Is it all Ricky's fault?

Now that Ricky Williams has decided to turn down the deal that could have led to his reinstatement to the NFL and it appears his career is over, it might be a good time to examine the question of just how much responsibility should fall on his shoulders for the Dolphins' dismal season.

The first thought that comes to mind is that so many things have gone wrong that it's silly to point to only one incident as having led to the Dolphins' downslide.

And, really, the Dolphins' problems began way before Williams stunned Dave Wannstedt by telling him he was quitting.

You can start with some shaky offseason decisions, the most glaring being the promotion of Chris Foerster to offensive coordinator after Joel Collier stepped down because of health reasons.

With all due respect to Foerster, he had never been anything other than an offensive line or tight ends coach at the NFL level, and it's not as though his offensive lines at Tampa Bay from 1996-01 set the world on fire.

That was a major mistake, regardless of the motive behind Wannstedt's decision to go with Foerster over more qualified candidates such as receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and quarterbacks coach Marc Trestman, who incidentally had been hired also as assistant head coach.

Why Trestman didn't get the job is another story for another time.

Anyway, that decision, more than anything else, really hurt the Dolphins.

The other problem was the rebuilding of the offensive line. Nothing wrong with the concept here because last year's aging unit really struggled.

But the Dolphins allowed their best lineman from last year, Todd Wade, to leave and didn't bring in anybody of that caliber.

They failed to land free agent targets Damien Woody and John Tait, instead going for the likes of Damion McIntosh and John St. Clair.

The drafting of Vernon Carey in the first round at this point sure looks like a mistake as well, given the fact he can't crack the starting lineup on a unit that's among the worst in the NFL.

The offensive line problems might have been softened a little after veteran Pete Kendall was let go by Arizona, but the Dolphins didn't want to pay him what he was looking for and instead he's gone on to have a productive year with the Jets.

All of this brings us back to the Williams defection. His leaving might not have been so bad had Wannstedt's offense and philosophy so heavily emphasized the wandering one.

Wannstedt believed in one way to win and pretty much one way only, and that was to pound the ball with Williams and win with defense.

Once Williams was gone, it was time to go in another direction because now neither the running backs nor the offensive line were good enough to get that done.

The Dolphins did wind up throwing the ball more often this season, but that was only because the running game kept getting stuffed time and time again.

Would the running game be more effective with Williams? Yes, but only marginally. Just look back to last year when Williams averaged a very mediocre 3.5 yards per carry. The guess is he wouldn't have done much better behind this offensive line.

The single-biggest problem for the Dolphins all year has been the offensive line, that's pretty obvious.

As bad as it was last year, it was hard to imagine things getting worse this season. But they have, and the Dolphins are paying a heavy price for it.

It's pretty simple, you just don't win in the NFL without a good offensive line. Just look at the best teams in the NFL: Philadelphia, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, New England, Atlanta. All have solid offensive lines.

Last Sunday at San Francisco, we saw perhaps the two worst with the Dolphins and 49ers. They have the two worst records in the league.

So you can bitch and moan at Williams all you want -- and he deserves a lot of criticism for the way he bailed on his team -- but also realize the Dolphins probably wouldn't be that much better even if he were around.

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