By: Chip Turner
If the season ended today, the Miami Dolphins would be in the playoffs at 5-3. They’re a game and a half out of first place in the AFC East, Tua Tagovailoa just showed everyone what his future holds, and Brian Flores’s name keeps being brought up in Coach of The Year conversations.
Many people thought the future was bright for the Dolphins, but very few thought it would get this bright, this fast. Don’t forget, the Dolphins had the third-toughest schedule to start the year, and their three losses were to the Seahawks, Bills and Patriots. Two of those three teams are currently leading their respective divisions.
So, what’s next for Miami? They play the Chargers, Broncos, Jets and Bengals over the next four weeks. The combined records of those teams is 7 wins, 25 losses, and 1 tie. That is not a typo. Will the Dolphins win all four of those games? The law of averages says they will probably lose at least one of them, because these things happen in the NFL, even to very good teams. The Chargers and Bengals certainly have it in them to upset the Dolphins if their level of play diminishes.
However, Miami likely will be favored to win all four games. If they get to the last four games of the season with an 8-4 record, they are going to be very much alive in the playoff hunt. January 3rd, 2021 should be circled in red on every Dolphins fan’s calendar, because that game against Buffalo might well be for the AFC East crown.
This is all pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, right? Well, maybe. Realism tends to be a little more sobering (and honestly, less fun to write about.) For all the wonderful things that have happened over the past four weeks, there are still a few concerns:
At this point, you might be wondering, “Why so grumpy, PhinManiacs Writer Guy? Why are you trying to bring us down? Can’t you see we’re in full celebration mode here?” I am not here to rain on your parade. It is actually quite the opposite.
I am taking part in the parade. I am just pointing out that the Sun isn’t even fully shining on Miami yet.
The Miami Dolphins are in a position to cause problems in the AFC. Not in a month, not in a year. Right now. And they are in this position despite the issues I just pointed out; this team simply shouldn’t be this far ahead of schedule with the talent (or lack thereof) that’s on the roster. Miami’s very near future holds the opportunity to address this.
Thanks to Houston mortgaging their future for Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins have picks and money for 2021. For those of us who remember the last time that phrase was uttered, don’t be alarmed. There’s also a complete lack of Jeff Ireland in the front office to make a mess of it. The Miami Dolphins “rebuild” started last year, and it took a big step forward this year, but it certainly isn’t complete.
The athletic talent is coming next. 2020 was all about building up the offensive and defensive lines, and finally resolving the future of the QB position. The 2021 NFL Draft and Free Agency are loaded with playmakers, and Miami should be able to acquire several. It is not even remotely unrealistic to pose questions like, “Hey what if Tua gets to decide whether to pass to Jaylen Waddle or hand off to Najee Harris out of a RPO next year?”
So, when Tua throws his first interception this season, or if the Dolphins get upset by the Chargers, or if Austin Jackson has a bad game, or the running game doesn’t improve, don’t panic. Do not get all “Same old Dolphins.”
Because they are not the same old Dolphins. They simply aren’t. The same old Dolphins do not win the game in Arizona Sunday. The same old Dolphins do not transition from Fitzpatrick to Tua without a hiccup. The same old Dolphins would…well, they would look a lot like the current old Jets.
These Dolphins are different. They’re young, smart, disciplined, and exciting. And the future is suddenly very, very bright.
Please welcome Chip Turner to PhinManiacs and please check him out on Twitter @ChipTurnerPA