New year, same Dolphins.
Is there a lamer way to start this?
“They are who we thought they were?” I mean, what kind of jackanape would reference that?
How about: It’s all up now.
Miami fell haplessly to the Tennessee Tannehills (though he did little to justify the last minute name change) while the San Diego (I said what I said) Chargers downed the Denver Broncos to mathematically eliminate the Dolphins from the playoff race.
It was...Less than ideal.
Miami’s not quite there yet
Losing 34-3 might make that headline feel like a massive understatement. The game was closer than the score indicates, at least for a fleeting moment in time. Alas, the result is still the same.
The Dolphins proved that, yet again, they don’t have the je ne sais quoi to overcome any in-game adversity. They seem to need every little thing to go their way in order to win against capable competition. In this game, two extraneous hurdles (meaning, difficulties not innate to just being bad at their job) that any good team can brush off helped sink the Fins.
- It was raining. — The passing game clearly suffered as a result (evidenced by Tua’s inaccuracy, the dropped passes, and the fumbles), yet no one thought to adjust. Have they never seen the rain? It makes things slippery. I know at least one guy who wasn’t worried about who would stop the rain: Mike Vrabel. The Titans ran the ball 40 times against just 18 passes for their former wide receiver. But we’ll get back to coaching later.
- The officials did a poor job. — No one can see the future, so maybe the outcome wouldn’t have been impacted if the missed calls had been made correctly. But, as we just learned twenty-seven words ago, no one can see the future. So just-as-maybe, those missed calls would have turned the tide of the whole thing. It’s a waste to fight about what-ifs. It’s not a waste to want the officiating to be accurate. NFL stadiums have more cameras than the *Patriots at someone else’s practice and they employ a whole parliament of peeps in New York to lord over the footage. There isn’t much of an excuse to be bad and it makes the game hard to enjoy as a fan.
All that being said, neither weather nor officiating (sans really extreme examples) are enough to defeat good teams. Unfortunately, our Dolphins just proved that they aren’t a good team just yet. The defense could use a Micah Parsons type at MLB and another pass rusher, particularly if Emmanuel Ogbah jumps ship in the offseason. The offense could use a litany of upgrades, most glaringly along the offensive line. A new RT is a dire need, joined by competition at both left side positions and potentially center on top. As for the backfield, Duke Johnson and Phillip Lindsay are nice in a rotation and Myles Gaskin catches well out of the backfield and does good things in space. Still, a real between-the-tackles RB would do wonders. Some WRs who play more than 30% of the season wouldn’t hurt. Not to mention, if Mike Gesicki (and, therefore, I) leaves in free agency, add a TE to the shopping list. All of that work without even addressing the potential that the front office might not believe in Tua as the QB of the future. That’s a lot to digest. I’m sure I’ll wax philosophical for no one’s benefit about the offseason soon enough. For now, let’s just talk Tua for a brief moment.
No matter where you stand on him, Mr. Tagovailoa had a Tuable, horrible, no good, very bad day. He finished 18/38 (47%) 205 yds 0 TD 1 INT. His QBR was 8.0. Gesicki’s was 4.2.
I’m no doctor, but I have to wonder if Tua’s hip is still causing him issues. He looked strained to throw tougher passes, like he had to put his whole ethereal spirit into the ball, and he seemed hesitant to run when it was available. He was uncharacteristically inaccurate. He fumbled at least twice. He did not play well. Sadly, he wasn’t alone.
Special Teams was a huge factor
I don’t know that I have much to say on this, other than it stood out like a sore thumb when it normally sinks quietly into the background of most games. Michael Palardy punted like hell early on. Neither Miami nor Tennessee’s offense was doing anything to start (the Titans gained 6 yards on their first 2 drives, in fact), but Tennessee kept creeping closer and closer to the goal line simply by virtue of Miami’s punter shanking it and their punter killing it. They made it into Miami territory for their 3rd drive AFTER GAINING 6 YARDS OF OFFENSE. Maybe our Special Teams coach is getting his off field habits from Chris Foerster, but he’s not getting the best from his unit.
