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Miami Dolphins

Adam Gase Proving You Are NOT What Your Record Says You Are

Travis Wingfield

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Trust the process, they say.

Three little words serve as the rally cry for so many athletes. The daily grind. The behind the scenes discipline and determination. The countless hours that lead up to the three-hour window better known as game day.

Bill Parcells is a football legend, but the game has a tendency to pass legends (and even their prominent quips) by. “You are what your record says you are,” Parcells famously claimed in lieu of explaining reasons for an underachieving team.

In a world where analytics reign supreme, where we have more information and data available than ever before, this old adage is about as accurate as a Brock Osweiler throw from outside the pocket.

Not only is the accuracy of the statement questionable, it flies directly in the face of the present-day message every coach and athlete preaches.

Predicting outcomes in the NFL is difficult. With countless factors, one of which being sheer luck, pointing to one number denigrates the grind from Monday thru Saturday. The result isn’t always a culmination of the week’s hard work. The result often comes down to the right foot of the worst athlete on the roster (the kicker).

In the Twitter era, we live in a daily hot take machine powered by thoughts void of any context. Individual statistics to define a player’s game, using Super Bowl rings to measure a player’s greatness, and using win-loss record to judge a Head Coach’s impact.

In the case of Adam Gase, his shaky win-loss mark wobbles even more under closer examination.

Sitting a game below .500 on the season, and for his career, Gase’s 21-22 mark is the exact same record posted by his predecessor, Joe Philbin, through 41 games. The optimist points to the radical nature of his team’s health, particularly at the quarterback position.

That’s a fair argument, Gase has been saddled with arguably the worst medical situation of any coach the last two seasons.

But at what point does the shine wear off of the mediocre record he managed in spite of his personnel? A few more losses? What about 10 alternate outcomes?

This Dolphins team, under Gase, has a way of finding wins in tight contests while getting blown out in losses.

With a point differential of +153 (7.7 per win) in victories, and -342 (16.3 per loss) in defeats, the questions about strength of opponent are entirely valid. Miami has won three games by multiple scores (9+ points) under Gase and lost 16 games by 9 or more points.

Those numbers are eye-opening, but the offense’s production during his time is alarming. Under Gase’s watch, one that has taken zero defensive input from the head man (trusting half the team to Vance Joseph and Matt Burke respectively), the saving grace should be a formidable attack unit.

During Gase’s three-year tenure, the Dolphins offense has never ranked better than 17th in the league. In 2016 Miami was 17th in both scoring and total offense. In 2017 Gase’s group was 25th in total offense and 28th in scoring. This year, through 11 games, the offense is 25th in scoring and 28th in total production.

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

So those figures beg the question, “what exactly is it that you do here, Coach Gase?”

Winning close games. Finding ways to beat the opposition in the fourth quarter is a valuable trait, and one that Gase could hang his hat on through the first two-and-a-half years of his Miami tenure.

But how much of that trait is directly attributable to Adam Gase? No team in the NFL has had more missed field goals against them than Gase’s Dolphins since 2016. Over the last two seasons (27 games), Dolphins kickers have missed just three kicks (not counting PATs).

That’s luck; nothing else. And barely 24 hours removed from a game where Miami essentially handed the Indianapolis Colts a win, Dolphins fans would agree that teams are completely capable of losing games opposed to the challenger seizing victory by their own actions.

Below are 12 of the 20 games the Dolphins won during Gase’s time in Miami. It’s unfair to reverse the outcome of each of these 12, but it’s rather disparaging to see just how close the Dolphins are to publishing an 8-33 record over those 41 games.

Up first, the games that Miami definitively deserved to lose (tie):

2016 vs. Cleveland –

Adam Gase’s first win as Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins provided minimal joy for fans. A narrow overtime defeat, at home, against a team that would win just one game the next two seasons, Miami could’ve easily been win number two for the 2016-2017 Browns.

In fact, it SHOULD have been a win for Cleveland. Browns Kicker Cody Parkey missed a pair of kicks, including a 46-yarder at the buzzer (NFL kickers make kicks in this range at better than 85%). His first miss came from 42 yards out.

2017 – at Chargers –

More kicker problems for the opposition. Rookie Kicker Younghoe Koo (no longer in the league) missed a pair of kicks, including a potential game winner from 44 yards out. Koo missed from 43 earlier in the game – both kicks come from a range in which NFL kickers have a ~90% success rate.

2016 at Buffalo –

Rex Ryan, needing a win to stay alive in the AFC playoff chase, elected to punt on a 4th and 2 with 4:02 remaining in overtime from his own 40-yard-line. A tie would’ve removed Miami from the post-season chase, just as it did for Buffalo.

On the next play, Jay Ajayi ripped off a 57-yard run against a Bills defense that had only 10 men on the field.

