As we get ready to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host a Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs, it makes us wonder how many more years Dolphin fans must wait to be in a game of this magnitude. It’s been 37 years since the franchise even reached the Super Bowl and 48 years since they’ve won the big game. To make things even worse, Miami hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000, hasn’t been to a conference championship since 1992, and hasn’t won more than one playoff game since 1984 (the last time the team made it to the Super Bowl). Not only has Miami not been successful for at least two decades, but they are also pretty much irrelevant. Teams like the Packers or Saints do not have many Super Bowl wins recently, but they make the playoffs every year and have success.

The Dolphins just completed year two of their so-far, successful rebuild. The team doubled their win total from the previous season and was on the cusp of a playoff berth. The Dolphins defense hovered around, being the number one unit in football for most of the back half of the season and finished in the top ten. In 2020, the Dolphins’ six losses came against the Patriots, Bills (2x), Seahawks, Broncos, and Chiefs. Four of their six losses came against playoff teams, and only ONE of their ten victories came against a playoff team (Rams). Although a 10-6 record is fantastic after being 5-11 the year before, the Dolphins still might be further away from playing in a Super Bowl than you might think.

A few boxes need to be checked before categorizing a team as a “Super Bowl contender.” A successful head coach, a dominant defense who causes turnovers, a high-powered offense, and an elite quarterback. The Dolphins have two of those four, so you can say Miami is halfway there. The Dolphins defense can add a few more pieces, but they are ready to win now. It is the offensive side of the ball where they need improvement. The Dolphins must score with the best teams in the league like the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Packers, Bills, Titans, etc. As good as the defense was this season, they gave up 87 points to the Bills (in 2 games), 33 to the Chiefs, and 31 to the Cardinals and Seahawks. This is still a passing league, and scoring points ultimately wins games.

Tua Tagovailoa will be a huge part of the Dolphins’ success, and Super Bowl hopes. Tua was drafted to win games and get the Dolphins back into relevance. Tagovailoa is far from a finished product, and the team must build around him to succeed. Miami failed to build a dominant offensive line or run game for Ryan Tannehill, which ultimately led to 7 mediocre seasons. Tua is a better pure passer than Tannehill and has a better pocket presence, but any quarterback needs a solid offensive line and run game to win. Miami’s top priority this offseason will be to get Tua receivers to create separation and a true #1 running back. The Dolphins have lacked a running game for many years, and there is no coincidence that the offense has not looked good since the two go hand-in-hand.

The Dolphins will be able to check those two remaining boxes if Tagovailoa plays up to his abilities. Tagovailoa’s success will be the team’s success. But there is another quarterback that can fast-track the team’s Super Bowl window. If the Dolphins do indeed trade for DeShaun Watson this off-season, that window for Miami starts the second the trade is agreed upon. This article is not meant to discuss whether or not the Dolphins should trade for Watson; it is simply to say Miami would be an instant contender with Watson at the helm. It is also not saying Tua could not get us to that level, but it would take longer. In my opinion and the recent moves at the offensive coaching staff, the Dolphins will stick with Tua and continue rebuilding the way they envisioned. The Dolphins will use their well-earned draft capital and cap space to build the roster for Tua. Bringing in guys like Devonta Smith and Najee Harris will not only enhance the offense, but it will give Tua so much confidence. Smith and Harris were teammates with Tagovailoa at Alabama and would come to Miami Gardens with built-in chemistry.

So how many years are the Dolphins away from competing for a Super Bowl? Three. I believe the Miami Dolphins could challenge the rest of the AFC for a Super Bowl spot as early as 2024. The Dolphins’ entire roster is made up of young, inexperienced players. The biggest aspect of the game that most of these guys are missing is experience. Coming off a 10-win season, the bar has been set high for 2021. We have entered the “playoff or bust” mode in Miami. Although that is a good problem to have, it can cause the fan base if the Dolphins regressed next season. It would be unfair to expect the Dolphins to win a Super Bowl next year, especially with another set of rookies coming in that are bound to impact this organization in the future. Tua must be given a full season to get better and gel with his new weapons before the Dolphins can be crowned.

The Dolphins are very close to their championship window and paying a rookie quarterback helps. The team can use their money elsewhere to build an elite roster to compete with the Bills and Chiefs in the AFC. It has been 48 long years, but the time is getting near. The Dolphins have done an excellent job at rebuilding, and many other teams are starting to use Miami’s blueprint. Chris Grier’s plan is coming to fruition, and fans must remain patient. Given the success and quick turnaround the team has made, it is safe to put full trust in Grier and coach Flores. The future is very bright in Miami, and hopefully, the team’s Super Bowl drought ends soon.