It seems like no matter what the Miami Dolphins do on any given Sunday, something seems to go horribly wrong that makes you believe that the team truly is cursed. At the peak of potential hype, they do something, anything, that will immediately drain it all away and remind you that this team has issues, lots of issues.
And there's no foreseeable fix that will make it all go away, at least not anytime soon.
It's as if the song that was once intended for the Dallas Cowboys - which I once showed my Pastor to tease him with since he is a Cowboys fan - has suddenly shifted over to the Dolphins. You know the one, the mashup made by D.J. Steve Porter where Stephen A. Smith of ESPN First Take repeatedly calls Dallas an accident waiting to happen? If you somehow haven't seen it, I'll just put it here so you can listen to it, because it really is catchy.
The unfortunate part of this is...nearly everything in that song can easily be replaced with Miami appropriate terminology and it would be just as accurate. Somehow, they always find a way to get in their own way, an accident waiting to happen.
And it seems to be taking its toll on the team.
“It was very frustrating because we were dominating the game all of the way through until there were seven or eight minutes left in the game." said running back Frank Gore on Monday. "We let it go. When you dominate the game, you have to finish the ballgame. It’s already hard to win games in this league. I thought we had that one.”
They also though they had the one against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5, but they gave that game away too, in embarrassing fashion.
Does this seem familiar to the previous story I wrote calling out Adam Gase? It should, because plenty of the same issues can be traced back to him. After the game, he defended his decision to make the playcalls he did that ultimately doomed the team.
On Monday, after given time to reflect...he doubled down on that defense, and again disregarded any talk of the fact that the results have not been good.
“We did what we game-planned to do." Gase said. "We did what was best for that situation. I’m probably more upset about the second-down call. I thought we’d catch them in a pressure to that side and they came from the opposite side. If I could have that one back, that probably could have made a difference.”
If this is in reference to the attempted bubble screen to DeVante Parker that gained zero yards, then this should be a surprise to no one. Gase speaks of catching the opposing team off guard...not one time can I recall a screen actually surprising anyone who's played Miami this year. There have been some positive screen plays, but not because defenses weren't prepared. They rarely ever work.
But, again, Gase doesn't seem to want to focus on the results.
"It was unfortunate we lost that game because I really thought there were a lot of guys that did good stuff. It’s just hard to see right now because everybody does the same thing." He said. "Everybody goes and looks at the result and all of the good things get forgotten about. That’s where we can’t get lost in it as a team. We’ve got to focus on the things that we did improve on. The things that we didn’t, we need to get better at."
I understand what he's saying, I really do, it's not like there were no positives to take away from the overall performance. Wide receiver Leonte Carroo pulled a Randy Moss-like catch for a touchdown on a busted play, Xavien Howard intercepted Andrew Luck on two consecutive passes, and Kenyan Drake once again got to display his athleticism and elusiveness as a weapon.
But, they lost. So, yes, the good stuff gets forgotten, because instead of sitting at 6-5 and in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race, they're now 5-6 and have to win every single game from here on out to even have a prayer of getting in.
You can only talk about the process for so long before no one wants to hear it anymore. No one wants to hear about progress or improvement, they want to see a higher number in the win column.
Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard said it best after the game was over. He was perhaps the star of the game for Miami with those two interceptions...and this is what he said:
“It really don’t matter. We lost. We lost.”
Can you just feel the frustration? So...what are they going to do about it?
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
It has come to this. No more positivity, no more looking at things in a cup that's half full, even half empty is still too full. It's completely empty, in fact it's shattered on the ground and Dolphins fans are slicing their feet to shreds on the broken glass of the cup.
How many times must this happen? How many times must the obvious problems be identified, only to ultimately be ignored and then repeated over and over again? And who suffers from this? The players, obviously, who are extremely frustrated with how things are going as the Dolphins fell to 5-6 in embarrassing fashion, like most of their losses.
“We didn’t finish,” Gore said in an expletive fueled rant. “S---. We’ve got to finish. That’s the key. Especially when they got a f------ guy over there that can get hot, who I respect, plays the game how it’s supposed to be played, the quarterback. Finishing, man."
