The Miami Dolphins’ offensive line meeting room used to be where you went to find the grownups.
Pro Football Hall of Famers like Larry Little and Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson. Sturdy veterans like Norm Evans and Bob Kuechenberg and Jon Giesler.
And running the operation was the late John Sandusky, who spent 26 years coaching for Don Shula in Baltimore and Miami.
Since Sandusky left the Dolphins in 1994, the team has had nine coaches in charge of the offensive line. One of them was cut loose in the Bullygate scandal of 2013 and another resigned in disgrace this week.
The whole lot of them have come and gone in Miami just like the head coaches, two of which, Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin, first built their reputations in the league as offensive line coaches and are coaching that position now.
The new guy, Dave DeGuglielmo, is really an old guy. He was Miami’s offensive line coach from 2009-11, losing seasons all.
It makes a difference who has that job.
For all the flash that Dan Marino showed, it was his blocking that made it possible. For nine straight years in the 1980’s, while Sandusky was coaching Miami’s offensive line, the Dolphins led the league in fewest sacks allowed.
For all the changes that came to the league during Shula’s time, spanning Miami’s Super Bowl years to the wide-open passing attacks of the later years, the offensive line was the foundation of every game plan.
Today, it seems that Adam Gase ought to bring in an exorcist to cleanse the offensive line room of whatever has gone wrong. Even with three first-round draft picks as starters, the unit can’t function. Leadership is a constant problem, too. Chris Foerster, the man caught in what I’ll call the Coachcaine scandal, is only the latest and most troublesome example.
Until this gets fixed, the Dolphins have no core strength. The offense will remain out of balance. The head coach will continue to fight for first downs when he’d rather be fighting for a division title.
Sandusky wasn’t fully appreciated around here. He was stable. He was reliable. Most of the time, he wasn’t noticed at all.
Everything the Miami offensive line needs to be, in other words, but for a long time now it has seemed like too much to ask.