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Miami Dolphins

My Money is on the Miami Dolphins Making the Playoffs

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In a league full of parity, there is none.

Sold on the belief that the NFL annually turns over playoff teams, that thought process is both accurate and a white lie. Sure, new teams enter the fray each postseason, but atop the mountain sits the same perpetrators year-in and year-out.

So after annihilating any positive perception I have at winning some free money, I’m going to make one of the most asinine statements of this offseason: I am about to bet $50 on the Miami Dolphins making the playoffs.

Vegas Odds:
(+1100) = makes playoffs
(-2500) = misses playoffs

To clarify for my non-gambling brethren, if I bet $100 on Miami making the playoffs, I would win $1100. On the contrary, if I bet on the Dolphins missing the playoffs, I would need to bet $2500 just to win $100.

Unless you have an insane amount of money (in which case, my college debt says hi), you have the confidence of a honey badger, or you like to seek non-fatal thrills so badly that you have no problem throwing your savings at a potential $100 win, no one needs a doctorate degree to tell you that betting on the -2500 is probably a worse idea than betting on the +1100.

Doesn’t mean betting on the +1100 is a good idea either, but having to forgo one Saturday night at the bar is worth the potential of winning a free vacation, and I’m going to tell you why:

Turnover History

First, let’s take a look at just how frequently the NFL turns over its playoff teams.

As of 2010, 30 of out a possible 32 teams have made the playoffs at least once (sorry, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans). Of those 30 teams that have made it, 24 of those teams have made the postseason multiple times; 9 teams in the AFC and all 15 teams in the NFC.

Below is a breakdown of the number of new teams that have entered the postseason each season. To explain: in 2011, 3 new teams made the postseason in both the AFC and NFC. In 2012, 1 new AFC team (that wasn’t in the 2011 playoffs) made the postseason.

Since we’re talking about our beloved Miami Dolphins and the chances they have at making the postseason, we’re going to focus a bit more heavily on the AFC side. As you can see in the chart above, an average of 2 new teams make the playoffs every season in the AFC.

In 2018, the following AFC teams made the playoffs: the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front and declare the Chiefs and Patriots playoff teams for 2019 – it would take a pretty catastrophic collapse for either front runner to completely whiff on even a Wildcard spot. This means that the Miami Dolphins are up against the Colts, Texans, Chargers, Ravens as well as the rest of the AFC.

Going through each division, it’s safe to say the following non-playoff teams are currently “better” than Miami: the Browns, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders. Most Dolphins fans and “experts” around the league would say that teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals are easily better than Miami, but I scoff at such an assumption.

The Titans are relying on a quarterback who seems to annually get injured (Ryan Tannehill) and an underwhelming #2-overall pick (Marcus Mariota). The Jaguars are hoping their overpaid backup can transform into a franchise quarterback (Nick Foles). The Raiders are a bigger circus than the Jets. The Steelers lost two of the biggest offensive playmakers the league has seen the past few years (Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown). The Bengals are…well…the Bengals. And the Browns are the only legitimate threat – likely to win their declining division.

This gives us 3 of our 4 division winners: the Chiefs, Patriots and the Browns. The last division winner? Either the Texans or the Colts; with the other team likely making the Wildcard.

On paper, that leaves 1 playoff spot available to a completely wide-open field of AFC teams…but the league isn’t run on paper. Using the 2017 and 2018 seasons as an example, who thought the Raiders would go 4-12 with “franchise” quarterback Derek Carr and hall of fame running back Marshawn Lynch? Who thought the Jaguars and their top-3 defense would go 5-11?

Teams face unseen scrutiny every season; and as Dolphins fans, we’re familiar with such changes. After making the playoffs in 2016 with a 10-6 record, the future looked bright and multiple playoff berths seemed certain. But one injury eliminates any hope a team has, and we are still 6, long months away from the NFL postseason beginning. Anything can happen to any of these teams.

Does any of this enhance the Dolphins chances at making the playoffs? Not at all. But it does afford us an opportunity to notice how other NFL teams may fail to make the playoffs, giving two teams a chance at squeezing in.

So what confidence do we have in Miami making the playoffs?

