I don't know about you, but watching this weekend's Championship Games was a little depressing. First, you have New England, a team in Miami's division, playing for a chance to go to the Super Bowl yet again. (I bet you didn't realize that a team from the AFC East has been in the AFC Championship Game in 8 of the last 10 years - NE 6 & NYJ 2).
But you also had the Atlanta Falcons, a team that was basically in the same position as Miami after the '07 season.
Here are some of the comparisons that followed after the '07 season for both Atlanta (4-12) & Miami (1-15):
- Hired New Front Office's
- Hired New Coaches
- High Draft Picks For The '08 Draft: Miami had the #1 Overall Pick, Atlanta had the #3 Pick. Miami had four (4) picks in the Top 66 of the draft, Atlanta had four (4) picks in the Top 68.
From the '08 season through the '12 season, Atlanta has the following stats:
- 56 Wins and 24 Losses
- Four (4) Playoff Appearances - Two (2) Division Champions, Two (2) Wildcards
- One (1) Playoff Win
- Two (2) #1 Overall Playoff Seeds - Best Conference Record
- Five (5) Consecutive Winning Seasons
From the '08 season through the '12 season, Miami has the following stats:
- 38 Wins and 42 Losses
- One (1) Playoff Appearance - Division Champions
- Zero (0) Playoff Wins
- Four (4) Consecutive Losing Seasons
The differences couldn't be more stark between these two teams since '07. Some would argue that Atlanta was a much better team in '07 than Miami. They will point to the fact that Miami has only three (3) players (Soliai, Fields, Denney) from '07 still on the team, that they have replaced 50 of 53 roster spots since '07. But if you look at the rosters for Atlanta, they only have five (5) players (John Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux, Tyson Clabo, Jason Snelling, Roddy White) from the '07 team still on the roster. So Atlanta has replace 48 of 53 roster spots since their '07 season. (See the links to the rosters for Atlanta below).
The difference between Miami and Atlanta then is two (2) extra players retained by Atlanta. So the other 48 players that were changed, Atlanta's FO far outperformed Miami's FO in acquiring talent. That is true in all aspects of talent acquisition, especially the draft. Per the Excellent Fanpost by BahamaDolfan that breaks down the draft, we see that Atlanta has retained 80% of their draft picks since '08, while Miami is at 55%. But it goes further than just percentages, it is also actual players. Atlanta has retained 29 of their 38 picks since '08. Miami has retained only 22 of their 43 picks since '08. So with less picks, Atlanta has still retained 33% more players from their draft than Miami has. That isn't an accident. That is very good drafting by Atlanta when compared to that of Miami.
So what does Miami do now to close the gap? I say they should follow the Atlanta model. Miami started with the drafting of a potential franchise QB in the 1st Round in last year's draft with Ryan Tannehill. (The vast majority of Franchise QB's in the NFL are 1st round draft picks) After that, Miami needs to surround Tannehill with Playmaker's. In Atlanta, they surrounded their Franchise QB with talent via the Draft (Harry Douglas, Jacquizz Rodgers, Julio Jones), Trades (Tony Gonzalez), and Free Agency (Michael Turner). Miami needs to do the same. Miami needs to be creative, like Atlanta did when they traded up to get Julio Jones in the draft. I know that it has been said to build through the draft, and I agree with that concept. But there are really good players to be had in FA and in Trades. It is important to explore all avenues to close the gap that exists talent wise between Miami and the rest of the league.
Atlanta started at the bottom of the heap that is the NFL and in five (5) years went to the NFC Championship Game by being smart in managing their personal. By being smart in their talent acquisition, Miami can, beginning in '13, have similar success to that of Atlanta. Miami this year has the chance to do just that with five (5) draft picks in the first three (3) rounds and a bunch of cap space. If they are smart, the results should be immediate with a winning record and playoff berth this year. If they aren't very smart, those results will also be immediate with a 5th straight losing season.
It still depresses me that five (5) years ago, both Atlanta and Miami started at the same point. Now they are going in opposite directions. Atlanta was playing for a chance to go to the Super Bowl and Miami has had four (4) straight losing seasons. Hopefully that direction in Miami is reversed this year and the Dolphins can get back to consistently winning. Hopefully, in five (5) years or less, Miami is playing for the same chance to be in a Super Bowl.