Despite all of the turmoil, all of the missed opportunities, the overspending for poor play, the Miami Dolphins went into the final week of the 2013 season with playoff hopes very much alive. All they had to do was beat the New York Jets one more time and they were in.
But if there is one team that knows how to lose, do it spectacularly, to a division rival that’s even shittier than they are, it’s the fucking Dolphins.
Now let’s look at where it all went wrong (tl;dr, EVERYWHERE).
It was supposed to be the beginning of something great. Heading into Week 15 sitting at 7-6, the Dolphins were leading a very mediocre AFC pack in the Wild Card hunt. And they had perhaps the biggest test of the season in the East-leading New England Patriots.
The Patriots had hit their stride after a few weeks of their young receiving corps struggling, riding high on a three game streak. The Dolphins had struggled in the middle of the season, unable to stay consistent, but managed impressive back-to-back wins against the Steelers and Jets.
The Dolphins trailed the entire game before a tying field goal in the 3rd and a go ahead touchdown early in the 4th quarter, but of course Tom Brady answered, putting together two drives that put the Patriots back in the lead at 20-17 with four minutes left. Ryan Tannehill hit Marcus Thigpen with 14 yard TD with a minute left, leaving Brady ample time to execute that last-second magic he’s known for.
An interception from backup safety Michael Thomas ended the comeback attempt and the game, strengthening the Dolphins playoff hopes as they entered the final stretch of the season.
The Dolphins followed up that close, hard fought win by losing their next two divisional games to the Bills and the Jets.
While one could look at the bullying scandal as the ultimate low point for an already mediocre team, the absence of both Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito didn’t do much to affect the team on paper, ending the season 5-4 since they left.
They responded to the controversy by rallying for an overtime win against the Bengals, yet followed that up by giving the winless Buccaneers their first victory of the season. Consistency is not in this team’s make-up.
So of course it made sense that the Dolphins, the Wildcard leaders and keepers of their own destiny, would shit the bed entirely and suffer two blowout losses to end the season.
The Bills shut out the Fins 19-0 in a game where Miami barely managed 100 yards on offense. The next week, Miami dropped their final home game to the Jets, 20-7.
The Dolphins were 8-27 in converting on 3rd down in those last two games, and Tannehill himself threw five interceptions. In other words, they did exactly what good football teams don’t do at the end of the season.
Brent Grimes was given a “one year let’s see what you can do contract” after tearing his Achilles in the first game of the 2012 season, missing the whole year. There were some worries about Grimes’ history of injury and whether he could play at the level he used to.
Grimes notched 60 total tackles and 4 interceptions, including one for a score against the Bengals. He was arguably the Dolphins most consistent player, filling the hole left by injured Dimitri Patterson.
Miami has more than enough money to spend on free agency this offseason, but resigning Brent Grimes to a longer deal might be the top priority if the Dolphins want to continue to build their injury-plagued secondary.
Forced Pop Culture Comparison
Shit, I’d say that the Jonathan Martin bullying incident has become so widespread that it’s entered into pop culture canon, and thus is the most apt comparison these Dolphins can claim. What seemed innocuous became bizarre, and now it’s just sad.
In celebration of this comparison, here is perhaps my favorite exchange from the text conversation that has now been released to the public:
What was a drunk Miami Dolphins player yelling when a teammate entered the bar?
Also called, “Papa John’s spokesman audition tape #27”
Former Tampa Bay exec and rookie GM Dennis Hickey has his hands full. In what was perhaps the silliest search for a general manager in recent history, the Dolphins brass promised their candidates mountains and mountains of cash to spend in free agency.
The problem is, who the hell would want to go there to begin with?
Between management issues and behind-the-scenes dealings of top-level execs and coaches, the lack of accountability in the locker room, and the question of leadership in their best players, it’s no secret that many look to the Dolphins for the rubric on how not to run a club.
The Joe Philbin era might be coming to an end sooner than later, but the root of the issues go deeper than the coaching staff. If owner Stephen Ross continues to surround himself by toxic suits who only wish to get a bigger salary and better title (coughDawnApontecough), fans can expect the Dolphins to stay on the road toward mediocrity.
Entirely Too Early Prediction for 2014
Depending on how free agency goes, the Dolphins might be able to manage another 8-8 season. I, however, expect them to overspend for even more inconsistency before deciding to tank their season and start Matt Moore. They will finish with a high draft pick and excuse to clean house yet again, giving another head coach and rookie quarterback the chance to shit themselves in 2015.
Editor’s note: Nate will drop the JETS retrospective on your collective heads tomorrow.