5 Ways NFL Teams Become Perpetual Losers

The 21st Century has not been kind to the Miami Dolphins.

Since 2000, the Dolphins qualified for the NFL playoffs just three times (2000, ’01 and ’08). They advanced to the second round just once (2000). Suffice it to say, Dolphins fans currently exist in the bleakest period in team history.

Dolphins Regular Season Records

Period W L T Avg W’s Avg L’s Div.
2010-2015 42 54 0 7 9 0 0 0 0 0
2000-2009 80 84 0 8 8.4 2 1 0 0 0
1990-99 95 65 0 9.5 6.5 2 5 1 0 0
1980-89 94 53 1 9.4 5.3 5 0 3 2 0
1970-79 104 39 1 10.4 3.9 5 2 3 3 2
1966-69 15 39 2 3 7.8 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 430 334 4 8.6 6.6 14 8 7 5 2

* — 1982 season featured 9 games due to labor strife
** — 1987 played a 15-game schedule.
*** — NFL schedule moved from 14 to 16 games in 1977.
**** — Dolphins played in AFL.

1. Poor Ownership — Quality starts from the top by setting organizational direction, consistency and quality. Robert Kraft serves as a power broker among NFL owners. He played a significant role in the last labor situation — even as his wife passed away. Owners who meddle, make the same mistakes in formulating their organizational structures, rely on outside “consultants” and continually make poor hiring decisions can undercut the long-term success of a franchise. Of this group, we can name the Fords in Detroit, our own Stephen Ross, Daniel Snyder in Washington and Jerry Jones in Dallas as well as anyone who has owned the Cleveland Browns.

Organizational culture counts in a big way. Steve Biscotti in Baltimore and Kraft lord over operations with consistent methods for player acquisition and roster management. It’s no wonder they remain perennial contenders.

2. Failure to Evaluate Players: Whether it’s the Draft or Free Agency, a failure to properly assess talent, desire and character can continually create personnel issues for a club.

3. Contract Mishaps: Letting home-grown talent reach unsustainable contract positions where they either become too expensive or think they can gain more on the open market. The trick here is to identify and retain your most important players at affordable prices.

Three outcomes exist when signing an expensive free agent:

A) The player treats the windfall as his retirement parachute and performs at minimal levels or below.

B) The player wilts under the pressure to prove he’s worth the dollars and fails through tension.

C) In rare cases, a signing strikes the right balance of effort, character, work ethic and success. This sweet spot creates a narrow outcome probability making free agency a massive gamble.

4. Ignore Your Fans: When fans complain about things like the stadium, long-term losing, bad uniforms, etc. Listen to them! Alienating the fan base leads to lower ticket and merchandise sales.

5. Inability to Create Internal NFL Power Base: When owners project gravitas to the overall NFL board, they help make the Commissioner’s job easier. Despite popular belief, league commissioners exist as nothing more than political facilitators tasked with consensus building. The NFL does not move its business forward without majority ownership votes. Any owner who can help persuade his fellow board members will gain favor from the Commissioner. Such an owner can evolve into a regular ally for the Commissioner and don’t think for a second the Commissioner doesn’t owe something in exchange. Dolphins fans would take any of the punishments doled out to the Patriots in exchange for a third world championship.