That’s all, folks.
The Miami Dolphins’ 2023 season sputtered at the finish line with a 26-7 demoralizing defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs on the road during the Super Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs — an outcome made even harder to swallow after such a promising, hope-inducing beginning to the year.
Where did things go wrong for the Miami Dolphins this season?
Pick your poison.
You can look at the magnitude of the injuries suffered on both sides of the ball for Miami this year. I could sit here and name the Pro-Bowl caliber players the Dolphins lost to various ailments this season, but I’ll spare you the read which would likely rival the length of Miguel de Cervantes’ humorous tale, Don Quixote — except the only laughs that would escape your lips would be the ones you forced out in an attempt not to cry.
Oh, you don’t want to blame the late season collapse on injuries? Okay, then.
Maybe you’d like to point the finger at the playcalling on both sides of the ball. Miami’s boy-genius head coach Mike McDaniel couldn’t seem to find the answers for how to counter the wrenches opposing defensive coordinators threw Miami’s way once enough tape on their new offensive wrinkles was available. McDaniel refused to stick with the run in games where Miami was making hay on the ground. The Dolphins’ head coach also continued to force-feed wide receiver Tyreek Hill even when defenses knew without a shadow of a doubt that the Dolphins were hyper-focused on getting the ball into the hands of the man whose loudly stated goal was to surpass 2,000 yards receiving on the year.
On defense, grizzled veteran coordinator Vic Fangio seemed to make necessary adjustments a game — or even some times just a drive — too late. Fans were calling for All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey to shadow opposing star pass-catchers once Miami’s other All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard was lost to a foot injury. Outside of one game against the New York Jets’ bright, young receiver Garrett Wilson (a game in which Ramsey nearly erased his opponent) and a wishy-washy, half-commitment to have Ramsey travel with Buffalo Bills’ standout Stefon Diggs in Week 18, it was a proposition that Fangio didn’t seem all too keen on. Despite that, Miami’s injury ravaged defense performed well enough most weeks to keep the Dolphins in a position to win games... if only the offense could have matched their effort.
Speaking of, Miami’s overall offensive scheme should be scrutinized heavily by those in positions of power within the organization this offseason. Just like a fine timepiece, the absolute precision required to operate the Dolphins’ offense effectively and efficiently proved to be too much for the team to overcome when even just one small thing was off.
If an injury was suffered mid-game, Miami’s offense fell apart.
If the crowd noise was too loud on the road, the Dolphins’ late shifts caused more harm than good for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and company.
If the team was asked to play in inclement weather, forget about it. It just wasn’t going to work.
Mike McDaniel will have to take a good, long, hard look in the mirror this offseason and ask himself what needs to be done to make sure that even when circumstances aren’t ideal, his team can still get the job done on the offensive side of the ball. The painful ending to Miami’s 2023 season should provide all of the fuel needed for the fire to light our young coach’s internal passion for improvement ablaze.
After all, as we heard ad nauseam throughout the entire year...
“Adversity is opportunity.”
Okay, now prove it for once.
Miami’s Super Wild Card weekend game against the Kansas City Chiefs was hard to watch. Outside of the one underthrown deep ball from Tua Tagovailoa to Tyreek Hill that saw Hill adjust his route, fight through a defensive pass interference call, reel in the throw and dance into the endzone for the Dolphins’ lone score on the evening, there wasn’t much to look at that would be considered “good.”
So, with that being said, my one silver-lining following Saturday’s loss is the fact that this season — though fun at times, yet ending in the same disappointing fashion each season has ended in for more than two decades at this point — is over.
They can’t hurt us anymore for the immediate future.
Sure, they could make a mess of free agency. General Manager Chris Grier could completely mishandle the NFL Draft.
But, on a week-to-week basis, the Miami Dolphins can’t hurt us for roughly another eight months. I guess that’s something.
Battered Dolphins defense can’t pressure Mahomes without blitzing
The Miami Dolphins boasted one of the best defenses in the National Football League this season when it came to pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
That was until their entire EDGE rusher unit was decimated by various injuries to Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips and Andrew Van Ginkel.
To replace their talented youngsters against the Chiefs on Saturday night, the Dolphins turned to aging, out of work veterans who had been sitting at home on their couches less than a week before the start of the NFL Playoffs.
As a result, Miami’s pass rush suffered big time — only getting to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes when running Cover Zero blitzes reminiscent of former Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer.
Mahomes was sacked exactly zero times by the Miami Dolphins in their Super Wild Card matchup. The lack of pressure led to the All-Pro quarterback hitting open pass-catchers time and time again after sitting in clean pockets for what felt like an eternity.
What could have been. Sigh...
Miami’s high octane offensive attack runs out of gas in sub-zero temperatures
It was a fun season for Miami’s passing attack.
Until it wasn’t.
It’s no secret that the Dolphins’ offense had slowed considerably during the latter part of the 2023 regular season. On Saturday night, Miami’s once feared offensive unit, put forth a dud of an effort in a do-or-die situation while featuring a starting lineup that had nine of their original eleven starters.
Tua Tagovailoa completed just 20 of 39 passes (51% completion percentage) for 199 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His passer rating was a paltry 63.9. Without his one long 53-yard touchdown heave to Tyreek Hill, Tagovailoa wouldn’t have even surpassed 150 yards on the night.
The Dolphins didn’t fare much better on the ground — mustering just 76 rushing yards on 18 attempts. However, their 4.2 yards per carry was enough to keep the chains moving if only Mike McDaniel had focused his gameplan around the running game like some successful coaches do when they find themselves in inclement weather situations.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. The 2023 season featured extremely high highs (70 points scored against the Denver Broncos) and desperately low lows (losses to the Titans, Ravens, and Bills in three of their final five games) for the Miami Dolphins. It will be an interesting offseason in Miami Gardens. If you were the team’s GM, what changes would you make ahead of the 2024 season? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @MBrave13. Fins up!