Confidence Level: Potential Vacation

Without playing a single game, it’s noticeable how much more prepared and knowledgeable the Dolphins coaching staff is under Brian Flores compared to Adam Gase.

Gase seemed to be the most knowledgeable man on his staff; and that’s not a compliment. Vance Joseph and Matt Burke turned in underwhelming performances as defensive coordinators, and Dowell Loggains was about as productive as Gase was as an offensive coordinator – enough to make Miami the 31st-ranked offense in 2018.

Under Flores, Miami already has the benefit of recruiting Jim Caldwell, a former head coach who took his Colts and Lions teams to to the playoffs 4 out of 6 possible seasons – and went to a Super Bowl his rookie year as Colts head coach – as well as a former NFL Executive of the Year in Reggie McKenzie.

Comparing this roster to the 2016 playoff team, Miami hasn’t downgraded all that much. In fact, you could argue that the 2019 team is better than the 2016 team:

Note: Green = top performer at the position; Yellow = average performer; Red = poor performer

Frankly, these positional changes seem like upgrades to me.

Stats tell a different story, but Kenyan Drake is just as likely to produce as much as Jay Ajayi did during his infamous 2016 season. Jarvis Landry may be the best receiver the Dolphins have had this century, but the overall position group that includes Albert Wilson and a more-experienced DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant means the 2019 roster has a better chance at being more productive.

2016 may have featured a better offensive line by name, but Laremy Tunsil was trying to learn a new position while Branden Albert was on his way out – all while 2/5 of that line was a turnstile, just like how most of this 2019 line will be.

2016 featured future hall of famers Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, but the trio of Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor and Christian Wilkins should be just as productive as the defensive line Miami put out there that playoff year.

The 2019 linebacking corps are far-and-away better, and the secondary, at worst, is just as good as the 2016 squad.

It’s not that I firmly believe the 2019 Miami Dolphins are a playoff team; it’s more a component of the fact that anything can happen in the NFL. While we’re all stuck on the Dolphins being one of the 5-worst teams in the NFL, compared to the 2016 team that “overachieved”, this team has an equal chance to make the playoffs. Taking into account the head coaching change alone, why isn’t there more of a belief that overachieving is a realistic possibility?

Is this the wisest decision I’ve ever made? Heck, no! Am I about to hand over the easiest $50 Vegas will ever win? Most likely. But the light at the end of the tunnel may be too good to pass up. Either I’m going to remember all of you when the Miami Dolphins pay for a future vacation, or you’ll find me at the local bar surrounded by gloating Jets fans drinking my sorrows away.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rich McQuillen

    May 31, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Great Article. Great Comparison. I would have waited before betting. Too many unknown variables at this time.

    Examples:
    TE Dwayne Allen – brought in to be a starter, but he was a backup in NE. He has equal blocking grades with Nick OLeary, but O’Leary is a better Receiver. O’Leary could win this spot.

    WR Preston Williams – He could potentially win the #1 WR Spot.
    ****
    The big unknown – the OLine:
    OT Jordan Mills – Could get beat out by Jesse Davis or someone else
    OG Chris Reid – Probably gets beat out by Dieter, and moves to RG.
    C Dan Kilgore – Could get beat out by C Ryan Anderson.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      June 4, 2019 at 10:12 am

      Good callouts, Rich! It’s quite possible those players I have listed aren’t even in the starting lineup come Week 1. Like almost every other year, this OL is the key to the season. If they’re adequate, this team can exceed expectations. If they’re as bad as we’re expecting, 5-11 would be a blessing.

  2. Avatar

    Jackson

    June 1, 2019 at 7:28 am

    Trump is a bumpkin.

    • Avatar

      Cam

      June 1, 2019 at 7:42 am

      Says u

    • Avatar

      Sam

      June 1, 2019 at 7:43 am

      No no

    • Avatar

      Pete

      June 14, 2019 at 9:20 am

      TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP,MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, USA USA USA

  3. Avatar

    Freda

    June 1, 2019 at 7:29 am

    I like beans 🏋️‍♀️

  4. Avatar

    Sam

    June 1, 2019 at 7:30 am

    In the end the past has happened

  5. Avatar

    Bobby 0

    June 1, 2019 at 7:32 am

    The bunnies are watching 🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰

  6. Avatar

    Tom G

    June 1, 2019 at 7:36 am

    It’s almost taco Tuesday

  7. Avatar

    Raji

    June 1, 2019 at 7:41 am

    Thanks for helping !