Jason Sanders also missed a 53 yard field goal, bringing his season field goal percentage to 72.4%. That’s bad. That’s ‘I won’t be surprised if he’s replaced next year’ bad. That from a guy who was lights out just last season. There should be competition for both kicking positions heading into next year. It’s often overlooked (and I’m as guilty as anyone), but a good Special Teams group can be a massive factor in success. Just ask Bill Beelicheek. Speaking of coaches:
The Dolphins’ coaching isn’t as good as everyone wants to imagine
I like Brian Flores. He seems like a genuinely good guy. His players seem to want to play for him, which is more than can be said about some coaches of Dolphins past. I’ll maintain that I don’t know the power dynamics or inside structure of the coaching staff. So Flores may deserve no blame or perhaps he should shoulder all of it. What I do know is that the coaching staff collectively came up with a terrible game plan for the biggest matchup of the season and ignored the reality in front of them all game long until they were thoroughly thumped.
Miami’s offensive identity this season, regardless of how desirable it may or may not be, has become one of dedication to the short passing game. It appears to be used to establish a rhythm and get Tua comfortable early. Jaylen Waddle is the primary target underneath and has proven to be pretty damn good at getting open quickly. Against Tennessee, short passes to Waddle were nowhere to be found. I know, I know. All year everyone said “Throw it deep to Waddle!” and they finally did (and it worked). That’s great. But that’s too little too late and, more importantly, too far off the mark of what led the team to 7 straight wins.
It really felt like the coaches were overthinking all game long. Duke Johnson had 7 carries for 49 yards (that’s 7 YPC for the math majors out there) and yet the Dolphins threw the ball 39 times in the rain. The team had 16 total rush attempts, including 4 at the end to just run out the clock. So, really, 12. That’s asinine. They were within two scores into the 4th quarter, so the idea that they had to pass to erase their deficit is gibberish. It’s just bad coaching. It’s a bad game plan and even worse adjustment.
On the defensive side, the season long success of heavy blitzing disappeared. The defense played reasonably well overall (until late in the game when it seemed they’d had enough), but why not put some more pressure on Ryan Tannehill? I’m sure there are stats that show him being a successful passer against the blitz. I’m also sure that experienced QBs can exploit an overly aggressive blitz scheme, but going away from it almost completely is bad playcalling. I watched Tannehill for years and his ability to take sacks is rivaled only by joke removed by content policy.
We also opted for trick plays at really bizarre times in the game. I don’t have any great insight to add, I just wanted to say that they didn’t work and it was a bummer to watch. Now then:
It’s not all doom and gloom
Be sad. Cry if you want. It’s good for you. Just know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. You just might have to reeeeeeally squint right now to see it.
Notice I said be sad and not be petty. We’re all supposedly fans here, so seeing people come out of the woodwork just to complain and congratulate themselves on their Eeyore impressions should remember to give their shoulders the occasional rest from all that back patting.
Broadcasting radio silence during a seven game win streak only to pop up and gloat after a loss is as pitiful as the loss itself was.
Oh, you said this player was a bum three years ago? Please accept this major award: It’s nothing, just like the significance of hindsight in a universe with linear time. You’d have taken Justin Herbert over Tua? You wanted to draft Joe Burrow despite him going first overall? You figured what’s the harm in tying Dan Marino and Peyton Manning together like entrants in a three legged race because two is always better than one? Give me a shout when your time travel technology takes off. Until then, Miami has the players the front office brought in. Looking back at who they could have taken is an exercise in futility. Those past decisions might get Chris Grier fired soon (I doubt it, though), but there’s no changing them now.
The last line of The Great Gatsy is: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” That wasn’t an instruction; it was a warning.
The Fins had a nice draft this past offseason, which is mainly why I expect Grier to stick around. Their defense is solid and shouldn’t take much to become better than solid. The offense needs (a lot of) work, but there’s a lot of cap space to work with. Whether the current front office is the right group to take advantage of the resources available is a gauntlet for another day. For now, they’re the ones tasked with it.
An experienced OC, a great OL coach, a few resignings, some free agents here, a couple of draft picks there and: Voila!
Miami needs to show up against New England
None of this going out with a whimper nonsense. It’s the *Pats. They can’t be knocked out of the playoffs, but they can be knocked down a peg.
End this thing on a high note. Bookend the season with a sweep.
Still a Dolphins fan, huh? Do you need a support group after this week’s game? Call (855) 232-6639. It’s a safer approach than the comments section.