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Remember The Dolphins (Part 2: The 2000s)

Chris Kowalewski

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The offseason is a great time to reminisce about the past, the “couldhavebeens” and the “whatifs”. 

It’s also a great time to spew hype and hope for the season ahead before the euphoria of a Week 1 win or the crushing ‘all-hope-is-lost’ despair of a defeat. 

Last time, we took a look back into the past to highlight a handful of Dolphins players from the 1990’s who donned the aqua and orange and likely deserve more recognition for their efforts than they currently receive some 20-30 years later.

This week, we’ll dig into more recent memories and filter through the rosters of the 2000’s to shine a light on the players who left their footprints on the turf of Pro Player/Dolphins/Dolphin/Land Shark Stadium and deserve to still have their names brought up in positive Miami football conversations.

For many Dolphins fans in their early-mid 30s the 2000’s is where their fandom was solidified, despite the fact that the decade began with team having already failed to deliver on the best years of Marino’s career in the 80’s and early-mid 90’s and had seen him end his career in Miami without a Super Bowl ring. The reins of the franchise had been passed from the stable hands of Don Shula through a tumultuous couple of seasons under Jimmy Johnson and the millenium bug was on the verge of destroying all life as we know it.

In 2000 – his first year as the Dolphins’ Head Coach – the task of returning the franchise to a course of stability and championship contention was awarded to Dave Wannstedt. The season gave fans significant hope with an 11-5 record, 1st place in the AFC East and a thrilling 23-17 overtime victory against the Indianapolis Colts, but also set the standard for long-term expectations with an early playoff exit in an epic 27-0 loss to the Oakland Raiders in the Divisional round. 

2002 saw the arrival of perhaps Miami’s most formidable offensive player (not named Dan Marino) in Ricky Williams. The former Texas Longhorns star had landed in Miami via New Orleans after a cascade of trades and the Dolphins had found their centrepiece for the offense – a superstar running backwhich had been jarringly absent in the Marino years.

The quiet, reserved yet devestating human bulldozer saw his name and number adorn the backs of thousands of fans in South Florida, across the nation as well as internationally and his aggressive, powerful running style kept the franchise relevant when discussing potential Super Bowl contenders. 

Supported by a star-studded cast on defense led by Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison, Miami’s plan for the early 2000’s was clear: 

Run. Score. Get the ball back. Run it again.

In 2002 the offensive plan resulted in Ricky Williams leading the league in rushing yards (1853) and he powered his way through defenders en route to 16 TDs and an average of 115.8 yards per game. The Ricky Williams train continued to roll in 2003 adding 1372 yards and 9 TDs before his abrupt ‘retirement’ shortly before the 2004 season began.

A 4-12 season in 2004 saw the firing of Dave Wannstedt and interim HC Jim Bates held the position until the Dolphins had seemingly managed to reel in their biggest fish with the hiring of LSU coach, Nick Saban. Of course, his dictatorship would only last 2 seasons before the allure of returning to college football proved too much in 2007 and the Dolphins would thereafter be reliant upon the offensive ‘genius’ of Cam Cameron and the elite speed and humble nature of Ted Ginn’s entire family. 

Chris Chambers (2001-2006) had been the team’s standout wide receiver before his departure to San Diego in 2007.

The result of the 2007 season was a 1-15 record, with total embarrassment and the NFL’s first winless season saved only by an overtime Greg Camarillo TD catch-and-run in Week on 16 December against the Ravens.

Ronnie Brown (2005-2011) had been drafted with the 2nd pick of the 2005 draft and – together with the return of Ricky Williams and the addition of Jake Long solidifying the LT spot as the top overall pick in 2008 – helped to reinvigorate Miami’s run game and pass protection.

Dolfans of the 2000’s will clearly remember the euphoria of the next season – a 2008 AFC East crown in Tony Sparano’s first season as Head Coach with an 11-5 record and the complete demolition of the hated New England Patiots at the hands of the Wildcat in Week 3.

But whilst the running back spot remained relatively strong throughout the decade, the stability at the team’s most important position found itself wavering. 