Whether Gore's comments were a not-so-thinly veiled shot at Ryan Tannehill or Adam Gase, there's no way to know for sure. But here are the facts of the matter. With the Dolphins up seven points, with the Colts just having finished scoring a field goal, Miami had a lovely opportunity to run down the clock with 8:26 left in the fourth quarter, all they had to do was hand the ball off to Gore a few times (and maybe one throw if necessary to get a first down), and watch the clock tick away so they could leave Indianapolis with the victory.
But that's what common sense would dictate. Adam Gase has shown numerous times now that common sense is not how he calls plays. He wants to do the unexpected, he wants to catch teams off guard. He wants to go against conventional wisdom because doing the obvious would be...well...obvious. So what does Gase call?
He calls a pass on first down, and Tannehill has to throw it away as pressure came after him.
Then on second down, he calls another pass, and this time Tannehill misses Kenny Stills over the middle. That was on the QB.
Then on 3rd and 10...another pass to try and convert for a first down? No. A shotgun handoff to Kenyan Drake that loses five yards because after all this time Gase has spent trying to be sneaky, teams have come to expect the unexpected. They knew he'd do that, because he's done it so many times.
Next drive, Colts score another touchdown, and the game is tied.
So now it's time to give the ball to Ryan Tannehill, who had been playing well all game despite a few hiccups here and there, in fact his overall numbers were better than Andrew Luck's, because Luck threw two straight interceptions to Xavien Howard, and managed to avoid another that could have been caught by Reshad Jones.
Tannehill is backed up deep in his own territory, on the six-yard line. There's a little over four minutes left. Time for Tannehill to prove himself in crunch time.
Gase calls a run to Frank Gore for no gain, a screen pass to DeVante Parker for no gain (with an offensive P.I. on Kenny Stills to boot), and on 3rd and 10...a shotgun handoff to Kenyan Drake that went for four yards...and instead of going for it, he called another punt with 2:50 left on the clock.
Gase defended his decision, saying that they were backed up deep in their own territory and so the run was the call they made...except, the game was on the line, you needed yards and you needed points and you needed them now. What was the logic on giving Andrew Luck back the ball when the defense was not able to find ways to stop him?
Except they almost did, they almost had him stopped...and then the defense gave up one play on third down that clinched the game at last.
Regardless of the defense's ultimate failure to make the stop, which is another topic altogether...this is a recurring problem, a problem that should not be a problem for a supposed offensive guru who received heavy praise across the league for his brilliant football mind and intelligence.
Where is it though?
Is this what they were talking about? Gase's tendency to do the unexpected, even if it spits in the face of what the team should do in any given scenario? When they have the lead, they play aggressive, when they need points, they play conservative.
Huh? Why? That should be the opposite!
You play conservative when you have a lead, you play aggressive when you need points, because that's the situation you find yourself in. When the games come that close to the wire, you can't just assume you'll get another chance to touch the football on offense, you need to play like this is all you're gonna get.
But he didn't, and he doesn't. His play calls consistently baffle all who watch, his decisions leave opposing head coaches reeling and wondering why he made them in the first place. Who can forget when Marvin Lewis essentially called out Gase for leaving backup left tackle Zach Sterup on an island for him to struggle, which ultimately led to the Dolphins losing that game and Tannehill being injured for five weeks?
It just happened again, slightly different circumstances but the same general theme. What is head coach Adam Gase thinking? How can this offensive guru deem it wise to take the ball out of his QB's hands when he needs to have it, and put it IN his hands when he doesn't need to have it? Does being a guru mean you do things no one else would do? Does being a guru mean you do nothing that everyone else would do?
Even though it's proven to work?
Frank Gore averaged 4.8 yards a carry against the Colts defense. Kenyan Drake averaged four yards a carry.
Why didn't you let them run out the clock?
“They ran what we thought they were going to run,” Gase said of the Colts defense. “They pressured us both times. So we got guys wide open. We got to protect and you got to be able to make those plays. They’re pressuring because they don’t want us to run the ball.”
Oh, okay...except that they hadn't shown they could stop you, so that's kinda moot. Who cares if they were crowding the line? Had it been working all game? Not really.
