How has this Dolphins season, only seven games old, already been something of an embarrassment?

Consider:

We start with Mike Pouncey pictured wearing a cap requesting the release of suspected murderer Aaron Hernandez. The picture hits the Internet and causes a public outrage. When Pouncey wants to apologize for photo to quell the public indignation, as his brother Maurkice immediately did on the advice of his team the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dolphins forbid the center from saying anything. They apparently think saying nothing will make those offended feel better.

They also forbid Pouncey from saying anything after is subpoenaed to testify in front of a Grand Jury in relation to the Hernandez trial. Glad to see the team learned a lesson. Not really.

Right tackle Jonathan Martin on Monday then goes AWOL from the team when he gets upset over a lunchroom prank by teammates. He hasn't been around for three days. But the Dolphins, who refuse to acknowlege the national story, list Martin as doubtful for tonight's game against Cincinnati.

Defensive tackle Randy Starks, upset he is demoted from his starting job after going to the Pro Bowl last year, celebrates a sack by shooting his bench a one-fingered salute. The player denies it publicly, but the gesture was aimed at the coaching staff.

It took receiver Mike Wallace one game to show his unhappiness with the Dolphins game plan when he wasn't targetted at all in the first half of the season opener and only five times all game. Wallace, by the way, has toned down his distaste for how he's being used publicly but not so much privately.

Other players are also questioning the approach of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Guard Richie Incognito is unhappy Sherman stopped calling running plays in the second half of the New England loss and has been public about the Dolphins abandoning that which was working.

"I think we should just keep running the football 30, 40 times a game," Incognito says. "That's our blueprint for success. We have to run the football for four quarters."

The dislike for Sherman's play-calling can be found throughout the Dolphins organization. One high-ranking person within the team is dumbfounded by Sherman's approach in some situations, saying the coach misses "101 stuff" -- meaning fundamental things.

Coach Joe Philbin's relationship with the media has grown tense and, earlier this week, even combative. It wasn't that way last year even during a 7-9 season. The difference this year is the increased influence of Executive Vice President of Football Administration Dawn Aponte, a member of the New York State bar and a Bill Parcells disciple. Aponte, originally hired to manage the salary cap underJeff Ireland, got from under the general manager's umbrella when the two clashed. She has become a close Philbin ally.