Perhaps the most unlikely play came at the end of regulation. Andrew Franks, who’s previous career long was 41 yards, hit a game-tying 55-yard kick in the frigid Buffalo conditions.

2018 vs. Chicago –

Albert Wilson caught two passes, racked up 104 yards after the catch, and scored on both plays, against a gassed Bears defense. Miami was moments away from going behind 28-14 before a questionable offensive pass interference took a touchdown off the board. Mitch Trubisky threw an INT into the end zone on the next play.

2017 vs. Tennessee –

This one flies in the face of the backup quarterback argument, but scoring 16 points at home rarely yields a victory. Luckily, for Miami, this was the one game of the season that Marcus Mariota missed.

Matt Cassel stunk up the field all day, including a questionable fumble ruling that Reshad Jones returned for a touchdown. That play came two snaps after a terrible offensive pass interference call took a 59-yard touchdown off the board for Cassel and the Titans.

Games Miami Probably Should’ve Lost:

2016 at San Diego –

Phillip Rivers is prone to late-game mistakes, no question about that. But the Chargers had a 1st and 10 at the Miami 42-yard line with 1:13 to go in a tie game. Rivers takes the bait and puts the ball between the 4 and the 7 on Kiko Alonso’s jersey.

A big-time play by Alonso, no doubt. At worst, San Diego should’ve at least survived to see over time. The 2016 playoff run was propped up by multiple plays just like this.

2017 at Atlanta –

Matt Ryan was fresh off an MVP season, he shredded the Dolphins to the tune of nearly 200 passing yards in the first half, then bogged down in the second half. The Miami defense deserves credit for putting the screws to the Atlanta offense, but the Falcons were poised to take the lead late before an all-pro play by Reshad Jones.

On 1st and 10 from the Miami 26, trailing by 3, Ryan forced a throw to Austin Hooper. The ball appeared to be completed at the Dolphins 6, but Jones robbed Hooper and won the game for Gase and Miami.

2018 vs. Oakland –

The lowly Raiders outgained Miami 434-373 and converted third downs at a success rate double that of Miami’s output. With a red zone turnover already in their pocket, the Raiders doubled down with an awful throw from Derek Carr on what should’ve been a game-winning touchdown drive.

Carr threw a prayer into the end zone on first down at the 13-yard line. Miami’s defense was gashed all game and saved by the heroics of Xavien Howard and the shortcomings of Carr.

Coin Flip Games:

2016 vs. NY Jets –

Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed his third touchdown of the game to give the Jets a three-point lead with five minutes to play. Kenyan Drake responded with a 101-yard kickoff return to put Miami immediately back in front.

Who knows how the game would’ve turned out, but the special teams’ heroics made it so Gase’s offense didn’t have to face that challenge. With 274 total yards on the day, it’s fair to assume the Dolphins wouldn’t have made the clutch drive.

2016 vs. San Francisco –

Nearly blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead to a woeful 1-9 49ers team, Ndamukong Suh and Kiko Alonso saved the day by thwarting Colin Kaepernick’s fourth down scamper at the one-yard line. Surely, San Francisco would’ve attempted a 2-point conversion with no time on the clock to decide the winner.

Miami might’ve made the stop, but considering Kaepernick went for a season-high 296 passing yards and season-high 113 rushing yards, who knows?

2017 vs. NY Jets –

Jay Cutler started the game and put the Dolphins in a 14-point hole. Matt Moore comes off the bench and rescues the day for Miami with 17 unanswered in the fourth quarter. Josh McCown aided the comeback by throwing an interception directly to Bobby McCain with 47 seconds to play at the Jets 23-yard line.

2018 – at NY Jets –

Sam Darnold’s three interceptions, including one in the end zone, puts this game in the category of games the opposition lost.

Miami won by eight points as the Jets allowed time to expire on their final drive of the first half in a goal-to-go situation. New York outgained Miami 362 to 257.

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins have the second most interceptions in the NFL. They are top-five in red zone touchdowns allowed percentage and red zone takeaways. These stats are great, but they aren’t long term indicators for success.

Miami’s relative prosperity over the past three seasons have been propped up by one of the game’s greatest determinations of success – pure luck.

An in-season change isn’t coming. A change at the end of the season (if Stephen Ross’ history is any indicator) is unlikely.

Gase has seen his redeeming qualities wither away as time has gone on now in year-three. His leash ought to be shrinking with each questionable decision. Poor management has robbed the Dolphins of two crucial road victories this season (Cincinnati and Indianapolis).

Questionable decision led to the disconcerting numbers displayed in this column. All signs point to Ross enacting the same action he deployed in 2011 and 2014 – hanging onto a coaching staff that has perpetuated the very mediocrity that has Dolphins fans clamoring for more.

Hopefully, for ‘Phins fans nationwide, Ross considers the context – not just the win-loss record.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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