Then when you needed to pass, you ran, threw a screen (which never works without Jakeem Grant, by the way), and ran again.
“Backed up,” Gase said. “We were struggling in that distance to begin with. We have to make something happen on those first two downs. Third and 10 on the minus-3 or whatever it is in not going to be good.”
But...the game is on the line, coach, why would you take it out of Tannehill's hands? Do you not trust Tannehill?
“It wouldn’t matter who is back there,” Gase said. “That’s a [crappy] situation to be in. It’s third-and-long, you're backed up. It’s a bad situation. I’ve been in that end zone before and I watched a Hall of Fame quarterback [Peyton Manning] get sacked for a safety. In this building. We didn’t block anybody. That’s what bothers me more than anything. We haven’t really picked up a bunch of stunts in the four man rush and that’s what these guys do.”
So you're saying you wouldn't have let Peyton Manning throw the ball in that situation? If true, then you're a fool. If false, then you're a liar.
Neither is a good thing to be.
And what did Tannehill have to say?
“We were backed up and coach was trying to get us out of that backed up situation,” Tannehill said. “Of course I understand. I’m a competitor. I want the ball in my hands. I want to make that play. But we’re inside our own 10. Long yardage situation. They had been playing soft coverage, sinking everyone underneath. In those long-yardage situations, the percentages are low. We’re thinking if we can get a block on one guy and make one guy miss there were a couple of situations where we were able to get close on those runs. But as a competitor, it’s tough. You know, you want that ball in your hands.”
Ah, Ryan Tannehill, professional to the last.
The players are angry, they are making it known that they are not happy with how things are going. No one is being individually pointed out, but all of a sudden it's starting to seem more and more like they players who have left as part of Gase's "culture change" initiative have every right to be salty.
They aren't doing particularly well in their new homes, but neither is Gase, so maybe just everything is awful.
Enough is enough, it's time to start holding this alleged offensive guru accountable. I understand the injury angle, I understand the bad luck, I understand all of that...but injuries were not the reason this game was lost, the team had the lead, and instead of using it and forcing the Colts into a bad spot, he gave them life with his unconventional play calls...his ineffective play calls.
Gase will be an effective head coach in the NFL. But it won't be with the Miami Dolphins. He needs to be humbled first, and humility isn't learned through losses, only embarrassment. Humility is something that is learned through being forced to take a step back and really examine one's self before diving back in. To take a step back, he needs to be handed his walking papers, be forced to look at everything that went wrong and come to the realization that there were things he could have done better, not everyone else around him.
He's taken blame before, sure, but not really. If he thought it was his fault, why has he not adapted and evolved? Why has he not come to the realization that his playcalling is a problem? Why has he not hired a true offensive coordinator to take over so he can focus on being a head coach? He has leadership qualities, but he seems disinterested and refuses to give up what he was supposedly brought in for: his offensive acumen.
The season is all but over now, and they seem to be limping to another 8-8 season; painfully average, painfully mediocre, the same Dolphins from the past decade regardless of who the coach is it feels like. That's the only saving grace for Gase right now, he hasn't done worse than anyone else who's been given the coaching job since Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson.
I've preached patience with Gase, let him get his guys together and see what happens...but now he has (or had) them, and the results have been the same. Just more of the same. Situational playcalling is still bad, investment in the defensive performance is still bad, and the team, as a whole, is bad.
Put up or shut up, Adam Gase. If you're so smart, then do something different that you haven't done yet. Stop banging your head against the wall and doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. That's not called ingenuity...that's called insanity.
This story was written by Luis Sung Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Two weeks ago, the Miami Dolphins (5-5) were torn apart on both sides of the football, resulting in a nineteen point defeat against the Green Bay Packers. Fresh off a much-needed bye week, Miami is now set to face one of the NFL’s hottest teams of late: Indianapolis (5-5). The storyline to watch in this football game is the return of Dolphins quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, who missed Miami’s past five games due to a throwing shoulder injury.
Tannehill suffered the injury Week 5, at Cincinnati. Brock Osweiler filled in for Tannehill’s spot, posting wins versus Chicago and the Jets, and falling versus Detroit, at Houston and at Green Bay. Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck, drafted first overall in 2012, along with Tannehill, who was selected eighth, has not been sacked in five games.
