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The NFL gave out its season
senior superlatives "honors" the night before the championship game. The Miami Dolphins won the coveted Bridgestone Cluch Performance Play of the Year... for a trick play touchdown in the second quarter of a game against the Eagles that would see the two teams combine for forty-one more points after the "clutch" play. Hrm. It feels like a participation award. Thanks, Bridgestone.
But that wasn't the only trophy to go to someone still on the Dolphins' payroll. The award for the nebulously defined "comeback player" of the year went to Ryan Tannehill (who accounted for $18 million against the Dolphins salary cap despite not playing a single down for the team).
In 1972, Miami Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for playing an integral role in leading the Dolphins' to the NFL's only undefeated season. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Morrall had been discarded by the Baltimore Colts who preferred instead to give 38-year-old Johnny Unitas yet another chance.
In 1994, Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for passing for 30 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards on the way to a 10-win season. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Marino had torn his Achilles tendon in the fifth week and ruined what was projected to be a division-winning season.
In 2008, Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for surviving an 11-win season without suffering further injury. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Pennington had played in only nine games for the New York Jets, losing the eight of them that were not against the Miami Dolphins.
In 2019, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award for coming off the bench mid-season to ultimately lead his team to the AFC Championship game. The comeback moniker was justified because the previous year, Tannehill had been a Miami Dolphin.
Congrats to Tannehill for successfully getting out of the talent-sucking tar pit. And thanks to Friend Randy for passing along news that Tannehill was finally a winner. I'm sure he wasn't gloating. (Randy's a Dallas fan.)
I haven't mentioned the Miami Dolphins in over two months and for good reason. They're bad. They're even bad at being bad. Their best achievement in 2019 was having Dan Marino named as one of the 10 greatest quarterbacks of the past century. Too bad Marino retired 20 years ago. The team hasn't had a consistently decent quarterback since.
To solve that problem, the team started the 2019 season with the intention of losing more than anyone has ever lost before to secure the first pick in the 2020 draft. They ultimately finished fifth in the race to be worst, meaning they won't get the best available quarterback. They might not even get the second, third, or fourth.
The best option, according to just about everyone, is Joe Burrow, whose LSU team mastered the art of having offensive linemen get away without being called for holding. He is followed in some order by Justin Herbert, Jacob Eason, and Jake Fromm. Two of them are/were Georgia Bulldogs, so I'd be fine cheering for them as Dolphins. On the other hand, Herbert is slow to make decisions, but is a nearly seven-foot-tall giant. Given that NFL scouts are size queens and Herbert is the one I like least, I figure he's the one most likely to be the Dolphins' eventual pick.
If there's any good news for the Dolphins, it's that their original target QB, Tua Tagovailoa, has fallen from his early projections and should still be available at five. (Maybe even at twenty.) Why? Because he's fragile. Would the team that famously passed on Drew Brees' wounded wing draft a player who's the real-life equivalent of a mid-80s G.I.Joe figure with a busted rubber band? We'll see.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins' last quarterback project, Ryan Tannehill, refuses to lose with his new team. Two games into the playoffs, two wins. That's two more than Ryan won in seven years with the Dolphins. Given that the Dolphins are still paying Tannehill against his last contract, they deserve at least some credit for those wins, right?
It remains possible, maybe even likely, that last year's starting QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick will return under center in 2020. In 2019, playing for his 8th team, Fitzpatrick became the oldest player (37) to lead his team in rushing yards (243) and rushing touchdowns (4) in a season, which implies that the Dolphins running game might be a bigger problem than whoever they've got under center. (Tannehill, for example, is now winning largely thanks to the legs of Derrick Henry.) I won't be surprised if the team decides to try losing another year's worth of games to address that problem in 2021.
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Mid-season update on Operation Fish Tank: the winless Miami Dolphins were on target in their quest for the first pick in the 2020 Draft until they ran into the one-win New York Jets. The resulting contest was a sad parody of what football is supposed to be.
Coach Brian Flores's season-long compromise between his competitive nature and his owner's desire for Tua Tagavailoa has been to score as many points as possible in the first half then stop playing after halftime. That strategy finally failed him. It's hard to blame him here, as how could anyone expect the Jets to be better at the same tactic? Both teams tried forcing a safety on the other, but the Jets' incompetence could not be overcome.
There are now 4 teams with one win, and the Cinncinnati Bengals lie alone at the bottom of the pile as the only remaining winless team. The Dolphins aren't even in second place among the tied-for-second teams. The NFL uses strength of schedule for draft tiebreakers, and the worst team with the hardest road is the Atlanta Falcons. (Echos of "28-3" continues to resonate.)
(UPDATE 2019-11-05: Oops. I misunderstood that tiebreaker. That should be the worst team with the *easiest* strength of schedule, which isn't Atlanta but Washington. Dolphins still in third, though.)
