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Five Things I Think I Think About the Miami Dolphins - Week 9

lackluster (adjective) - lacking in sheen, brilliance, or vitalityDULL, MEDIOCRE

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing is worse than a QB throwing a crucial pick to seal a loss in a hard fought game on the road. Poor Tua: his comeback stifled by a bad decision when it mattered most. Oh wait. That was Tom Brady.

Looking elsewhere for little laughs is the only joy we’re likely to get the rest of this season as Dolphins fans. Miami is solely the ‘Trick’ of ‘Trick or Treat’ and Halloween at Buffalo did nothing but prove that further. Everybody scream. EVERYBODY SCREAM! The Dolphins lose on Halloween.

Coaching is at the root of this team’s failures

The Dolphins are the only team in professional sports that give me the unearned confidence that I could coach for a living. I’ve never coached football at any level, but watching our players flounder around, fail to get set up properly to run plays, and repeatedly suffer from momentum destroying penalties makes me think I could swing it. This game was supposed to be a blowout, just like the last two games against the Bills. The team didn’t get the memo for the first two quarters, heading into halftime tied 3-3. Much like the last time the two teams faced off, the Dolphins kept Bills’ QB Josh Allen in check for the first half. He went 10/17 (59%) for 80 yds. It looked for all the world like Miami could be on its way to a ridiculously improbable upset as the Bills kicked off to start the 3rd quarter.

Instead, the team’s halftime adjustments were abysmal. The offense became The Invisible Man, going 3 and out on its next three drives for a grand total of 4:48 time of possession. That’s hideous. Our coaches must become energy vampires during their halftime speeches. I just don’t know how you come out so flat after keeping it tied against a much better opponent on the road. Not to mention, how many times can players not know their alignment? Why is the tight end out there directing traffic? On probably the most costly play of the game, we Three Stooged the hell out of something totally basic. Jaylen Waddle didn’t know his spot, Mike Gesicki got trapped moving late, and Austin Reiter snapped it straight into him. You can add guard Robert Hunt in there for tapping Reiter to tell him to snap it, Tua for not correcting anything and, I don’t know, every single coach who should have realized what nonsense was unfolding and called a timeout to fix it. If anyone ever wants to know how the Dolphins fell so far below expectations this season, just show them that play followed by any sound bite of a post game press conference where our coaches rehash the same tired phrases. That’s how you miss the runway by six full airports.

Besides all of that, there was one particular play that left me brain dead. It’s near the end of the game, 1:07 left in the 4th quarter. The Dolphins are down 26-11. This is the definition of garbage time. There are two schools of thought here: The first is that you shoot for the moon and get some practice chucking the ball downfield. The second is that you graciously admit defeat and kneel the ball to let the clock run out. The Dolphins’ coaching staff opted for a third school. This school has no teachers, no books, and the halls are swimming with aliens. No one goes here because it’s obviously a horror show. With 1:07 left, down 15 points, we threw our 215th SCREEN PASS. Let’s do the ROI calculation on this decision:

Cost

  • Risk of Tua getting maimed behind a line that can’t protect long enough to ensure a safe pass of any kind
  • Risk of Myles Gaskin getting maimed in the open against one of the league’s top defenses in a game that’s already out of reach

Benefit

  • .00000001% chance it goes for a touchdown, then we get an onside kick, and score again to win
  • The clock keeps running: JUST LIKE WHEN YOU KNEEL IT

Did they think the team needed practice throwing screens? Trust me, everyone knows how they work by now. I hate it so much. Either throw it 75 yards or kneel down. I know the line probably can’t block long enough for a hail mary, but come on.

Speaking of the offensive line:

Both sides of the trenches are nowhere near good enough

I wonder how closely the Dolphins’ offensive line woes sync up with the emergence of Freddy Krueger as a horror mainstay? I ask because it feels like he’s been turning our dreams of adequate blocking into nightmares for close to 30 years now. This is the unit of the team consistently most bewildering to me. We spent draft capital on it (1st RD: Austin Jackson; 2nd RD: Robert Hunt, Liam Eichenberg; 3rd RD: Michael Dieter; 4th RD: Solomon Kindley), so you’d think there’d be some talent floating around there. Then we Frankensteined their lineup around to make sure no one ever gets comfortable or stays at his best position. Then we coach them to just kind of look around and hope for the best. No group on the team has consistently failed to leverage every avenue for improvement more than the offensive line. Talent acquisition, positional assignments, and coaching are all problematic year after year. They not only make the team worse and the games hard to watch, they also make it tough to write about for 17 weeks in a row. How many times can I reword it to say that our line is inneffective and showing little improvement? If I were a betting man, I’d bet we’re all gonna find out together.