  8. Avatar

    Greg

    June 1, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Playoffs ? Playoffs. Could’ve burned that money

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      June 4, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Frankly, would probably be more resourceful than simply giving it away. At least this way I get a solid heat source for a few moments.

  9. Avatar

    Joan

    June 1, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Playoffs ARE extra!

  10. Avatar

    Chico

    June 1, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    First you get the money then you get the power then you get the women

  11. Avatar

    Donnie

    June 3, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    “As of 2010, 30 of out a possible 32 teams have made the playoffs at least once (sorry, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans)“

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding the claim you’re making, but the buccaneers were a perennial playoff team, and won the super bowl, in the early 2000s. I’m a dolphins fan and I appreciate your confidence in the playoff bet but this statement stuck out to me. Am I misinterpreting?

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      June 4, 2019 at 10:11 am

      The Buccs were a powerhouse in the early 00’s (and I would certainly take a Dolphins championship if it meant 10 years of futility), but since “2010” they haven’t made the postseason. In this example I was sticking with the current decade.

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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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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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As the doors of the Dolphins’ training facility open to the newly signed rookie class, they close for another former Miami-hopeful after an active weekend of roster moves.

The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.

Roberts began his NFL career in 2017 out of Toledo as a 4th round pick of the Detroit Lions, possessing ideal measurements (6’5”, 265lb) for a playmaking TE.

A shoulder injury in December 2018 cut short Roberts’ time in Detroit and he was waived by the Lions following a failed physical as part of an attempted trade with the New England Patriots and subsequently waived quickly again after being picked up by the Green Bay Packers.

Roberts underwent reconstruction of the injured left shoulder in August 2019, having struggled both physically and mentally as his career path veered away from his dreams. Signed by the Dolphins in February 2020, it was hoped that Roberts could revive his NFL career in Miami’s TE room, competing with Durham Smythe for the TE2 spot behind Mike Gesicki.

At only 26 years old, it remains to be seen whether the young TE will be able to regain full health and return to the game, but the craziness of 2020 only puts further hurdles in his path as training camp rosters are reduced across the league to 80 players in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t expect Brian Flores and his staff to sit on their hands when it comes to competition – 2019 highlighted on a regularly churning roster of names being given a chance to succeed – and this approach is expected to continue at certain positions. As such, Saturday’s news that former Chicago Bears’ TE Adam Shaheen had been acquired by the Dolphins ensures that healthy competition can continue to spread through the roster, and proves the willingness of the front office to give chances to promising players who may not have achieved during their first NFL stop.

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Miami Dolphins

In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

If everything goes right, Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to start a single game for the Miami Dolphins in 2020.

Nope, you didn’t misread that last sentence. Tua Tagovailoa riding the bench is the best thing that could happen to the Miami Dolphins this season, and if you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention to what Brian Flores has been preaching since his arrival.

The obvious factor everyone is taking into consideration is the health of Tua’s hip. And while that definitely plays a part, it has minimal affect on his playing time. You see, barring a trade, Tua is the third-best quarterback on the roster right now.

Combine his inexperience, a COVID-restricted offseason, and that pesky hip injury, and it’s safe to say our questions have already been answered.

The Better Player Plays

With this team, it’s no secret that playing time is awarded based on a player’s performance both in games and during practice. It doesn’t matter where you were drafted or how much money you’re making, if you aren’t better than the athlete next to you, you aren’t playing.

In fact, didn’t we just go through a very similar situation last year when the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals for a 2nd-round draft pick?

We all assumed that Ryan Fitzpatrick was keeping the seat warm until Rosen – a top-10 draft pick one season prior – was ready, but when Flores had the opportunity to simultaneously give a young quarterback experience and tank for Tua, he did neither. Instead, opting to (nearly) sabotage the opportunity to draft Tagovailoa and win as many games as possible with Fitzpatrick.