Indianapolis, which began the season 1-5, has rang off four consecutive victories. Both Miami and Indianapolis are in the thick of things when it comes to playoff talk. At 5-5, the Dolphins and Colts are evened with Baltimore, Tennessee and Cincinnati for the AFC’s final Wild Card slot.
DATE: Sunday, November 25
TIME: 4:25 P.M. ET
SITE: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
LINE: IND -7.5, O/U: 51
Radio: Dolphins Radio Network, KISS 99.9 FM, 560 WQAM, 1210 WNMA (Spanish)
Radio Announcers: English broadcast- Jimmy Cefalo, Bob Griese, Joe Rose, Kim Bokamper; Spanish broadcast- Raul Striker Jr., Eduardo Martell
Four players to watch
1. QB Ryan Tannehill: Yes, Ryan Tannehill is back under center for the Miami Dolphins. After missing the past five games due to a right throwing shoulder injury, Tannehill is set to make a much-anticipated return. It will be a crucial six-game stretch for Tannehill and the Dolphins, who are seeking its second playoff appearance in three seasons under head coach Adam Gase.
2. QB Andrew Luck: Sunday will mark Luck’s third career start versus Miami, and first since 2013. Luck has tossed thirteen touchdown passes during the Colts’ four-game winning streak.
3. RB Frank Gore: Gore, the Miami native, played three seasons for the Colts (2015-’17), posting 2,953 rushing yards and thirteen touchdowns. With RB Kenyan Drake nursing a shoulder injury, expect Gore to get the bulk of carries for Miami, just as he has for the majority of the season so far.
4. WR T.Y. Hilton: Dolphins CB Xavien Howard will have a lot on his plate Sunday afternoon, matching up against a speedy Hilton. Hilton, an FIU graduate, leads Indianapolis in receiving yards (585).
As we all prepare to reflect on the things we're thankful for (not to mention pigging out on every savory food that's ever been associated with the holiday only to top it off with every pie flavor in existence), let's take a moment to see what it is our Miami Dolphins players are thankful, and remember that even though we see them play and talk on TV, they're still very much human beings, with just as much to be thankful for as any of us.
Linebacker Jerome Baker: “My family, my health and to be able to make the most of the dream I’m living.”
Tight end Mike Gesicki: “Family, my teammates and the opportunity to do what I love most every day.”
Running back Kalen Ballage: “I’m thankful for God, for my family and for this chance I get to play the game I love.”
Linebacker Quentin Poling: "Thankful for the huge supporting cast I have back home, through middle school, high school, college, all my friends, family, coaches, everyone's been behind me 100% to help me get to my dream where I am now."
Kicker Jason Sanders: "I have a great family, every day I'm thankful for what I have, what I'm able to do in life. I'm able to call myself a Miami Dolphin and go home to a great family."
Punter Matt Haack: "Definitely my friends, family, honestly just the whole opportunity I've been given with the Dolphins and everything, but for sure family. I wouldn't be here without my family."
Linebacker Mike Hull: "I'm thankful for my family every day, grew up with a great support system. All the opportunities I've been given in my life, and to be in the position I'm in right now."
Linebacker Stephone Anthony: "My family. I got a five year old daughter, mom, dad, thankful for my brothers and sisters, the normal."
The Miami Dolphins (5-4), coming off a sluggish 13-6 victory versus the always-tough New York Jets, will have an enormous challenge ahead of them this upcoming Sunday: Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (3-4-1), in the midst of a two-game skid. Brock Osweiler, who is 2-2 since replacing starting QB Ryan Tannehill week five, is
possibly headed to the bench concluding the Packers game, as the Dolphins are trying to project Tannehill's return from shoulder injury after the bye week, at Indianapolis.
This is the first Dolphins-Packers contest at Lambeau Field in over eight years: October 17, 2010. Surprisingly, Green Bay has only beaten Miami four out of fourteen tries.
