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The NFL season kicks off this weekend without the Miami Dolphins. Thanks to Hurricane Irma, the Dolphins' season opener versus Tampa Bay has been postponed until November 19. That's a long time to wait to start the season.

The effect of this move is that the Dolphins, unlike the rest of the league (save the Buccaneers), will not have a mid-season bye. I'd say that was a competitive disadvantage, but since the team has already suffered season-ending injuries at quarterback, linebacker, and defensive back, I guess having a week to "get healthy" is kind of pointless.

General consensus among pundits was that the Dolphins would win no more than 8 games. Even that number now looks increasingly over-optimistic, especially considering that there will only be six games remaining after the relocated "opener."

If there's any upside to all this, it's that all Dolphins' games played prior to the week 11 "opener" must now be considered preseason games. That means they shouldn't count against the team's permanent record, right? Right?

I'd complain more, but it seems inappropriate to bitch too much about football with a category 5 hurricane on the way. Stay safe, Miami. I'll see you in November.

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Two weeks ago, I was excited about the coming NFL season. The Miami Dolphins had a good year last year, making the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade. This year, with a rehabilitated quarterback, an up-and-coming sophomore running back, and an improved defense, the team was poised for better things. What a difference a couple of weeks can make.

Since camp started, the Dolphins have placed their starting running back into the concussion protocol, struggled to replace their re-damaged quarterback, and watched helplessly as the linebacking core has collapsed to season-ending injuries one member at a time. All is not sunny in Miami, Florida.

I'm especially disheartened by the signing of Jay Cutler. This shows that management doesn't believe existing backup Matt Moore, quarterback for the last four games last season, can carry the load. However, it's not like Cutler is an ox himself. He hasn't completed a full season since 2009. He had shoulder surgery in December and had retired from the sport after being cut by the Bears and having no other team in the league express interest. Oh, boy.

(I admit my bias here. I thought Cutler was going to be something special coming out of Vanderbilt. But his career — hindered by constant coaching changes, disruptive teammates, a litany of ailments, and a standoffish personality — has been . . . lackluster. And now he's the latest in a long line of disappointing Dolphin QBs to succeed Emperor Marino.)

Last year, the Dolphins were only as good as the health of their offensive line. While that's always true for every team, the Dolphins had it especially tough, managing only 4 games with all starters in play. The team hoped to be better in 2017 with the benefit of experience and extra depth, but that won't make much difference if no one is standing behind the center.

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Last year, the Atlanta Falcons were no better than an average team, finishing with an 8-8 record. The year before, they finished 6-10, and the year before that, they were 4-12. You might have noticed a trend. After four years of steady improvement, the Falcons are in the Super Bowl.

Why can't other teams do that? Specifically, why not the Miami Dolphins?

Assembling a successful pro football team is a challenge of (1.) recognizing talent, (2.) acquiring that talent, (3.) developing a competitive strategy, (4.) coaching talent to work together to achieve the strategy, and (5.) executing tactics on the field.

In recent years, the Falcons have done all those things well. For the past few decades, the Dolphins have rarely gotten past step one.

But this year the Dolphins broke out of mediocrity and made the postseason. The Dolphins lost primarily because the injury bug did more damage than their opponent, but that the Dolphins have any talent good enough to make the playoffs is a hopeful sign that perhaps the team is finally turning things around.

If the Falcons can make the Super Bowl in four years, I don't see any reason the same can't happen for the Dolphins. Maybe 2019 will be a super year for Miami.

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They also have no thumbs

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The Miami Dolphins have made the NFL playoffs! They play the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1PM EST on Sunday.

The last time the Dolphins played a playoff game was January 4, 2009. They lost that game 27-9. I'm not convinced that this year will be any better.

In 2009, the team lost mainly because NFL Comeback Player of the Year Chad "Noodle-Arm" Pennington threw four interceptions. That can't happen again, right? I mean, Pennington has long retired, but starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is still out with a bum knee, leaving backup Matt Moore in his place. Moore has a fair arm, but he can be a bit reckless. Surely he won't be four interceptions worth of reckless. Right?

If the Dolphins do manage to get past round one — they did beat the Steelers 30-15 back in October — they'll head into a second week rematch against the New England Patriots. They've played the Patriots twice already this year, losing 31-24 (with Tannehill) and 35-14 (with Moore). Yeesh.