They’re (unbelievably) not the only bad line in town. Their defensive counterparts fail to generate any meaningful pressure without utilizing a blitz. Our four man rush might as well just drop back into coverage and take away the checkdowns for as much difficulty as they give the opposing quarterback. Did you know that when you put your hands on the other team’s QB, you’re allowed to tackle him? I know the rules favor the offense to an offensive degree (I don’t like what I did there either), but some of our coaches need to remind the defenders to bring the passer down and not just pat him on the back on the way past. If you have the chance to lay a hit on the kind of guy who taunts you on the way out of the game (and anyone pretending that Josh Allen waving in players’ faces isn’t textbook taunting is Josh Allen), make sure you take advantage of it. Aim for the center of mass. Wrap up with your arms. Make a clean, solid hit. They teach those fundamentals in Pop Warner. Is there a level below Pop Warner? There’s no way we hired coaches from there, is there?

To continue ragging on our coaching until I’m blue in the face:

The team again left points all over the field

What’s to become of Jason Sanders? He was automatic last season. Now he’s shanking essentially extra points in games where points are desperately needed. He nailed a 51 yarder later in the game, so he’s not completely broken, but he’s now equally Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. His early miss left 3 points off the board. Also in the first half was the ‘Encapsulation of All Things Coaching’ play: the fumble on the botched snap and motion, which occurred in the red zone. Pessimists say that left another 3 off the board and optimists will go as high as 7. Finally, there was a botched punt return by Buffalo that went into their end zone that, had Miami recovered, would have resulted in another touchdown. That’s anywhere from 9-3 to 20-3 at the half. Am I allowed to blame it on coaching again? Great, because I am.

Our kicker was lights out last year and now he’s shaky. Eight weeks into the season our offense was so unprepared to line up that it cost them a possession on a completely insane fumble. AND THEN. Well, I can’t really blame the coaches for us not recovering a fumble in the end zone with the luck involved in something like that, but I don’t care BOOOOO COACHES. Make our special teams guys a little faster, I guess.

If Miami had gone into the half up 9-3 or, Cthulhu willing, 20-3, it might have changed the whole outlook of the game. Knowing our team, probably not, but bad teams need to take advantage of every opportunity. Instead, we’re the Sultans of Squander.

The announcers might as well be employed by the Bills

There’s a rule against name calling on this site and I’m going to respect it. James Lofton was a much better player than he is an announcer and that’s how I’m going to stick to phrasing it. I realize he played in Buffalo for four seasons. How is it that there always seems to be an announcer who was a former player for the Dolphins’ opponent? Are there no former Dolphins players in national announcing positions? Some key insights throughout this contest were:

  • Lamenting that Sean McDermott didn’t challenge an early play in which Tua’s knee could have been down before he threw an incomplete pass. It was 2nd and 9. A successful challenge would have made it 3rd and 20. Miami picked up 21 on 3rd down. You’ll notice that means the challenge wouldn’t have changed anything.
  • Stating that a ‘facemask penalty proves costly for the Dolphins’ when the net loss was 7 yards.
  • Insinuating that if Dawson Knox (21 rec, 286 yds, 5 TDs) was playing, the Bills wouldn’t have had such a poor 3rd down conversion rate in the first half. As though he was the missing piece instead of simply choosing to throw to wide open Cole Beasley like the Bills did for the rest of the game.
  • Filling any gap in action with quotes from Emmanuel Sanders and others about how amazing all of the Bills players are as teammates.

I know. The Dolphins will get respect when they deserve respect. But I’d like it if the announcing crew at least feigned being objective for a little while. It’s painful enough to watch the Fins, so to have to listen to, let’s say, less than perfect analysis in tandem is soul sucking.

We hung with a much better team longer than expected

It’s the only possible positive you can eek out of this game. For a little over three quarters, the Dolphins kept it close on the scoreboard. They were within one score up until 3:29 left in the 4th quarter. In the end, it was still a 15 point loss on the way to 1-7.

If Sunday’s first half defense showed up for whole games, we might be looking at a very different year. Flashes like that tell me that the players aren’t incapable. It tells me that they aren’t being put in the best position (sometimes literally) to excel. Without being in the building or the locker room, I have no idea why that is, but it’s painfully obvious. I also have no idea if Brian Flores and his crew are capable of making enough changes to turn it around any time this year. I’m starting to think we’re going to limp our way to 1-16 and come back next year with the same leadership in place. That’s a spooky thought.

Miss the game because you were in a candy coma? You made the right choice. The Fins would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for that meddling coaching staff. Shriek your lamentations into the gaping maw of the comment section below.