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One Game In 2011 Changed The Balance Of Power In The AFC East

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December Road Win In Buffalo Was Inspiring, But Proved Costly

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

We discussed a road win that took place on December 18th, 2011, at Buffalo, a couple of weeks back, as a reminder of what we lost when we allowed former right guard John Jerry to leave in free agency and sign with the New York Giants, the team he still starts for today.  But that victory, in the swirling snow flurries at Ralph Wilson Stadium, continues to haunt the Miami Dolphins' franchise in so many other ways.  If we had it to do over, we would have been a whole lot better off losing that game. Of course, hindsight is always 20-20.

The coach who began the season for the Dolphins, Tony Sparano, was fired by team owner Stephen Ross, after a blowout loss at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, a week earlier.  Secondary coach Todd Bowles was named interim coach and Miami prepared to make the trip North to Orchard Park, New York, for their annual road game against the Bills. While Bowles hasn't done much of note since then, he was able to lead the Dolphins to a victory the following Sunday that, looking back now, amounted to a fortune altering event of cataclysmic proportions for this long struggling franchise.

The end result of Miami's late season victory over the Bills was that both teams finished with identical 6-10 records for the year, and because, due to tiebreakers, the Dolphins picked ahead of the Bills in the first round of the 2012 draft the following Spring, Buffalo then picked ahead of Miami in the second round.  The two teams held the 41st and 42nd overall selections in round two, and Miami's then general manager, Jeff Ireland, knew he wanted a left tackle to protect his newly drafted quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blind side.  Ireland wanted one of two players who were still on the board early in the second round: Georgia's Cordy Glenn or Stanford's Jonathan Martin.  The Bills, picking one spot ahead of the Dolphins at number 41, selected Glenn, who has started 61 games for Buffalo in the four plus seasons that have elapsed since then.

Without going into excruciating detail, consider that the following would either have almost certainly occurred, or probably occurred, since then, if Miami and not Buffalo, had held that 41st pick:

- first and foremost, the Dolphins would have drafted Glenn, instead of Martin, which means the Dolphins, today, would have one of the best young left tackles in the game, one who is also a hellacious run blocker.  This would, of course, also have eliminated the need for the team to sign high priced free agent lineman Brandon Albert.

- BullyGate would never have happened.

- both our former starting guards, Richie Incognito and John Jerry, would likely still be on the team.

- Buffalo wouldn't have the best offensive line in the division.

- Miami probably wouldn't be 0-4 at Orchard Park, New York,  the past four years.

- Miami probably qualifies for the postseason at least one time since then.

The purpose of laying all of this out here is not to dwell on the negative, or to try and depress anyone, but rather, to point out what a huge impact a single game, won or lost, can have on the fortunes of an NFL franchise. If we want to see the flip side of this scenario, last season, the Dolphins lost a December home game against the Indianapolis Colts - who were being led by their third string quarterback - that they almost certainly should have won.  The result of that loss, and others, last year, resulted in our acquiring left tackle of the future Laremy Tunsil, linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell.  Football is more than just a proverbial game of inches; it is also a game filled with odd quirks of fate and twists and turns of fortune that sometimes take years to fully manifest themselves. Let us hope that as the remainder of the 2016 season, and the upcoming offseason, unfold, some of those breaks continue to go our way.