So here we are at the halfway point of the 2019 season, and it looks like the Miami Dolphins have scrapped all the talent on their team and endured a horrible, losing season... for the third overall pick. At least Atlanta isn't likely to take a QB, right? Right?
Way to find a way to lose at losing, Fins.
No sooner do the Dolphins trade one Ryan than they pick up another.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald has been signed as the Dolphins' starting signal caller. The Dolphins will be Fitzpatrick's 8th team in his 14-year career. He'll set a record if he completes a single pass for the 'Fins in 2019. Long-term marginal competence has to count for something, and that something appears to be about $5 million, the price of Fitzpatrick's new contract. The team paid Jay Cutler twice that in 2017. He won 6 games. I guess they're expecting Fitz to manage only 3.
This will be Fitpatrick's third tour of duty in the AFC East. He's already passed through the locker rooms of both the Bills and the Jets. All totaled, he's managed a career 6-5 record against his new team. The only team in the division that hasn't hired him is the New England Patriots. He has a 2-9 record against them.
It's probably worth noting that during Fitzpatrick's entire career, the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins have had at least 13 starting quarterbacks — each — while the Patriots have had essentially one. (Technically, they've had 4. Tom Brady missed all of 2008 with a knee injury and served a 4 game suspension in 2016 because he likes saggy balls. But there was never any doubt who the team's starting quarterback was.)
Will Fitz bring his Fitzmagic to Miami in 2019? My Magic 8-ball says no. So does Vegas. Even before dumping Tannehill, sports books were down on the 'Fins. Last week, if you bet a dollar on them to win the Super Bowl, you could pocket $300. That's three times longer odds than are being given to any other team. Comparatively, the never-going-anywhere Detroit Lions are 100-1. Those were Friday's odds that the Dolphins could win their division. I'm sure the addition of Fitzpatrick isn't bringing them any closer.
Ye gods. It's going to be a long season.
One year ago, I wrote, "Sadly, it looks like another rebuilding year is in the cards for the 'Fins." I shouldn't have acted so surprised. Ever since a real estate baron bought the team in 2008, the rebuilding never stops in Miami.
It was pretty clear that 2019 was going to be a rebuilding year when Coach Gase was fired (with cause). And then Yesterday, the Dolphins traded starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the Titans. Ryan was a first-round pick (8th overall) in 2012. After 6 years — though only 4½ on the field thanks to some very questionable medical decisions concerning his oft-injured knee — he's now worth something less. (The Dolphins essentially gave away Tannehill plus $5 million for a 2020 4th round pick. That feels about right. He should have been a 4th round pick in 2012.)
With Tannehill gone, there are zero quarterbacks on the roster who have played a single snap in the NFL. That's a step up from 2017, when Jay Cutler filled in.
The question now is whether the Dolphins hire a cheap free agent to fill the void or will some rookie from the draft get the call? Neither of those seem like great options. I can't say as I'm very excited about the prospect of Jacksonville wash-out Black Bortles taking snaps, and there's no phenom like Andrew Luck coming out of college this year. 'Suck for [Drew] Lock' doesn't have the same ring.
Maybe I can find something else to do on Sundays this fall.
Should old acquaintance be forgot....
The Dolphins, by which I mean Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross, got a good look at Santa's leftover naughty list and fired head coach Adam Gase on New Year's Eve. Said ESPN.com:
Gase couldn't escape the mediocrity that has followed the Dolphins since 2000. He finished 23-25 [.479], with his lone playoff game being a wild-card loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016. Miami was 7-9 this season.
To be fair, Gase's record wasn't any worse than his two immediate predecessors (Philbin, 24-28 [.461], and Sparano, 29-33 [.468]), but he wasn't any better either, which was particularly damning for someone who was supposed to be such a great offensive genius.
The biggest indictment of Gase was that he often fielded an anemic offense despite being thought of as an offensive guru and quarterback whisperer when he got the job. The Dolphins finished 24th or worse in total offense in all three seasons under Gase, including 31st in 2018.
There's anemic, and then there's Adam Gase' offense. In 2018, the Dolphins weren't just the worst AFC team in total yards, they were also the worst AFC team at yards per game, first downs, third-down conversion percentage, and field goals attempted. On the positive side, they were the best in the AFC in punts attempted and total punting yards!
As surprising as it might seem in hindsight, Ross hired Gase to turn around the under-performing Ryan Tannehill in 2016 after Gase had performed a similar "miracle" with Peyton Manning. You read that right. Gase was Manning's offensive coordinator in Denver in 2013, and somehow he got credit for Peyton's record-setting comeback there, never mind that Peyton was already one of the all-time greats before the neck injury that slowed him down for the 2011-2012 seasons. The way people talk about Gase, you'd think he performed Peyton's surgery himself.
Anyway, whether or not Gase had any ability to improve his players before he came to the Dolphins is a moot point. In Miami, inability to recognize and develop talent is an infectious disease.
