An otherwise successful and exciting season for the Dolphins came to a screeching halt on Sunday as they suffered a 56-26 drubbing in Buffalo. Miami’s league-leading defense was battered by Josh Allen and Matt Barkley in a game where the Dolphins played poorly in every phase. Any hopes of securing a spot at the table in the Wild Card round slipped away with each bubble screen and 3-and-out from Tua and the offense. It was a sour end to the Dolphins’ season for multiple reasons, but in no way does it render 2020 a failure for the organization. 

The Dolphins witnessed the gap that exists between them and the AFC East champion Bills first-hand on Sunday. Buffalo will be the team to beat in the division going forward, and it’s clear that Miami is still a couple of pieces away. This should be news to no one, though. In 2019 Miami posted just 5 wins while being berated in the media for supposedly tanking their season for draft positioning. So, it’s more than fair to say that Miami was not expected to post a 10-win season in 2020, and they have clearly arrived early in their rebuild, which is an obvious sign that the process is working. Another offseason with a cupboard stocked full of draft picks and (as of now) $30+ million ready to be spent in free agency puts the Dolphins in a premiere position to drastically improve the team, similar to the way they did last offseason. This season helped establish and recognize a foundation for this team to continue building upon, which they certainly accomplished. 

Thanks to Laremy Tunsil and Bill O’Brien, the Dolphins possess the 3rd overall pick in the draft, and that pick will likely have more talk around it than any other in the top 10. Many fans and talking heads will spend the entire offseason debating whether the Dolphins should consider replacing Tua Tagovailoa via the 2021 draft. Still, I don’t believe that will leak into reality. Brian Flores and Chris Grier have continuously shown their patience and trust in their plans. While I expect them to conduct their due diligence regarding QB prospects, it would seem uncharacteristic of this regime to make such a knee-jerk decision. Tua had a historically successful career at Alabama and showed all the tools necessary to translate to life as an NFL quarterback. Still, it’s fair to say his rookie season left some things left to be desired. He struggled at times and was benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick in two of his starts. Tagovailoa finished his rookie campaign with 11 touchdowns to 5 interceptions to go along with a completion percentage of 64.1%. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t always smooth, but it does not spell doom for Tua or the Dolphins. 

Remember when Derek Carr looked like he’d be a perennial MVP candidate and a franchise anchor for the Raiders? How soon we forget. Carr is a good quarterback today, but he’s just one example of what happens when you try to label a QB too early. What about Carson Wentz – who would have thought he’d be relegated to the bench and on the verge of a trade by 2020? Wentz was the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft, and before getting hurt during the Eagles’ eventual Super Bowl run in 2018, he looked like he would carry that franchise for years to come. Surely, Philadelphia had their guy, right? Not so much, it appears. On the other end of the spectrum, the media and fans would have had you convinced Josh Allen would never amount to anything in the NFL following his rookie season. In his third season, Allen has steamrolled through the Bills’ record books and established himself as a legitimate threat at QB while leading his team to the playoffs.

Not everything is a Josh Rosen/Kyler Murray situation. Tua has played 9 games in the NFL, with many things working against him, including the playbook and his playmakers. It would be unwise to assert that you know, for a fact, that Tua isn’t the guy. At the least, Tua deserves a full, non-COVID season with a regular preseason in a year where he is not still in the process of recovering from major hip surgery before being labeled the “B” word. Adding a stable of weapons for him to utilize will be crucial to his development as well. See what Stefon Diggs has done for Josh Allen.

While some fans and onlookers will discredit the Dolphins’ 2020 season because of the way it ended and the questions that were left unanswered, it was still incredibly successful and promising for the future of the organization. Throughout the year, the improvements made across the board speak to the strengths of those in control in Miami. This season was only the beginning of this era of Dolphins football.