Two Fridays ago, Peter King and I debated on NBC SportsTalk the question of whether any team would deliberately lose late-season games in order to position itself to “earn” the first pick in the draft, and thus to land Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Peter thinks such a plan would involve too many people; I think it can be as simple as the owner telling the coach that the man who writes the check wants to see if that third-string quarterback can deliver the pig. Given that the league, which despises the decision of good teams resting starters in late-season games, would react swiftly and aggressively to any evidence of intentionally sucking for Luck, teams would surely think twice about implementing such plans.
But Dolphins owner Stephen Ross may have found the perfect formula: Do nothing.
Ross didn’t fire coach Tony Sparano during the bye, and the team has emerged looking even more ragged than it did before. Maybe Ross merely needs to sit back, let nature take its course, and secretly root for one of the worst teams in the league to keep proving it.
Keeping Sparano produces another benefit. With Ross already losing style points for trying to lure Jim Harbaugh in January, a decision to let Sparano finish the season would create the appearance that Ross was more than fair with Sparano, less than a year after going behind his back and looking for his successor.
Armando Salguero’s recent look into the upper reaches of the organization supports the notion that Ross welcomes the opportunity to get a franchise quarterback like Luck. Ross also reportedly wants a superstar coach, and what better way to lure one than to give him the ability to begin his Miami tenure with Andrew Luck at the helm?
Other teams may have something to say about this. If the Dolphins beat the Broncos on Sunday, for example, Denver would surpass the Dolphins. Also, the Colts are the only 0-6 team, and owner Jim Irsay already has been talking about a Favre-Rodgers arrangement between Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. The Rams are 0-5 en route to 0-7, and the Vikings, Cardinals, Jaguars, and Panthers each have one win.
But the Dolphins have the inside track. Because the Dolphins have no hope, and the owner realizes that the best strategy may be to stand back and let the hopelessness in 2011 become 15 years or more of the kind of quarterback play that could make folks finally begin to forget about Dan Marino.