The lyrics to the Dolphins “fight song” used to ring true. Now they are both sad and funny at the same time. The song calls them the greatest football team. It also says that Miami and Super Bowl went together. The Dolphins played in five of the first 19 Super Bowl games. This year is Super Bowl 50 and they have not played in once since number 19. That is hard to believe for fans who were around during the days of Don Shula.
Shula transitioned from the ground and pound running attack of Csonka, Morris and Kiick that saw them go to three straight Super Bowls, number six, seven and eight, to the “Killer B’s” defense oriented team that saw them go to number 17, to the pass happy aerial show of young quarterback Dan Marino that led them to number 19. It seemed as if Super Bowl trips would go on forever as the Fins had what would turn out to be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game locked up for the next decade. But it didn’t turn out that way.
A porous defense and a weak running game were too much for Marino’s arm to overcome as the Fins kept falling short in the playoffs. They did host the AFC Championship Game in 1986 and in 1992, but lost both times to East Division foes, New England in ’86 and Buffalo in ’92. Losing to AFC East teams, especially at home was unheard of for the Dolphins up until then.
When Marino finally hung it up after the 1999 season, the Dolphins were left to rebuild without one of the game’s greatest head coaches and one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks. That is a fairly tall order, but it has been 15 long years since Miami has had a serious contender. Meanwhile they have watched another AFC East team reel off four Super Bowl Championships since then.
The Patriots are now the class of the division once owned by the aqua and orange. They have now been to the Super Bowl game eight times to Miami’s five and have won it four times to Miami’s two. Even the Bills have been to the Super Bowl four times since the Dolphins last went.
There are generations of Miami fans that have never once seen them in a Super Bowl. That is hard to believe for us old timers who used to see it happen quite a lot.
Miami has now hitched its wagon to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill is a good NFL quarterback. He is not, however, anything close to being Tom Brady. He is not even Andrew Luck, or even an aged Peyton Manning. Tannehill is a guy who can perhaps take a very talented roster a long way. He will not take a mediocre roster very far. And that is what Miami has been for 15 seasons.
Graphic via miamiherald
So unless the Dolphins can come up with a beast of a defense, a flawless kicking game and a serious running attack, you may want to hold off on singing that fight song to your friends who like the Pats, Bills, Colts or anyone else.
Last season, the Fins finished 8-8 and in third place behind the Patriots and Bills. The Pats went on to win yet another Super Bowl. The Dolphins were left wondering what might have been had they been able to close out some of the close games, such as the Green Bay game, lost in the last three seconds of the game when Aaron Rodgers drove them for a late touchdown and a 27-24 win. Or how about the Detroit game that they led all the way until the last play when Matt Stafford played the part of Rodgers in a 16-13 loss. Or the Broncos game where the Fins lost 39-36 despite entering the fourth quarter up 28-17. Every NFL team has three of four games they could have won with a break but they also have three or four they could have lost. So usually a team’s record is indicative of how good they were. But not Miami. The Fins blew every team out except for their last two wins in December when they beat the Jets 16-13 and the Vikings 37-35. So Miami had three games going into December that could have gone either way that all went against them. That is the difference between being 9-3 going into December or 6-6.
Does that mean Miami makes the Super Bowl? Maybe not. But they would have gone 11-5 with wins in those games instead of 8-8. If they had won two of the three, they finish 10-6. 10-6 will usually get you to the playoffs.
Miami is all in with Tannehill. They have beefed up the receiving corps with second year guy Jarvis Landry, who had a good rookie season with Miami a year ago, catching five TD passes. Miami has gotten Greg Jennings who was a star at Green Bay a few years ago and Kenny Stills from the Saints to go with Landry. They also used their first round pick on wide receiver Davonte Parker. Parker has had some injury problems so far but is expected to return for the start of the regular season.
But as stated before, the Dolphins need more. They need a running attack. Tannehill is coming off his best season with 27 touchdowns to only 12 picks. He had a 92.8 QB rating in 2014. But even that was only good enough for an 8-8 record. How much better will he get? Is he ever going to be a 45 TD guy? Drew Brees threw for 33 with 17 picks last year and it was considered a disaster. That’s still six more TDs than Tannehill had.
So how about the running game? Lamar Miller ran for 1099 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s something to build on. If he can keep up that kind of production and the Miami receivers give Tannehill some more options, this could be a good offense.
How about the defense? Well, the Dolphins plug Ndamukong Suh into the defensive line to go along with Cameron Wake. This could make them stellar on defense, if Suh can keep his emotions in check. He has a reputation for being a dirty player and we all know Miami does not need any more of those after the Richie Incognito fiasco of 2013.
Dolphins fans have to like the moves the team has made. Now it is up to the players to go get the job done.
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