Rosen has much more upside than Fitzpatrick, but he couldn’t muster more than 197 snaps under center last season.

Just like that, the culture was set. Flores wasn’t fucking around – it was win at all costs, and the players bought in. One season later, that mantra certainly hasn’t changed.

Tua has more talent and better quarterback traits than Fitzpatrick and Rosen (probably combined), so there’s no arguing which quarterback we want to build a franchise around, but who is going to win the team more games this season?

I don’t doubt that Tua is a football genius that will pick up a playbook quickly, but knowing your plays and executing against an NFL defense are two completely different things.

Fitzpatrick has been in the league for 15 years while Tua has been in the league for 14 weeks; there is A LOT Tua has to learn before he can make the kind of reads Fitzpatrick can instinctively make after 139 starts in the NFL.

Josh Rosen may not evolve into an elite, franchise-saving quarterback, but he’s not terrible either. Two years of experience and a season-worth of starts (16) under his belt gives him an instant edge over Tua. The only thing that levels Rosen with Tagovailoa is they’re both learning Chan Gailey‘s offense for the first time – and for Rosen, this would be his 4th different offense in the past 4 years.

Otherwise, Rosen already has a rapport with the coaching staff, the medical staff, all of the workers in the building, and the receivers on this roster. In other words, he’s comfortable in his surroundings while Tua is trying to get acclimated to a brand new life.

There are going to be growing pains and a learning curve – two things we admittedly need Tua to experience in order to evolve. But the question becomes, when can Miami afford to experience those “opportunities”? Certainly not if they believe they are…

Playoff Bound

The Miami Dolphins – and most importantly, Brian Flores – believe they are in a position to make a legitimate playoff run.

Scoff however much you’d like at the notion that this team, one year removed from being “the worst team in the NFL”, is on a cusp of making a playoff appearance, but don’t tell anyone in the Dolphins’ organization that you think that.

A remastered secondary, a veteran presence among the front-7, an entirely new offensive line, and real, productive running backs means the Dolphins are all-but-guaranteed to improve on their 5-11 record.

In fact, the only thing holding them back from a legitimate playoff run is the quarterback position.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has won more than 6 games as a starter just once in his career, and Rosen only has 3 wins to his name (none as a Dolphin). If the team falters, it’s because these two quarterbacks couldn’t carry a well-built football team to the playoffs.

And that’s where the disappointment of another lost season is met with hope for the future. It won’t be until the Dolphins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that the team will trot Tua Tagovailoa out onto the field.

Waiting until so late in the season checks off every single box you need. It gives him time to:

  • Learn his way around the NFL
  • Understand the playbook better
  • Observe the game from the sideline
  • Gain chemistry with his receivers

Oh, and it also helps ensure that his hip is healthy, because…

I’m Sure He’s Healthy…

Being stuck inside during an international pandemic may have made it seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been three short months since we all clamored to a 14 minute video of Tua Tagovailoa throwing scripted passes; our eyes inexplicably glued to a man’s hips, unscientifically judging whether or not he was healthy. Try explaining that one to your significant other.

While we are all thrilled with recent medical reports and first-hand accounts from the quarterback himself, it would be downright idiotic to mess around with a hip injury.

The only reason Tua Tagovailoa was available at the 5th-overall pick was because of the uncertainty surrounding his hip, those concerns don’t suddenly disappear just because he’s on your roster and we’re excited to see our prized possession play.

Let his hip heal and let him practice against a secondary that includes Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, Brandon Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, and Eric Rowe. He’s going to learn just how quickly throwing lanes close and how tight they are to begin with.

Don’t convince yourself that Tua has to start games this rookie season to be the elite quarterback he’s projected to be. Patrick Mahomes started one game his rookie year. Aaron Rodgers didn’t start until his forth season in the NFL. If all of the hype is real, then his career will be just fine.

The plan isn’t to count moral victories, but to win football games – and Tua Tagovailoa gives the Miami Dolphins the best chance to do that for the foreseeable future. But for now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is your starting quarterback, and until Josh Rosen relinquishes the job as backup, it won’t be Tua’s until 2021. Mission Accomplished.

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