DATE: Sunday, November 11
TIME: 4:25 p.m. ET (FLEXED from 1:00 p.m. ET)
SITE: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
LINE: GB -9.5, O/U: 47.5
Radio: Dolphins Radio Network, KISS 99.9 FM, 560 WQAM, 1210 WNMA
Radio Announcers: English broadcast - Jimmy Cefalo, Bob Griese, Joe Rose, Kim Bokamper; Spanish broadcast - Raul Striker Jr., Eduardo Martell
Three players to watch
1) QB Aaron Rodgers - When you think of the NFC’s Green Bay Packers, the first name that pops into your head is most likely going to be Aaron Rodgers. The former University of California QB has an unbelievable touchdown/interception ratio this season (15:1). For the Dolphins to have any hopes of a massive upset, the defensive front, led by Cameron Wake, must collapse the pocket and force Rodgers into consistent, tough throws. In two career games versus Miami, Rodgers is 1-1.
2) QB Brock Osweiler - Sunday will mark Osweiler’s fifth consecutive game as Miami’s man under center. Ryan Tannehill was able to speak to the media Tuesday afternoon for the first time since sustaining that right shoulder injury at Cincinnati, October 7. The Miami coaching staff, as well as Tannehill, is hopeful he can return to game-action week twelve against Indianapolis, November 25. Miami has a bye next week.
3) LB Kiko Alonso - Kiko Alonso has been playing like the 2016 version of Kiko Alonso, where he secured two interceptions and 69 solo tackles. After picking off Jets QB Sam Darnold last week, Alonso has surpassed that mark (3). Alonso leads the Dolphins defense in tackles as well this season.
The Miami Dolphins stand at a 5-4 win-loss record, which is good enough for 7th best in the AFC, and .5 GB from the second Wild Card spot. If you were to ask me how they have arrived at five wins, with the understanding that Ryan Tannehill, Albert Wilson, Josh Sitton, Daniel Kilgore, and just about half of the roster are injured, I would be at a loss for words. Yet, in an almost miraculous fashion, here we are in the thick of playoff contention.
The twisted part? They are likely a Laremy Tunsil injury (at. CIN) and a healthy Tannehill away from a 6-3 or even 7-2 start. Those who hate Tannehill will not agree, that’s fine; but the same Tannehill-led team that started 3-0 likely doesn’t lose the Detroit game, and if a turnstile wasn’t playing tackle in the second half against Cincinnati, the Dolphins leave Ohio with a victory and without the Tannehill breakdown we all saw. Are these assumptions? Of course they are, but they are likely true.
Nonetheless, we do not play in hypotheticals, we play in reality. And the reality is that the Dolphins are 5-4. The reality is that the Dolphins are in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, the reality is also that the Dolphins will not compete in the playoffs with the current offensive output, and with Osweiler under center. With that being said, I take a look at what I believe are the best options for Miami moving forward, when addressing the 2018 quarterback position:
1. Ryan Tannehill
Games Played: 5
QB Rating: 92.9
Passing Yards: 972
Let me be as clear on this as I possibly can: healthy Tannehill is—miles ahead—a better option moving forward for the Miami Dolphins than any other option displayed in this article. Again, those that have had enough of Tannehill may disagree, but he is objectively, subjectively, literally, metaphorically, realistically, and any other supportive conjecture you can think of…better than the rest.
The momentum to replace Tannehill has picked up significant steam due to his injury, and that momentum will continue into the offseason; whether you agree or not, this will be the case heading into the offseason.
However, what should also be abundantly obvious is that the Miami Dolphins need Ryan Tannehill to be considered a playoff threat. Over the weeks that have passed, Osweiler’s production has driven me to the point of not even needing Tannehill to be healthy. I had become accustomed to saying that a “healthy Ryan Tannehill” is Miami’s best option; I no longer include the “healthy” in the sentence. Give me a patched up, adrenaline injected Ryan Tannehill down the playoff chase, over any of the other options on the list.
Ryan Tannehill, regardless of how you feel about him, is the best and most obvious option moving forward.
2. Sam Bradford
QB Rating: 62.5
Passing Yards: 400
I likely lost about 50% of the fanbase when they read that my first option was Ryan Tannehill. With my second option, I am working on losing the other 50%. Nevertheless, it’s an opinion piece for a reason, and you are free to disagree in the comments. Sam Bradford, on a minimal financial risk, would be my second best option for the Dolphins moving forward. Why? Because there is not a single quarterback tool in which he is not superior to Osweiler; other than durability.