So go Dolphins! (And better luck next year!)

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The Miami Dolphins are guaranteed a winning season for the first time since 2008. It's an unusual sensation. I'd forgotten what it felt like to cheer for a winning NFL team.

If the Dolphins win on Christmas Eve in Buffalo and on New Year's Day versus the New England Patriots, they'll definitely make the postseason. There are scenarios in which they could lose one or both of those games and and still have a shot at playing for the league title. Given the Dolphins' history of poor performance in the snow and against teams much, much better than they are, I'm not holding my breath.

(It doesn't help that starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill busted his ACL in week 14 and may or may not return before September 2017. Great timing, that.)

However, don't let my pessimism about the future fool you into thinking that I'm not excited about the present. I am, indeed, very happy that the Dolphins won't finish the season as losers, something I predicted before the season started.

That's the best thing about being a pessimist. It's always a pleasant surprise when you're wrong.

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Word on the street (ok, word via NFL.com) is that Jared Goff will be starting at quarterback for the LA Rams when the Miami Dolphins come to town this weekend.

I think that's probably a bad idea.

For those of you who haven't been paying attention, Goff was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. That means the Rams thought he wasn't just the best quarterback available, but the best player available this year. The Rams have taken an old-school approach to rearing the young quarterback and let him ride the bench while he learns the ropes. Most teams these days throw their new quarterback prospects out on the field immediately to see if they sink or swim (*cough* Miami Dolphins *cough*). But not the Rams. At least not until now.

The reason I say this might not be the right week to start the Jared Goff experiment is because the Dolphins aren't the sort to play nice with opposition quarterbacks. No team in 2016 has spent more on their defensive linemen than the Dolphins (by a margin of nearly $4 million!). In the past 10 weeks, the Dolphins have broken Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger, accomplished journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Tom Brady stand-in Jimmy Garoppolo. Is that the sort of meat grinder you want to put an unproven $20 million man in? I wouldn't.

So why this week? Maybe coach Jeff Fisher thinks that his previous starter, Case Keenum, is too important to risk feeding to the Dolphins' D-line. Maybe Fisher is frustrated with Goff and wants to punish him. Whatever the case, good luck, Jared Goff. You're going to need it.

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Screenshot from my phone on election night:

I voted for Slim Pickens

When the BBC is showing a mushroom cloud, you know things are bad.

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So somehow this is a thing now:

If three of these were poison, how many would you eat?

I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I mean, I like M&M's (even with their unconventional use of the apostrophe). I have a bag near me now.

However, who wants a candy that tastes like the Miami Dolphins? They're not a particularly good football team. What would you expect a Dolphins-branded candy to taste like? Failure? Disappointment? Actual dolphins?

At least they don't taste like the Cleveland Browns.

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At long last, the 2016 NFL season is here!

Yesterday the Miami Dolphins opened the season with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. (I'm typing this on Friday, but I feel pretty confident about what the outcome of the game will be.) The Dolphins can only get better from here, right? Not so fast.

FootballOutsiders.com predicts the Dolphins will win 6.3 games. FiveThirtyEight.com models call for 6.4 wins. ESPN (inheritor of the AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com prediction models) says 7. That might sound bad, but they're all based on the team's history. Over the last 10 years, the Dolphins have averaged 6.7 wins a season. Ouch.

Over the franchise's first 40 season, it averaged over 9 wins a season. How the once mighty have fallen. Is there any reason for optimism that the team will regain its former glory this year? Sure, why not. The team has a new, first time head coach and a healthy defensive line. That has to count for something, right? I mean, it's not like the team has the same mediocre quarterback and the same clueless owner and is still in the same division as the New England Patriots. Sigh.

(EDIT: On Sunday, the Dolphins did indeed lose to the Seahawks. The Dolphins' quarterback repeatedly failed to identify passing lanes, and the receivers repeatedly dropped the balls that did reach them as the team went on to score a paltry 10 points [the lone touchdown coming on a 2-yard quarterback keeper]. Every team in the AFC lost on opening day, every team except the New England Patriots, who now lead their division yet again. Take that, Nostradamus.)

Here's to the 2017 NFL season!

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