New Year, Same Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins are on the precipice of flaming out of the NFL postseason chase for the third season in a row with control of their own destiny in their own hands for the third season in a row. From eight wins and three losses, leading the AFC East, and just one game behind the one seed in the AFC to eight wins and eight losses and being on the brink of being eliminated before the tournament even begins. This is a meltdown of epic proportions that was not foreseen by most because of the significant investment made by the Dolphins’ executive team, general managing team, coaching staff, and aggressive policy of trading draft picks and free agents that were acquired by the Dolphins. Stephen Ross wanted to win so badly that he even got himself suspended and caused the team to forfeit a draft pick in pursuit of Brady the Goat. Miami went for it all and they may have swung and missed in the most epic strike out. Which is saying a lot because the Dolphins seem to be a cursed organization, vanquished to the realm of mediocrity  since they forced Dan Marino into retirement so that we could watch Jay Fiedler’s average arm talent on display every Sunday. However, at least Jay Fiedler was winning games and getting us into the playoffs. At this point, I would take the Jay Fiedler Dave Wannstedt days back with a dance and a smile.

Did we invest too much?

Somewhere out there Brian Flores is laughing as the Dolphins invested heavily, way more than they did in any offseason when he was the head coach and now the Dolphins do not have much to show for it because their record is eight and eight, which is already worse than the record that the Dolphins ended with for the previous two seasons under Brian Flores. Eight and eight, who in their right minds could have told anyone 5 weeks ago that the Dolphins would fall to 8-8 after destroying the Texans 30-0 in the first half of their 8th win in 11 tries this season. And if you would have found someone saying it, who in their right minds would have believed them? Sure, there are Dolphins haters who hate Miami for the sake of hating on Miami, but even they did not predict 5 losses in a row. Dolphins doubters were skeptical of the Dolphins being able to continue at their torrid pace but even they did not predict the sudden breakdown of the McDaniel offensive war machine. Now the Dolphins have the same record as the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions who invested much less in the offseason. Let that sink in for a moment. Suddenly, the much-maligned Jared Goff has come on strong and Trevor Lawrence is starting to live up to his 1st pick hype.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) celebrates with running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (23) and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (94) after a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper)

Concussions and Investigations

Meanwhile, Tua Tagovailoa is once again in the concussion protocol and Byron Jones has spent the whole season calling out FMLA. The Dolphins were once again subjected to a joint investigation by the NFL and NFLPA to determine if proper concussion protocols were followed and we are unsure and uncertain of what is to become of the Dolphin’s number one trigger man at the time. The Dolphins once again had to prepare a backup on short notice to take over the reins of this complex offense. The Dolphins can’t keep living like this and neither can Tua. A quarterback’s number one attribute and ability is his availability and it is beginning to look like these concussions will be a chronic condition that will plague Tua’s health and career in perpetuity. One-minute Tua was torching the Green Bay defense and it looked like Miami was well on its way to all but clinching a Christmas day playoff berth for the first time in 7 years. The next minute Tua is throwing it to the Green Bay defense on what felt like almost three successive passes and then we find out the following day that it was because he likely played in the second half concussed. Just when it felt like we were going on a run and the Dolphins could become a rival team to Buffalo in the AFC East, here comes another concussion to screw it all up.

I believe Tua needs to take his health and safety seriously, but it is also a very tenuous and frustrating time to be a Dolfan as this all feels too familiar. Another December Dolphin meltdown, but this time for the first time in almost 30 years the Dolphins could not scrounge up or scrape together a single solitary win in December. It was really that bad. Not to mention our high paid corners have either underperformed drastically or decided that they are just not going to play at all this season and cash their checks still. We have a secondary with a bunch of undrafted rookie free agent corners and a first round bust out on the field currently. That is not a good recipe for winning. Neither does an offensive line of backups and third string tackles.

Quarterback Carousel 

January did not start off with a bang either; 2023 is off to a crackin’ start! The Patriots are a deeply flawed team, but the Dolphins without Tua are a rudderless ship. The Patriots were able to squeeze out a tight win because they have a defense that can force turnovers and score from them, which is something the Dolphins’ defense used to do as well. Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson had receivers running open downfield and just did not see them. They were the antithesis of Tua in that way. Tua has become addicted to downfield shots and has forsaken the checkdowns that he made a living on last season. Teddy Two Gloves and Skylar made rookie reads all game. One read, two reads, checkdown, even when they had time to throw. Tyreek Hill and Sherfield had a couple of sure-fire touchdowns they were wide open for and never even got a look. As much as I want to bash Teddy B and Skylar for their average to subpar performances, I can’t because I have to keep in perspective that Teddy’s play on Sunday versus the Patriots was not dissimilar to Tua’s recent performances and it is hard to try to evaluate Skylar since he is an undeveloped rookie who has yet to be the focus of anyone’s teaching program at the NFL level and has not had decent preparation for a game all season.

However, I will say this, all of the preseason noise about Teddy and Skylar being better than Tua that is decisively over. Just like all of the noise we were making about Tua being better than Herbert midseason is decisively hard to argue against Herbert being better at this point. What we knew about Tua and Herbert before the draft is still true now. Herbert can take a beating and will still be available to play, Tua was coming off a hip injury and we did not know how he would heal from that. It appears this season that he did regain some of the arm strength that comes from the force generated by torquing of the hips, but he is certainly not the dual threat quarterback that he was in Alabama and these concussions are a whole new concern that we did not know would be an issue until this season. Even with all of those deficits in Tua’s game, he is still far and away the best quarterback on this team and the Dolphins simply can’t win without him. Even with a receiving tandem of Hill and Waddle, you still need a QB of Tua’s skill level or higher to take advantage of the mismatches those speed racers present on the outside.

Good News Bad News

It’s starting to feel like the Dolphins just aren’t destined to have nice toys or do great things in my lifetime. I am trying to keep the positive view and be fair to the consideration of all the injuries that have plagued the squad this season, but I don’t want to get into an injury excuse mulligan mode for 2022-2023. If the Dolphins don’t make the playoffs this season will have been an unmitigated failure of disastrous proportions. Trading for Bradley Chubb over Roquan Smith seems to have been a mistake as well at this point. Even if the Dolphins backdoor their way into the playoffs next week by beating the Jets and having the Bills ironically be the team to get us in by beating the Patriots, is a wildcard weekend rematch in Buffalo the smoke that we really want with the team in this condition? I know that Buffalo would decidedly prefer to play the Patriots on wildcard weekend over the Dolphins, but would they prefer to risk their shot at getting the #1 overall seed and the bye that position would afford them? Would they prefer to go to Arrowhead or have the Chiefs come to West New York? We will get answers to all of those questions next week in the NFL’s regular season finale.

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