On the surface, it appears the Miami Dolphins are flipping over the whole roster.
In reality, the Dolphins are just jettisoning some really big names.
On the surface, one might question how just two seasons removed from 10-6 and a playoff appearance it makes sense to dump stars Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh.
In reality, in the struggles of a 6-10 season, Miami discovered some things they didn’t really like about those three.
The Dolphins needed Ajayi, Landry and Suh to run to the front lines when things were going badly, and the feeling was, they didn’t.
Each situation is unique, in terms of experience, position and salary.
It can be argued, and understandably so, that Miami should have found a way to manage those complex personalities because, as proven, they’re capable of major contributions to a playoff season.
But sometimes winning masks warts.
Sometimes winning masks deficiencies.
What is seen on game day is a small fraction of what coaches and teammates see on a day-in-day-out basis.
So, yes, Ajayi had some mind-boggling stiff-arms. And yes, Landry always seemed to fight for the extra yard. And Suh seemed to add a violent tone to Miami’s defensive front.
But it must be said that behind the scenes, Miami didn’t always like what they were seeing from those three. It must be obvious, as they are gone.
At times, Miami felt those players weren’t setting the best examples.
So yes, as two national reporters have recently suggested on Twitter, Miami does feel it must change its culture.
Miami does want to add some players in free agency and the draft they feel add leadership value. They want guys that others will follow, and respect.
The Dolphins want players who set the right example and are leaders both on the field and in the locker room.
What fans often saw was Ajayi and Landry and Suh providing “Juice” (sorry, no pun intended) on game days. But actually, there was a bit of picking spots and sometimes even to the extent of flat-lining when more was needed.
So Miami is changing things up. Because Miami felt it was necessary in order to take the steps forward as a team that may eventually result in bigger gains.
The Dolphins believe that some of the players who have been pushed a bit to the background in the shadow of Ajayi and Landry and Suh have more to give, given the responsibility to lead.
For example, wide receiver Kenny Stills is cerebral, but a somewhat soft-spoken, lead-by-example type.
Perhaps Landry’s departure creates an opportunity for a different role.
Though some have speculated center Mike Pouncey could be let go, it seems he is more in the plans for positive 2018 leadership than not. Pouncey is not a part of any problem. If anything, he’s a part of the solution.
The Dolphins have created salary cap space here. And it is true that there are not a ton of star-caliber players in this free agent class.
But this isn’t about accumulating as many star players as possible.
This is about having the ability to construct a team with a longer-term vision, and longer-term chance of success.
Miami’s leadership group — Adam Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier — determined that the leadership group that led the Dolphins to a 16-16 regular-season mark over the past two seasons was not good enough.
The changes — dramatic and jarring as they seem — create an opportunity for Miami to build the team the way they envision it.
Now all they have to do is get it right.