From 2000-2009, Miami started games with Jay Fiedler (2000-2004), Damon Huard (2000), Ray Lucas (2001-2002), Brian Griese (2003), AJ Feeley (2004) Sage Rosenfels (2004-2005), Gus Frerotte (2005), Daunte Culpepper (2006), Joey Harrington (2006), Cleo Lemon (2006), Trent Green (2007), John Beck (2007), Chad Pennington (2008-2009) and Chad Henne (2009-2011).

The only name amongst those who rightly finds himself fondly remembered by Dolfans is of course Chad Pennington, whose team leadership, accuracy and command of the huddle helped propel the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2008. However, the Ravens had their payback (with interest) for Greg Camarillo’s season-defining play with a 27-9 beatdown and a speedy exit from the playoffs in the Wild Card round.

But despite the Dolphins struggling to stay afloat in the waters of mediocrity throughout the decade, glimmers of hope had managed to shine through in the form of a pinch of spectacular players, as well as a handful of solid core contributors who arguably deserve another look under the spotlight of the 2000’s:

Yeremiah Bell

Position: Safety 

After playing college football at Eastern Kentucky, Yeremiah Bell was selected by the Dolphins in the 6th round of the 2003 NFL draft, spending his rookie year on the practice squad. He spent the following 7 seasons tuning his skills as as a hard-hitting safety, accumulating 560 combined tackles, including 433 solo. He also stole 6 INTs, caused 9 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries and registered 11 sacks. Bell suffered an Achilles injury at the start of the 2007 season but returned in 2008 to be a reliable force in the secondary for the Dolphins resulting in a Pro Bowl selection in 2009. 

Randy McMichael

Position: Tight End

Selected in the 2002 draft, McMichael was the 114th overall pick and was the eighth TE off the board. He finished his first season second in receiving totals amongst the rookie TE group in and throughout his career in Miami was a trusted, dependable and durable receiving target. McMichael started each of the 80 games in which he played as a Dolphin and hauled in 283  career receptions for 3096 yards (with an average of 10.9 yards per catch) and 18 TDs before signing with the St Louis Rams in 2007.

Vernon Carey

Position: Offensive Line

Home-grown out of the University of Miami, the former Hurricane was the Dolphins’ first round pick in the 2004 NFL draft. During the early part of his 8 year career with the Dolphins, Carey was developed at the RT spot and contributed to a skilled offensive line which the Dolphins can now only dream about. A solid, versatile and durable starter, Carey also filled in along the line at LT and RG in the later stages of his career and played in 121 games.

Vonnie Holliday

Position: Defensive End/Defensive Tackle

Entering the league in 1998 in Green Bay, Vonnie Holliday’s career shot off to an impressive start before injury saw him replaced and released by the Packers in 2003. After a 2 year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Dolphins signed the experienced pass rusher in 2005 and placed him inside at the DT position alongside Jason Taylor, where he proved durable without any missed games in his first 2 years in Miami. Holliday became a consistent force on the interior defensive line over his 4 seasons during which time he racked up 205 tackles, including 25 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks and 4 fumble recoveries.

Tim Ruddy

Position: Center

As the Dolphins’ Center from 1994-2003, Tim Ruddy missed only 4 games in his career. Selected out the University of Notre Dame, he began his NFL tenure as one of Dan Marino’s trusted protectors, becoming a full-time starter in his second year. Ruddy played with Miami’s two most prolific offensive talents in Marino and Williams and as an anchor between teammates Mark Dixon, Jamie Nails, Todd Perry and Todd Wade, played a large role in Ricky’s rushing title during the 2002 season. With the type of longevity which is rare in the NFL, Ruddy’s talents and durability did not go unnoticed and he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2001.

Brock Marion

Position: Safety

Brock Marion arrived in Miami in 1998 after having spent his first 5 NFL seasons in Dallas. His impact was felt immediately as he racked up 112 tackles in his first year as a Dolphins and throughout his career contributed heavily to a talented secondary group alongside Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison and started all 95 games in which he played. Brock finished his Dolphins career after having built up impressive statistics, with 20 interceptions, 2 TDs, 431 return yards, 5 forced fumbles and 528 combined tackle before a final season with the Detroit Lions.

