There’s a shadow over the Miami Dolphins. In the last two decades, the Dolphins have made only three playoff appearances. In those three appearances, they haven’t won a single game. It’s clear the franchise has lost its footing in the new millennium. Now, almost twenty years later, is the Miami Dolphins franchise ready to step back into the light?
What’s Happened To The Miami Dolphins?
As New England’s Brady-Belichick combo came to rule over football through the 2000s and 2010s, the rest of the AFC East struggled through two decades of mediocrity. Since 2000, the Miami Dolphins have been through ten different head coaches. They combined for only seven seasons above .500. The team’s only real stability came from former Texas A&M Aggie Ryan Tannehill starting at quarterback for seven seasons. Despite never being bad enough to warrant change, the Dolphins under Tannehill were never good enough to make a splash. Miami’s best year with Tannehill under center came in 2016 when the Dolphins finished 10-6, losing in the wild card to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The last to decades have obviously been unimpressive, but it wouldn’t be complete without some salt on the wound. The continued dominance of divisional foe New England made this mediocrity even more unbearable for one of football’s most passionate fanbases and biggest markets.
What’s Changing For The Miami Dolphins:
Coach Brian Flores has a lot of work ahead of him. In 2019, he was given a team to take the team to heights an entire generation of fans have never experienced. After some solid forward momentum, we’ve arrived at his make-or-break season. If Miami misses out on the playoff’s for the fifth straight season, Flores may very well be on his way as the Dolphins look for a new coach. However, for the first time in a long time, a coaching change won’t be followed by a complete strip-for-parts. The franchise has a promising young QB, an established defensive front as well as an upgraded secondary, and plenty of new weapons in the receiver room. This team knows what it’s got, and now more than ever it feels like there’s a plan.
Still, all the optimism in the world can only do so much. This team is coming off a season with only 10 wins. The lack of offensive production played the biggest role in that, but the team still has some needs to answer on defense. As exciting as their league leading turnover streak (which currently sits at 22 games), the pass defense simply gave up too many big plays. The Dolphins allowed 8.0 yards per attempt, the third worst in the league. No part of this team is perfect, but Coach Flores has built a solid foundation for this franchise to continue to get better.
What’s Next For The Miami Dolphins:
Although they can make the playoffs without it, the next goal for this franchise is to win the AFC East. Miami hasn’t accomplished that since 2008, when they tied with the Patriots. Nowadays, the Buffalo Bills have established themselves as the best team in the division. In 2020, the Bills went 6-0 against AFC East opponents. The division was up for grabs as the New England Patriots dominance has slowed, but the Dolphins simply weren’t ready to step up. Buffalo is showing no signs of slowing down, so Miami will to play catch-up in hopes of becoming the top dog.
In regards to roster, the Dolphins still have some polishing to do on both sides of the ball. Last year’s offensive line, featuring three rookies, failed to impress. However, the addition of Liam Eichenberg and the anticipated development of Miami’s second-year-starters on the line means this unit could take a huge step forward. The team has obviously addressed other needs on offense. Bringing in Will Fuller V and Jaylen Waddle should add a shot of adrenaline to this passing attack. If that wasn’t enough, the emergence of Mike Gesicki as one of the nations top tight ends adds even more depth an offense that already boasted star receiver DeVante Parker.
Seemingly, the biggest unaddressed issue on this offense is in the backfield. As of OTA’s, Miami has yet to bring in a dependable running back that fans can get excited about. A potential trade with the Patriots may see Sony Michel reunite with Coach Flores, who was involved with the Patriots franchise for nearly fifteen years. If this becomes reality, it will be a huge addition and step forward for a team that wants to be taken seriously in next seasons playoffs.
Dolphins fans have every right to be excited going into this season. They also have every right to be cautious. For the past twenty years, the team has struggled not only to find success, but to find an identity. The Dolphins have been waiting for a hero since January 9th, 2000, the day Marino played his final NFL game. After Tua Tagovailoa’s jersey sold more than any other rookies, it’s obvious some fans believe that hero has arrived. Only time will tell if that’s true. Following two decades of a post-Marino cloud over the city, maybe sunny days are coming soon for the Miami Dolphins.
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