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I haven't dumped on the Miami Dolphins enough this year. Let me start correcting that.

Yesterday before the NFL trade dealine, the Miami Dolphins traded their starting running back, Jay Ajayi, to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 4th round pick. (True story: they wanted to trade their best wide receiver, Jarvis Landry, but they couldn't find a taker willing to pay the asking price, presumably a 3rd round pick.) Ajayi had three 200+ yard games last year and ran for a total of 1,272 yards. For comparison, Jay Cutler passed for only 1,059 in 2016. Given that Cutler no longer has a running back to help him anymore, that number is going to have to get a lot better fast. That doesn't seem likely to happen anytime soon.

You may have had the misfortune of seeing last Thursday's "game" in which the Dolphins were beaten 40-0. That wasn't because Cutler was out with broken ribs, and it wasn't because Ajayi forgot the playbook. It was because the offensive line played offensively. Who saw that coming? I mean, it's not like the offensive line coach quit two weeks earlier after being caught doing cocaine and models. Oh, wait. Yes, it was exactly like that.

But that was just one game. Otherwise, the Dolphins' offense has been great! Not. The team is last in the league in points scored. It's also last in the league in yards gained. Normally, when a team is bad in all offensive categories, they'll fire the Offensive Coordinator. But the Dolphins can't do that, because the Offensive Coordinator is also the Head Coach. So bye-bye, Ajayi.

Adding insult to insult, the Dolphins were careful to belittle Ajayi on the way out the door. "He has a bad attitude and bad work habits. And, oh yeah, bad knees, too!" Stay classy, Miami! You really fleeced Philadelphia out of that 4th round pick.

There are 9 games left in the season, but at least the team still has Cutler! How the hell am I supposed to cheer for this dumpster fire?

(On a seemingly unrelated note: the initial 2017 NCAA College Football Playoff Rankings were also released yesterday, and the Georgia Bulldogs have jumped the Alabama Crimson Tide for first place. Whoo hoo! If the price I have to pay for a great Bulldogs team is a terrible Miami team, I'm in.)

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The Miami Dolphins came to Atlanta for their first visit to Georgia Dome 2.0 Mercedes Benz Stadium, and I went to see them with my friends, Falcons fans Keith and Ken (and their lovely wives).

Dolphins 20, Falcons 17

In the first half, the Dolphins played like the Dolphins, stumbling into a 0-17 hole. Jay Cutler was the worst he's been all season, playing without inspiration or conviction, placing balls where they would do the least good for the receivers. Just horrible.

However, in the second half, the Falcons played like the Falcons, committing penalties, throwing interceptions, failing to tackle, and just refusing to finish a game. The Falcons scored 0 second half points. The Dolphins scored 20.

Final score, 20-17, Dolphins! Whoo-hoo! Thank you, Falcons!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my first impression of the new stadium. All I've heard is how wonderful it is. Don't believe the hype.

  • The much ballyhooed 360° HD halo screen is worthless for half of the stadium. Those on the ground floor have to stare at the ceiling to see anything. Those in the rafters (like me) can't see half the screen because the near edge obscures the top half of the far side screen. (Given that they can't even make the roof open — not that you'd be able to tell from most of the seats — I assume that it would have been too hard to pitch the screens into a cone so that they would be visible to all?)
  • Stadium concourses are given over almost exclusively to concessions with queue lines cutting into walkways, making it impossible to get around without running through crowds standing in line for beer and $2 hot dogs.
  • And if you want a $2 hot dog, get one early. Lines don't move quickly. I didn't go myself, but watching and listening to those around me, the minimum wait time appeared to be 15 minutes. (And if you want a Coke, your only option is to stand in line for a fill-it-yourself fountain cup which entitles you to stand in line by the "free refills" drink fountains. That's two lines for the price of one!)
  • Speaking of 15 minutes, that was the wait time for restroom breaks — to the men's room!

In short, I didn't see that this stadium was an improvement in any way over the Georgia Dome save the welcome presence of natural light, and I got the impression that I must not be alone. From the very beginning of the game, there were huge blocks of empty seats visible all over the stadium. (I'd guess it was half full.) Given the stadium's evident disdain for people who actually want to watch a game of football, I can't blame those ticket holders for wanting to spend their time doing something other than watch football there.

But enough about that. I went to the building not to pass judgement on it, but to watch a football game with friends. In the end, I think a good time was had by all.*

To be clear, this picture was taken in the first quarter. My smile came out later.

*At least, all of us cheering for the Dolphins.

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While checking for news from the aftermath of Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins in London, my phone returned this.

This is an appropriate use of sarcastic quotes.

Some people don't know when or how to use quotation marks. Most of the time, they should be used when directly quoting someone, such as dialog in novels or citing from sources in news stories. The difference is clear in Jay Cutler said I suck, and Jay Cutler said, "I suck".

Quotation marks can also be used to prevent confusion when referencing a word or phrase itself and not its meaning. You can see what I mean in Jay Cutler prefers "dicks."

And, of course, there's a third use for quotation marks: denoting irony or sarcasm.

On Sunday, the Dolphins lost 20-0. The were shut out by the Saints, a team with a nearly historically bad defense. The highlight of the game was when Jay Cutler actively refused to participate in a Wildcat play. The petulant quarterback stood on the field with his hands on his hips and watched his team lose three yards on yet another drive that would end with a punt. With quality teamwork like that from its quarterback, no wonder the Dolphins are one missed field goal away from being 0-3.

Coach Adam Gase deciding to pay Jay Cutler $10 million instead of starting Matt Moore may prove to be the worst decision of his young head coaching career. Maybe not Nick Saban choosing Daunte Culpepper's knee over Drew Brees' shoulder bad, but not too much worse.

As you can see, the writer of that Wikipedia entry knew what he was doing.

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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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