Such is the nature of the Miami Dolphins and their fan base. The team wins, and they're on top of the world. As soon as things start going sour, everything is horrible. This was the case for everyone - and I do mean everyone - after the painful loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday that should have been a win.
“Every loss hurts. When you put 110 hours in a week and get kicked in the nuts like that, it pisses you off." Gase said after the game. "This isn’t like a 9-to-5 (job). We have a lot of people putting a lot of work into this stuff. You’re going to be mad today and tomorrow. When Wednesday comes, you have to forget about it and move on to the next one.”
Believe me, coach Gase, the fans feel the exact same way. Sometimes it feels like being a fan of this team is a full-time job, except we don't get paid for it, and trying to quit is like trying to get over an alcohol addiction while you work in a bar; it's very, very, very hard.
Also see: impossible.
It is also very easy to fall deeper into dark places when the team struggles and the fan base collectively comes together to wallow in their misery. But it is in these moments where it becomes imperative to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and find something else to look at, something to remind you that all is not lost.
Perhaps there's really no point in expecting Gase to fix the team, since he himself has yet to be humbled and learn lessons on how he should be coaching. Perhaps that won't happen until he goes and coaches elsewhere.
It is also abundantly clear that, as nice of a guy as he is and as hard as he tries, Ryan Tannehill is not a "game-changing" QB, and he isn't able to consistently overcome the extreme adversity that NFL QBs have to face on a weekly basis.
I personally equate that to having the ability (or lack thereof) to run around in the backfield like a chicken with its head cut off, dodging endless defenders and heaving up a prayer that somehow magically lands in the hands of a receiver, but the fact is other QBs get on highlight reels for it and Tannehill doesn't; I suppose that's enough.
Maybe it really is time for new blood at that position. Even if Tannehill's legacy won't be remembered fondly in Miami, I can console myself knowing that he'll likely have a promising medical career after he leaves the NFL. And before anyone accuses me of being "in love" with Tannehill, understand that it comes from the perspective of a human being, not necessarily as a football fan.
Tannehill is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, and in some respects, I can relate to him because of the way he lives his life. If that's not a good enough reason to root for him, then that's your prerogative; he still has eleven games to prove that Miami doesn't have to spend a first-round pick on a QB next season.
But this isn't about the negative parts of the team, this is about the side of things that screams promise and further potential. This is about the young defensive core developing even now, and if the front office (and whoever will actually be in it in a year or two's time) is wise, they would be sure to lock these players up now while they have the chance.
The Miami Dolphins defense isn't ranked very high overall thanks to a lot of time spent on the field (side-eye look at the offense), but the number of players performing at a high level has kept the defense from being labeled as a complete joke for once. For a defense that sent All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh packing in the offseason, they're allowing only 3.7 yards a carry, which ranks them at 6th in the NFL in that category.
That's thanks in large part to the emergence of young defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor, the team's fifth and sixth-round draft picks from 2017; as a tandem, they have been able to stuff runners and even collapse a few pockets in their short time, making Suh's absence ultimately irrelevant.
At linebacker, Jerome Baker has been a massive (and pleasant) surprise as a rookie third-round pick; his speed has made him an asset in the passing game (though he still certainly has plenty to learn still) and he is able to go sideline to sideline chasing down players and making plays, whether by blitzing or keeping an eye on guys in the backfield. Against the Bengals this past Sunday, Baker racked up six tackles and two sacks on QB Andy Dalton.
That’s why we liked him." coach Gase said on Monday. "We liked him because he can cover a lot of ground and when he blitzes, he has no regard for his body and tries to annihilate the other guy. I thought he played well."
It isn't just Baker, however. After spending the first several weeks of 2018 as practically invisible, Baker's former Ohio State teammate Raekwon McMillan had himself a strong game too, adding six tackles of his own - one being for a loss - against Cincinnati. If nothing else, it means that he's still worth investing in for the future, and the LB corps has a strong chance to be much improved in the future, if the ability to cover can be upgraded as tight ends still pose somewhat of a threat.
But if push comes to shove, that's where 2018 first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick comes in, and he also had a good game against the Bengals, helping keep the Cincinnati receivers contained for the most part, and reading screens before they happen and making plays on them to force losses of yards as the slot cornerback.
And if that's where he's the most likely to make his mark in the NFL, then Miami has finally found themselves a real gem.
There's plenty to look forward to on the defensive side of the ball, the talent is there and there's still plenty of time to continue to build around them. Safety Reshad Jones - playing with a partially torn labrum - is still a dynamic playmaker even at the age of 30 and could be an excellent veteran presence for a few years more; Robert Quinn has been every bit worth the fourth-round pick sent to the Rams to acquire him, and should be locked up long-term (if the Wide-9 continues to be implemented) if he continues to be disruptive.
The only thing the defense has not managed to do is finish the job with sacks. They've gotten plenty of pressure on QBs, but they haven't actually been able to get them down before they throw the ball away or somehow escape and find a receiver. That is a concern. Miami ranks down near the bottom of the league at 27th with only eight total sacks, but they rank near the top in takeaways, tied for second with the Chicago Bears with a total of 11.
Only the Cleveland Browns of all teams rank higher, and that's with a whopping 15.
Even if the offense never comes together this season, even if the team goes 8-8 all over again or perhaps drop even lower due to their apparent inability to remain consistent on offense for one reason or another, take comfort in the fact that the defense - while still not perfect and in many ways still very raw - is coming along nicely, and that's one of the marks of any championship caliber team.
Who knows? Maybe a new QB really will turn the tides for the Dolphins offense, though there's nothing in the team's history to suggest that will happen, but regardless, that will have to wait until 2019 at the earliest, if Tannehill continues to perform poorly. For now, hope that the offensive line can somehow get it together and protect Ryan Tannehill so he can be at his best, hope that coach Gase learns to stick with what works and adapts to move away from what doesn't, and enjoy watching a young defense grow together.
Then pray that whoever turns out to be in the front office in the near future - whether it be Mike Tannenbaum or some other executive - has the wisdom to lock up Godchaux, Taylor, Fitzpatrick, Baker, Quinn, Xavien Howard, and others to stick around for years to come, because this defense has the makings to be something special, under the proper leadership.
“I thought the defense did well." Gase said on Monday. "The defense played exactly the way that we talked about all week. That’s why it probably irritates me more than anything that we screwed it up on offense. We scored more offense for their team on the offensive side than they let up. And that bothers me. I feel awful because our defense played really well and they did exactly what we wanted to do.”
For the time being, it's up to Gase to figure things out and make it work, and make sure the team's silver lining has a chance to shine brighter this year, rather than waiting for the future to move into the spotlight.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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