When I left Miami 21 years ago, the Dolphins were king of the hill.
The Heat were the new kids in town struggling to sell tickets; a major league baseball team was still a dream away; and no one was talking about a hockey team.
Between 1970 and 1990, the Dolphins made the playoffs 13 times, won five AFC championships and two Super Bowls.
Today, the once proud franchise is now disorganized and ridiculed. The fans are fed up with a team that has made the playoffs only once in the last 10 years.
Things have steadily deteriorated since Don Shula was forced by owner Wayne Huizenga to step down as coach after the 1995 season. They reached a new low on Tuesday when a group of angry fans showed up outside the Dolphins offices.
Most of the anger was targeted on Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland for once again failing to sign a premier quarterback. In the last 10 days, free agent QBs Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn and Alex Smith each have spurned the Dolphins.
Instead, Ireland had to settle for David Garrard, a 34-year-old former Jacksonville starter who has Crohn's disease and was out of football last season recovering from back surgery.
The word around the NFL is that Ireland turns off potential players and "no one" wants to play for Miami.
Ireland's failure is just part of the problem. The Dolphins have had eight coaches since Shula was dismissed, including Jimmy Johnson and Nick Saban, both of whom have produced college and/or NFL championship teams.
Unfortunately for Miami fans, for one reason or another, they were flops as Dolphins coaches. And is it a coincidence that Shula does not speak highly of either Johnson or Saban?
Then there was Bill Parcells, the self-proclaimed football genius, who was brought in by Huizenga in 2007 to head the Dolphins front office. He, too, made some terrible player decisions and fled after the 2010 season, leaving his protege, Ireland, in charge.
The fact is that with few exceptions -- Dan Marino comes to mind -- the Dolphins have drafted poorly for at least 30 years. To me, the biggest fault has been failure to look 25 miles down the road to the University of Miami on draft day.
At the moment, there are 48 former Hurricanes playing in the NFL and only one, tackle Vernon Carey, is on the Dolphins' roster.
Among those overlooked by various Miami coaches and GMs were running backs Frank Gore (San Francisco) and Willis McGahee (Denver); tight ends Jimmy Graham (New Orleans), Greg Olsen (Carolina) and Jeremy Shockey (Carolina); wide receivers Devin Hester (Chicago), Andre Johnson (Houston), Santana Moss (Washington) and Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis); linebackers Ray Lewis (Baltimore) and Jonathan Vilma (New Orleans); offensive linemen Bryant McKinnie (Baltimore) and Eric Winston (Houston); defensive backs Ed Reed (Baltimore) and Brandon Merriweather (Chicago); and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (New England).
Draft just a half dozen of the above and you might have a Super Bowl contender. Can you blame Dolphins fans for being disgusted?
Attendance has been dwindling the last couple of years and I suspect it's going to get much worse in 2012 as the Dolphins have to battle the Heat, the Marlins and the Panthers for fan interest.
The Heat, favored to win the NBA title, sell out every game. The Marlins, with a brand new stadium sporting a retractable roof, have spent millions on free agents and many feel the team is not too far away from its third World Series title in 20 years.
The Panthers, too, have become a winner in the National Hockey League.
Are the Dolphins one of those sports franchises that are cursed? You know, like the Boston Red Sox (Curse of the Bambino) were for 86 years, or the Chicago Cubs (Curse of the Billy Goat) who haven't won a World Series since 1908.
Maybe it's the "Curse of Joe Robbie." The Dolphins haven't been the same since 1995 when they changed the name of the stadium the founder and late owner built in 1987. What was once known as Joe Robbie Stadium has had four name changes -- all for monetary reasons.
I speak from experience when I say that Robbie was a vengeful man. And if I were Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, I would give some thought to turning the clock back.
Right after I fired Jeff Ireland.