MIAMI -- Finally, the Miami Dolphins faced an opponent worthy of their ineptitude. Finally, their lockstep march toward NFL infamy would end. Finally, the threat of the NFL's first 0-16 season would fade away, nothing more than a scare, a bad dream.
In fact, the Dolphins were even favored to win on Sunday. Imagine that.
The only problem? The Jets, who have done their own kind of stumbling this year, somehow messed this one up, too. They actually played like well, like a respectable NFL team.
As a result, the Dolphins produced a woeful performance even by their own standards, losing 40-13 in a game that figures to be their last real shot at a win. No wonder, then, that as they trudged off their home field, one last piece of indignity awaited.
The only fans remaining in Dolphin Stadium were wearing green and white and chanting "J-E-T-S!"
"This is as low as it's been," 38-year-old nose tackle Keith Traylor said, a look of disgust on his face. "I've gotta do some searching."
He won't like what he finds. With the loss, Miami became just the seventh team in NFL history to begin a season 0-12, and its remaining four opponents have a combined 25-20 record, although that mark is inflated by the unbeaten Patriots.
The Dolphins are "chasing" the '76 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went 0-14 but had the excuse of being an expansion team before the era of free agency. And at least the Bucs were an interesting team to watch lose. There was wise-cracking coach John McKay, quarterback Steve Spurrier and a novelist named Pat Toomay.
The Dolphins? They're led by a man, Cam Cameron, who seems better suited for reviewing your W-2 than leading a professional football team. And on Sunday, we caught a glimpse of why Cameron had been so reluctant to insert rookie John Beck, who somehow managed to fumble three times in a five-play stretch in the third quarter.
Beck also stared down receivers while throwing three interceptions, the biggest coming with 1:25 left in the first half, when a throw near the Jets' goal line was picked off by safety Kerry Rhodes. The Jets, confusing observers with navy blue and gold throwback uniforms, drove for a field goal to make it 20-13 and never looked back.
There is an upside to the loss. The Dolphins are in great position to clinch the No. 1 pick in April's draft. Might as well put them on the clock.
Of course, that's no consolation prize for someone like Jason Taylor. After the game, the veteran Pro Bowl defensive end sat at his locker with a dazed look on his face for 15 minutes before finally changing. He vowed to hold the team together, but he couldn't hide his frustration when asked what role Beck's "growing pains" played in Sunday's loss.
"I don't know," he said. "I don't grow, so I don't know. You have to ask him or somebody else that. I don't buy that whole rookie thing. They put you in there, you have to play well."
Taylor remains the most important voice in the Dolphins' locker room, but there are signs he and Cameron aren't on the same page. Without much prompting, Taylor said that former coach Nick Saban went out of his way to create a relationship with him because he knew he had the ears of his teammates.
"He turned the team over to the veterans, and we ended up rallying around him even when things went poorly," Taylor said.
Asked what type of relationship he has with Cameron, an expressionless Taylor said, "Our relationship is different. He's trying to establish his program and his way of doing things."
The look on Taylor's face said it all. You get the feeling that one of these men won't be around next season. Most people have assumed Cameron would get a free pass in his first year, but a winless record might make it easier to justify a change.
As crazy as it sounds, a win over the Jets probably would've been enough to save his job. Now? Maybe not.
Cameron continues to make baffling decisions, and his penchant for burning timeouts for no apparent reason has provided comic relief to the team's beleaguered media corps.
On Sunday, Dolphins running back Jesse Chatman took a handoff behind left guard with 1:30 remaining in the first half. The officials were in the process of stopping the clock for a measurement when Cameron signaled timeout.
Although he has proved himself to be an excellent offensive coordinator, he has looked overwhelmed in his new role.
At this point, the Dolphins are grasping for any source of inspiration. On Thursday, Michael Jordan stopped by to address the team after wrapping up a round of golf. He talked about how important it was for each player on the roster to know his role.
But even His Airness can't reach this bunch. These players are past the point of trying to find silver linings. They still have home games left against the Ravens and Bengals, but does anybody really like their chances?
To which Bowens responded, "I bet you felt like that about 11 other teams."
Holliday didn't have a comeback.
And his teammates know the feeling.
Matt Mosley covers the NFL for ESPN.com.