Accuracy? Bradford by a step. Arm Strength? Bradford by a mile. Give me Bradford over Osweiler ten out of ten times. But make no mistake, I am aware of the limitations here, and why this will likely not occur.
The first concern is Bradford’s injury history; I would argue that I only need a few games from him, not a full season. Second, Gase’s system is difficult to pick up, and Bradford—although in similar schemes—has never played in a Gase-led scheme. Third, it is uncharacteristic of Gase to pick up quarterbacks that are unfamiliar with him and his scheme. And lastly, the question of whether the slight or very slight upgrade from Osweiler is worth the minimal financial risk. Personally, I do not see this happening.
So then why include it? Because on the off-chance that our first option (i.e. Ryan Tannehill) is more seriously injured than believed, or cannot return for this year, then give me a Sam Bradford led playoff team over a Brock Osweiler led playoff team on any given football day.
3. Brock Osweiler
QB Rating: 91.1
Passing Yards: 1034
If I haven’t lost you in the first two options, then I am sure to have lost you now. My assumption is that most would have David Fales as the third option for this article. After all, we have seen Osweiler’s limitations, and we are likely ready for a new attempt at finding a “spark" in Fales. All of that is fair, but here is the thing; do you really believe that Gase is going to go to his third-string QB with the team at 5-4 and 2-2 since Tannehill went down? Because I don’t.
If Fales hasn’t been given an opportunity, then my assumption is that it has to do with his ability or inability to show enough in practice. We know that similar to Cutler, most observers agree that Osweiler has a tendency to “practice well.” He knows where the ball is going and he doesn’t allow the other team to beat him; he limits his turnovers.
On the other hand, what is stopping us from believing that Fales does not practice well. It is feasible that he shows more limitations in knowing the playbook, and/or allows for more turnovers. In a patchwork offense, where your QB1 is injured, the goal of your backup is not to win the game; instead, it is to not lose the game. Brock Osweiler is doing that, and because of it, he gets the nod over Fales.
4. David Fales
I just defended why Osweiler gets the nod over Fales, but allow me to clarify something: I will not lose sleep if Fales gets the starting nod. The way I see it, there is a huge gap between my first option (Ryan Tannehill) and the others, so these last two—because the second option likely will not occur—are almost interchangeable. If Gase decides that he wants to spark-up a change, than clearly Fales gets his shot.
We saw a shimmer of what Fales could do last year, and it was adequate film which allowed me to feel comfortable with him being in the QB room. And yet, something must be occurring throughout the practice week for Fales to have not earned his shot. Whether this is playbook-related or performance, he’s the last option for a reason. And if you cannot beat out a backup QB who can hardly put 7 points on the board, then something is off.
Overall, the 2018 season likely is balancing on the right shoulder, elbow, and joint of Ryan Tannehill. If he can regain his arm strength and get under center, this 5-4 team can go places. If not, then this team will likely regress the closer we get to December. Brock’tober was fun for one game (and barely enjoyable for the other three), but for the betterment of this team, let’s hope the Brock’fest is coming to an end.
This story was written by Daniel Martinez. Follow him on Twitter: @all_right_Miami
Every year, you see me write a story about the annual Jason Taylor Ping-Pong Smash and how wonderful it is, its goal of raising money to help kids ever-present and ever-enduring as it kicked off its 15th year on Monday evening.
"It's been great," said former Dolphins defensive end and Hall of Famer Jason Taylor. "Fifteen years, it continues to grow, we have amazing support from all of our sponsors, mainly the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. It's always a fun event, it's great to come out, you see a bunch of kids get to participate, kids that come out and do the free clinics and get haircuts, and all the other things going on, Best Buy always outfits us with a bunch of stuff. This is one of the events that are for everybody."
Every year, this statement is always true. Kids do get involved, and the joy in the room is always palpable, even as a bystander. This year, over 80 kids came to the UPS Kids Clinic, and the event raised over $40,000 for the foundation's mission to empower children and youth in South Florida. Players come and are always ready to compete for a win, especially Kiko Alonso, who has made it to the "playoffs" every year since he's been with the Miami Dolphins, even winning the whole thing in his first year participating in the tournament.
