At the beginning of this season, the message coming out of the Miami Dolphins organisation was consistent with the lines that had been well-rehearsed since the firing of Adam Gase. The 2019 season was a rebuild. Let go of overpriced players, accumulate draft capital and prepare for the next 10 years. Even when new Head Coach Brian Flores was appointed, it was on a five-year contract rather than owner Stephen Ross’s usual practice of offering four-year deals. The implication was clear. This year was to be a freebie.
As a result, this column was essentially to chronicle the passage of a fan’s progress through this intentionally painful season. Regular readers (Hi mum!) will know that from the outset, this column has been on board with the strategy (OK, let’s call it what it is – tanking). All for the longer-term view of getting the number 1 pick in the draft and selecting Tua, the franchise quarterback that would transform the Dolphins into perennial post-season fixtures.
Alas, it transpires that in the NFL, getting what you want is tremendously difficult. Even if your ambition is to be the worst team. There are, it seems, other teams who, while trying to be good, have a worse record than the Dolphins. As things stand, General Manager Chris Grier will be turning his card in fourth on draft night. Bye bye Tua.
With this in mind, how should a committed tanker (typo? – Ed) react to the first win of the season? This is a disaster, isn’t it? Well, first some facts. The pretenders to the crown of worst team ever are currently the Jets and the Bengals. Not only do Miami play both of those teams before the end of the season, they also play each other. No matter how bad either team are, they can’t both lose that one.
Now for some confirmation bias, the right of the fan. We have now discovered that Joe Burrow is also a potential franchise quarterback. We also discover the possibility that Brian Flores might actually be quite good at coaching. Week by week, this ragtag band of rookies, undrafted free agents and guys signed off the street are actually getting better. Good? No. But better than the previous weeks. That steady progression means that the win over the New York Jets was richly deserved.
Before we get too carried away, let us take a moment to reflect on the chance the Jets offered to be Miami’s first scalp of the season. Chiefly by appointing Adam Gase. All the familiar Gase tropes where on display. A malfunctioning offense. Penalties galore. Bubble screens and inside draws on third and long. Even the old classic of sitting by himself, drawing up plays on the bench while everybody, and I do mean everybody, else is watching the game.
Let’s not deny Flores and his men the credit for the victory. There was plenty on display here. A competent quarterback, reading defenses, throwing on time and moving the ball. Second year tight end Mike Gesicki finally looking like the receiving threat he was drafted for. Wide receivers Devante Parker and Preston Williams looking like dual threats with speed, height and reach.
Not everything was good, of course. Williams will be lucky to be fit for the start of the 2020 season after suffering an ACL injury. There was a kick-off return touchdown, the drive to the goal line that only a Sam Darnold decision to throw led to a pick.
There was, however, enough there to be excited about the future. After all, if Flores can guide the team to more victories with the hand he has been dealt, that bodes well for a future in which the Dolphins begin to make the most of their resources. Sunday was a nice start.
Featured Picture – Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky