++The Lions are paying $145 for a hundred dollar bet that they will win at least 7 games (meaning a .500 season). The Lions are much improved.
++The Ravens are paying $135 for a hundred dollar bet that they won’t win 9 games. When a running back carries more than 370 times in a year, they almost invariably fall off the following year. Jamal Lewis carried 387 times last year. A fair bet.
++ You can win $155 for a hundred dollar bet if the Titans win less than 10 games, the Jets win less than 9 games and the Bears win less than 7 games. I'd consider any of those, especially the Jets.

Of course, if you want to take a flyer at the Super Bowl winner, I would go with Tampa Bay at 10-1 or Seattle at 12-1 for a good balance of probability and risk. (Interestingly, the Patriots are 4-1 to repeat but the Eagles are 7-2 to win it all, meaning the Eagles are the favorites according to bettors. That's all wrong; the Pats improved undeniably, the Eagles improved only arguably.)

So what's the bottom line of all this? I need to get to Vegas.