Dancing Off Into The Sunlight

By Israel Gutierrez
Updated: May 26, 2008

Dolphin's Jason Taylor

Dolphin's Jason Taylor

MIAMI — This is how Dolphin-for-life Zach Thomas went out:

With a press release barely more detailed than the one announcing Drew Mormino’s exit. About the only differences in the ”announcement” of Thomas’ release were a few heartfelt words from Thomas, of course, and a generally vapid statement from a general manager who had known Thomas for all of a month.

Considering this was the man who made more Pro Bowls than any other Dolphins defender, the man who cracked heads for the sake of the team so often that his started to give, calling that sendoff unceremonious would be an understatement.

This is how Dolphins all-timer Jason Taylor is on the verge of going out:

In an unnecessarily ugly dispute with a new, testy boss and being considered a villain for it. With the potential of being remembered more for this conflict and a stint on a dancing show than for winning Defensive Player of the Year on a six-victory team.

Considering that he is the NFL’s most recent Man of the Year and a fixture in the South Florida community, calling this an inappropriate lasting image of Taylor also would be an understatement.

The offseason that was supposed to allow Dolphins fans to fantasize about success again has also brought an unattractive reality. Endings like this can happen. One Dolphins great getting dumped and another getting dumped on.

This isn’t about placing blame or taking sides in the Taylor-Tuna debate. Just about every angle in that heavyweight match has been analyzed and dissected.

This is just about asking why these callous, curt dismissals have to happen. Why on this team? Why on any team?

How hard is it, really, to ensure that when it’s time for the special players to leave their foremost franchise, that the exit be handled delicately, professionally and without diminishing the work they’ve done.


It just so happens that Taylor’s and Thomas’ departures (at this point we’re just assuming Taylor has played his last down for the Dolphins, right?) coincide with a new front office regime.

Rebuilding a once-proud franchise requires a certain amount of tunnel vision, so it’s probably not the responsibility of Bill Parcells or Jeff Ireland to consider Thomas’ or Taylor’s sentimental value.

But Wayne Huizenga should certainly be familiar with how much they’ve meant to the organization and how they will be forever tied to it.

So would it have been too much to ask for the owner to to make sure Thomas avoided the embarrassment of a casual goodbye, and that Taylor’s trade request be handled with less acrimony?


Other franchise favorites managed to escape this fate. Remember Emmitt Smith? The entire sports world figured his split with Dallas was inevitable — it was just a matter of how.

And, coincidentally, Parcells was in play there, too, that time as the first-year coach who wanted nothing to do with the career rushing leader.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stepped in and made sure Smith left respectfully. Jones said he would ”always see the star on Emmitt’s helmet” and that Smith would be welcome to return in some capacity after his playing days.

The decision, one that benefited Smith and the team he loved, was made after several individual meetings between Smith and Jones. And today, a retired Smith is offering advice to new Cowboys running back Felix Jones.

It’s an act Huizenga can at least attempt to duplicate. It’s not as if he is deficient in sentiment. This is the man who was caught on camera crying after the Dolphins won their lone game in the disastrous season that effectively led to this whole scenario.

But with Parcells in charge and Huizenga working his way out of majority ownership, the owner hasn’t allowed himself to step in and step on any toes.

So this is what we’re left with. Thomas gone in four paragraphs. Taylor getting smeared before his inevitable departure — not even worthy of a proper discussion, according to the new Dolphins coach.

Is it too much to ask that Taylor’s legacy not be altered even in the slightest because he would prefer to end his career on another team?

It’s too late for that now. Any discussion about this subject will turn into a Taylor vs. Tuna spitting match. It’s impossible to avoid placing blame and potentially changing your perception of a brilliant Dolphin.

More important, though, this situation has the potential of a Jake Scott-type breakup, and nobody would win in that scenario.

This is no way for these men to go out.