Frankly, I feel sorry for whoever comes to town next.
Follow-up to yesterday's post: Dolphins 23, Texans 42. (The game wasn't as close as that score. I hope you had something better to do with your time than watch it.) In the Adam Gase era, the Dolphins have been outscored 23-82 on Thursday nights.
Since I talked about it at length yesterday, I should note that Brock Osweiler completed 57% of his pass attempts with 1 interception and zero touchdowns. (And the officials took away a fumble returned for a touchdown on a technicality.) His final QB rating for the game was 65.3 out of a maximum 158.3. For comparison, Texans QB Deshaun Watson finished with a 156.0.
As expected, the Dolphins are now 4-4 and on pace for another in a long string of mediocre seasons. Yawn. I'd wish them better luck next year, but we already know that isn't really going to matter.
Kicking off week 8 of the 2018 NFL season tonight, the Miami Dolphins will play the Houston Texans. Starting at quarterback for the Dolphins will be Brock Osweiler. This is notable because on March 9, 2016, the Texans paid Osweiler $72 million to be their quarterback. Exactly one year later, the Texans paid the Browns to take Osweiller off their hands. Then the Browns cut him. A QB of that calibre has to end up a Dolphin.
Osweiller gets the start for the Phins because oft-hurt Ryan Tannehill is hurt again. Tannehill has started 5 games in the past two seasons, and the writing may be on the wall. Tannehill has already started twice as many games for Miami as any other quarterback since Dan Marino, and his record isn't exactly sterling.
Tannehill's record is 40-42. The quarterback with the second-most starts is Jay Fielder — does anyone else outside Miami remember him? — at 36-23. For comparison, Marino was 147-93. *sigh* (And, since we're here, I might as well remind everyone once again that the Dolphins, under Head Coach Nick Saban, passed on signing free agent Drew Brees in 2006 because of medical questions about Brees' reconstructed shoulder. Brees has only gone 117-79 since, missing exactly 2 games over those 13 years. *double sigh*)
So with fragile Tannehill looking at the tail end of his mediocre career, why isn't there someone in the wings ready to take his place? Osweiller is obviously not a long-term solution, and the third QB on the team depth-chart, David Fales, was shown the door by the Chicago Bears who let him attempt only 2 passes during a 2017 season in which they won only 3 games. The problem here, obviously, is with whoever is in charge of player personnel for the Dolphins. According to his contract, that executive for the Dolphins isn't GM Mike Tannenbaum but Head Coach Adam Gase.
Giving this sort of power to the Head Coach might seem like a good idea after years of Jeff Ireland' blind eye for talent, but maybe Gase isn't the right man for that job, either. It was Gase's decision to trade star running back and "locker room cancer" Jay Ajayi to the Eagles (where he won a Super Bowl) for a fourth-round draft pick. It was Gase's decision to trade star receiver Jarvis Landry to the Browns for fourth- and seventh-round draft picks. And it was Gase's decision to bring Jay Cutler out of retirement to do whatever it was he did last season. If there's no quarterback of the future on Miami's roster, that's Gase's decision, too.
Yeah, I'll be watching tonight as the Dolphins struggle to stay afloat in the race to the postseason, but all I see in the team's future is more of the same old canned tuna.
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As if playing for the Miami Dolphins wasn't bad enough, wide receiver Jarvis Landry — the 2017 NFL leader in receptions — has been traded to the Cleveland Browns. Ouch.
Yes, Landry has a tendency to be a diva, but not more so than other players at his position. Yes, Landry has a tendency to commit penalties, but other players on the team were much worse. Yes, Landry's yards per catch were low, but his quarterback was Jay Cutler. The team's second leading receiver, Kenny Stills, had almost twice the average yards per catch on half as many receptions, but it's not Landry's fault that every-other pass to him was thrown behind the line of scrimmage.
Landry's true sin was wanting to be paid what he was worth. That's something the Dolphins' front office won't tolerate. That's why they got rid of Jay Ajayi last year. (Poor Ajayi was booted straight to the Philadelphia Eagles who only managed to go on to win the Super Bowl. What a bust!) That's why they'll soon be unloading Ndamukong Suh. Rumor has it that Ryan Tannehill — the team's highest-paid remaining player — will soon be shown the door for a similar reason. Ye gods, it's a housecleaning!
Sadly, it looks like another rebuilding year is in the cards for the 'Fins. Current GM Chris Grier must believe that when players say they love the game so much they'd play for free, they really will play for free. He certainly wasn't willing to open his wallet for either Ajayi or Landry despite both far outperforming their rookie contracts. That sets a pretty bad precedent for future rookies.
Don't get too attached to Miami, draft class of 2018. If you play well, you'll only be asked to choose between taking a pay cut or packing your bags. If you're lucky like Ajayi, maybe you'll get traded to Super Bowl-bound teams.
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.)