Bruce Arians must be having that same nightmare I've had. Only his has come horribly true.
You may have experienced classic anxiety dreams: falling from a great height in slow motion, running down the hallway to the exit door that never gets closer, or standing on the sidelines pulling cable when you hear the coach yell into his headset "Okay, let's try one more time for the end zone, then we leave it up to Cockroft...." And you run onto the field screaming, "Nooooo!" but keep slipping on the icy field as the play is snapped.
The dream I believe Arians is living is a variation of one I had in college. I dreamed a big research paper due at the end of the semester. Time would roll by, and I'd realize that I kept forgetting about it, and that I had to get it in gear. Then time would repeatedly flash forward and something or someone would remind me that-- Omigod-- "I haven't even started-- WHY HAVEN'T I STARTED?!!"
Bruce doesn't have the unstarted (let alone unfinished) term paper in his nightmares. He has an 11th player on offense. He doesn't know what to do with it and he keeps putting off a solution. At his closing interview last season, Butch must have said, "Okay, the H-back experiment with Sellars didn't go as planned. So Bruce, figure out if we can get a better player, and if not, whether we want to scrap the H-back idea." Bruce replied, "Right, Butch, that will be a priority right behind running back, offensive line and Timmy's reads."
So months go by, and Arians throws himself into analysis of rb prospects-- free agents or a draft prospect. He grades the available fa linemen. He has Timmy watch tape morning, noon and night. Weeks go by when he remembers that he has to do something about our H-back situation. "$#%$#!, better get on that," he says to himself, and vows to put it on the front burner after he figures which center/guard prospects better fit our system.
But nothing looks more than temporary with fa rb's, so he zeroes in on Green and Duckett. After viewing tape, he recommends that Tucker and Stokes would fit our plans. Then he meets with Butch a few weeks later and they talk over various aspects of the offense. Davis asks "What about the H-back? Where's the next Frank Wycheck?" Bruce hesitates, realizing that the H-back fell off his radar screen. He apologizes saying he's been preoccupied with receiver prospects, just in case Quincy doesn't come on in year two like he was hoping. "I'll take a long, hard look at it this week."
Only he doesn't. He gets caught up with Chris Sanders and Andre Davis, and compiling a list of potential ufa's. He's thrilled with Qasim Mitchell and some others, then realizes time has slipped by, and all he has to show for that 11th man is some Air Force guy who won't be around anyway and a Dolphins reject who wants to remain a feature back.
Arians keeps forgetting about this big hole in his offense, and he doesn't know why. But now it's just a month before the regular season and it might as well be days before exam week, and he hasn't even figured out WHAT that 11th player will be, much less WHO. Will the offense go with a fullback? H-back? Maybe a second tight end?
It's panic time. He runs out and picks up two fb's at Hour Man (Sleepy Floyd and Gavin McLeod from-- say it Ernie-- "The LOVVVE Boat"), then in a moment of desperation, Bruce is presented his window of opportunity.
JJ Johnson, a rb who hits the hole about as well as his more famous namesake, the bebop trombonist...
JJ Johnson, a failed rb at Miami who has fattened up to become a fb in an experiment admittedly as promising as converting Mercury Marquis Smith into Jack Ham...
JJ Johnson, a player who found vultures circling over his locker ("Wha-- and give up a precious 7th round pick?!" yells Butch. "This guy better be Moose Johnston!")...
Yes, JJ Johnson was injured.
"Ah for cryin' out loud!!!" screams Arians. "We have been dealt a critical blow! CRITICAL, I say! The man who was going to be SOOOOO critical to our offense is out! My plans-- foiled!"
Ladies and gentlemen, the dog just ate Bruce Arians' term paper.
He has long been preoccupied with various facets of the offense, and the development of key players, until someone keeps coming back to him with "Uh, Bruce, just what are we doing about the fb/hb thing?"
"Oh, #$%@!. I keep forgetting about that!" Bruce replies, then goes on with tinkering with something else.
Jeff Schudel's August 5th article gives the revealing terms. In lieu of finding good players, Arians tells us he's searching for "the players to fit the right spots." In lieu of establishing an identity that Tre Johnson was dropping hints about as broad as his heinie, Bruce says that in fact we have a "versatile" identity. "Versatile" is dog homework language for "indecisive" or "I haven't figured it out yet."
The 11th man might as well be the Third Man. If Harry Lime is put on waivers, grab him. He'll fit the right spot.