Olindo Mare

Position: Kicker

Things didn’t start off so well for Olindo Mare in the NFL, being signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie out of Syracuse in 1996 and then finding himself cut from the roster before the season even started. However, he was picked up by Miami and developed into one of the stalwarts of the Dolphins and provided consistency in the kicking game for which the current Chicago Bears would sell the farm. Mare spent 10 years in Miami, playing in 155 straight games netting a career 80.9% success rate in field goals, including a league-high 90.5% in 2001 with only 2 misses (19/21). Looking back over his stats, it’s actually quite amazing to consider how the kicking game has progressed over the past 20 years with Mare’s career longest kick a ‘modest’ 53 yards which he achieved on 3 occasions. Olindo Mare was considered one of the most reliable kickers in the league during his time in the league and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1999.

Lamar Smith

Position: Running Back

The 2000’s will inevitably be best remembered for the successes of Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown and their combined force in the Wildcat formation in 2008. But the decade was opened with Lamar Smith in the starting RB spot, spending 2 years with the Dolphins having been acquired from New Orleans. During the 2000 season, Smith rushed for 1139 yards and 14 TDs including a 17 yard overtime run against the Indianapolis Colts to seal the the Dolphins’ most recent playoff win on 30 December 2000. He moved onto Carolina and back to New Orleans with limited success (never again exceeding 680 yards in a season) and an array of troubling drink driving offences.

Rob Konrad

Position: Fullback

It’s hardly news that the 2019 Dolphins want to return the fullback position to relevance and fans should rejoice if Miami can develop anything close to the talents of Rob Konrad. A fearsome blocker, Konrad played in 82 games for the Dolphins from 1999-2004 but with only one fully healthy season (2002). In those 6 seasons, Konrad started 57/82 games. Although he was primarily used as a blocker, he found a handful of opportunities to score, hauling in 111 receptions for 854 yards and 6 TDs whilst also rushing 38 times in short yardage situations for 114 yards and a single TD.

Adewale Ogunleye

Position: Defensive End

During his senior season at Indiana, Adewale Ogunleye suffered a major knee injury and complications with infection which sent the talented player’s draft stock plummeting. As a result, the Dolphins were able acquire Ogunleye as an undrafted rookie in 2000 and he spent his rookie year on the Injured Reserve list. Determination and perseverance saw him take his first steps on NFL turf in 2001, earning a spot on the 53 man roster and 3 productive years followed with the Dolphins (2001-2003) including 2 years as a full-time starter. His Dolphins career culminated with 25 sacks in 39 games, 109 combined tackles and a 2003 Pro Bowl selection before being traded to the Chicago Bears prior to the 2004 season.

Channing Crowder

Position: Linebacker

Love him or loathe him, Crowder’s energy levels are undeniable. Those who haven’t dug into his college and off-field background are strongly encouraged to do so as Crowder recalls his wild youth with gusto. A playmaking All-American linebacker out of the University of Florida, Crowder was selected by the Dolphins in the 3rd round of the 2005 NFL Draft using one of the picks acquired from the trade which had sent Adewale Ogunleye to the Bears. Fans may remember him well for being ejected from a Week 12 game against the Patriots in 2008 after getting into an on-field scuffle with OT Matt Light, but his stats certainly shouldn’t go ignored. A true ‘thumper’ at the LB spot, Crowder played in 82 games over 6 seasons for the Dolphins racking up 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks and 469 combined tackles (including 20 tackles for loss).

Next Up: We’ll be reminiscing on the 2010’s as we search desperately for the diamonds in the rough who not only have already seen their Dolphin days pass them by, but may also find themselves helping the team swim into a much brighter future ahead.

Physically located across the pond, but mentally always in Miami. A qualified lawyer, NFL sponge, aspiring writer and self-proclaimed IKEA furniture construction expert, he’s looking ahead to a brighter future for the Dolphins after decades of wading in the depths of mediocrity. Always on the search for any excuse to talk all-things Dolphins.

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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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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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