"The reason I won the first year, which was two years ago, was because I had the greatest Ping-Pong player there ever was, and last year I got second because I had another good partner," said Alonso. "But this year, I've had a Ping-Pong table for a year now at my house, so I've gotten better. I can carry my weight now."
And a few rookies appeared for the first time, including Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki and linebacker Jerome Baker, the latter also made the playoffs for the tournament, and it was clear that both of them were anxious to get started.
But here is where the story takes a turn, one that adds a whole new dimension to the experience, one that I did not foresee but was quite happy it happened. For the first time since I began covering the Ping-Pong Smash, I didn't just watch the event unfold.
I got to play too.
Due to some unfortunate happenstance, some alternatives were needed to fill out the tournament bracket, and together with Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post, we filled that role and played through the "regular season" (which in reality is just the preliminaries to decide who moves on).
While we didn't actually do that well (it took me a while to get used to the rules), because of this experience, I now truly understand why this event is so anticipated year after year. The feeling is electric, even the most casual players let their competitive side out...and those who are already competitive (like myself) got even more competitive.
So often, these stories feature players saying how great it is to come out and be with the community, hanging out with fans, kids, sponsors, etc. But it isn't until you actually hop into their shoes and experience it for yourself that you realize that these players are telling the truth when they say they enjoy doing what they do.
In the end, Dolphins tight end Nick O'Leary, paired with Jared "Orange Tux Guy" Wische of Dolfan Project, defeated Kiko Alonso and Luke Freeman of Wizard Creations for the title, with Aja Crowder (wife of former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder) and Rich Goodman of Northwestern Mutual taking third place.
Having experienced it firsthand for the first time, I feel I have a better understanding of why this event is so successful each year, and why so many come out to offer their contributions to the cause. Who says philanthropy can't be fun at the same time?
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
There is good and bad news within every team in the National Football League. For the Miami Dolphins (4-4), injuries have ultimately plagued this season. However, heading into a pivotal week nine battle versus their division rival the New York Jets to open the second half of the season, Miami sits right in the thick of things for a potential AFC Wildcard postseason berth.
The Dolphins hope to break a two-game losing skid, falling in ugly fashion to the Detroit Lions and Houston Texas in primetime. Miami and New York met earlier in week two, as the Dolphins exited MetLife Stadium with a win under their belts, 20-12. This is their 106th all-time meeting.
DATE: Sunday, November 4
TIME: 1:00 p.m. ET
SITE: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
LINE: MIA -3, O/U: 43.5
Radio: Dolphins Radio Network, KISS 99.9 FM, 560 WQAM, 1210 WNMA (Spanish)
Radio Announcers: English broadcast- Jimmy Cefalo, Bob Griese, Joe Rose, Kim Bokamper; Spanish broadcast- Raul Striker Jr., Eduardo Martell
Three things to watch
1. Brock Osweiler Part Four - Yes, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase ruled out Ryan Tannehill (right throwing shoulder) for the fourth consecutive contest. Therefore, Brock Osweiler, who is 1-2 in three starts as Miami’s man under center, will get the nod again. Osweiler will make his first career start against a Jets defense that likes to blitz the quarterback on second and third-down scenarios.
2. Miami sees Darnold again - Jets rookie quarterback, Sam Darnold, who was drafted third overall, will get a second look at the Miami Dolphins and its defense. In September’s meeting, Miami’s William Hayes, Jordan Phillips and Vincent Taylor were on the field. Sunday will be a little bit different. William Hayes and Taylor sustained season-ending injuries, whereas Phillips was dealt to the Buffalo Bills. It will be interesting to see how Darnold performs, as Miami will switch multiple defenders throughout.
3. Offensive Shootout? - Heading into Sunday, the Jets are allowing 24 points per game, compared to the Dolphins’ 21.8. On the defensive side of the football, New York is giving up a woeful 391.8 yards per game. Miami is coughing up a head-scratching 417.3, as Miami’s run defense was downright horrendous in losses to Detroit and Houston.