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Don’t look now, but it sure appears as if the Miami Dolphins are in for a very long season.

Don’t call it a tank job, they’ll insist. But whatever this is, it could unfold at epic levels of ugly if Sunday’s season opener is any kind of indication.

The Baltimore Ravens throttled the hosting Dolphins 59-10, giving Brian Flores a rude welcome to the NFL head coaching ranks. And had John Harbaugh and the Ravens not called off the dogs by pulling starting quarterback Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter and kneeling rather than scoring from the Miami 5-yard line with time running out, this outcome would have been even more embarrassing.

It’s really hard to say if Jackson’s development in Year 2 has taken this dramatic a leap under new offensive coordinator Greg Roman, or if the Dolphins defense is really that bad, but the Ravens quarterback looked scary good. After starting the game with 10 straight completions, he finished the game 17-for-20 for 324 yards and five touchdown passes. His new deep threat, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, had two touchdown catches, and new running back Mark Ingram had two rushing scores.

The 59 points represented a franchise high for the Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, things got so bad for the Dolphins that they yanked starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and made a garbage-time insertion of backup Josh Rosen, who proceeded to throw an interception.

The Ravens are clearly at a different place in their development as a team than the Dolphins are. But in today’s NFL, where parity runs strong, there’s really no excuse for such a lopsided affair.

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The Dolphins shipped off left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills to Houston in a cutdown day deal that netted them two first-round picks and a second-rounder. And they also traded linebacker Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints. But the massive discrepancy in production and execution can’t be pinned on those departures. 

The Dolphins are indeed in rebuild mode. Nearly two-thirds of their roster is comprised of new players. Their coaching staff must go through growing pains as well. But a 49-point loss right out the gates?

Yes, this looks like a squad playing for the first pick of the 2020 NFL draft. But I get why the Dolphins coaches and players see accusations of tanking as unfair. Tanking implies that the squad is trying to lose, and that’s not the case. The coaches and the players have pride and don’t want to be embarrassed.

But the Dolphins are indeed embarking on the painful process of dismantling their team and building it back up again, brick by brick. They want to build this foundation with a bevy of quality draft picks rather than go on free-agent shopping sprees to plug holes.

When they hired Flores, management conveyed that they want to build this thing the right way, and they acknowledged that this operation could take time to complete.

But everyone had hoped they could do so while still putting forth a competitive effort.

Perhaps it’ll take some time for Flores and his staff to hit their stride. Perhaps these players will gradually improve along the way.

But they’d better do so in a hurry, because an already sparse crowd will grow even thinner. By the time December rolls around, there might not be many more in the stands beyond family and friends if more performances like Sunday’s follow at a frequent rate.

It’s going to be hard to make the argument why any fans should invest in watching efforts like this.

No, the Dolphins don’t want to hear accusations of tanking. But they sure didn’t help their case with their season opening effort.

Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

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