If you paid attention to a solid majority of national coverage since the first NFL Sunday of the season, you’d think the Dolphins lost week one.
Except (*gasps*), they didn’t!
I had initially wanted to start my recap/preview series I’ll be doing every week this season but figured that Miami’s start gave me a good reason to write a piece I’ve been sitting on for a while. We’ll keep it short but undeniably sweet.
For just a minute, forget about Buffalo this week. Forget about the way the Dolphins have been portrayed in the news even after a victory. Forget about all that because it doesn’t matter. Do you think Brian Flores gives a rip what news outlets have to say?
Instead, have some perspective on where the team is currently sitting. Think about the state of the franchise.
Ordinarily, thinking about the state of the Miami Dolphins would be a nightmarish exercise that would make even the most optimistic of fans wonder why in the hell they would subject themselves to such misery. I talk about it often, but the road since Marino has been a tumultuous one.
I once threw a tv remote, both Nike slides from my feet, and a lint roller (?) following an agonizing Dolphins home game. The trigger was the 2014 loss to the Packers where Aaron Rodgers won the game in the final seconds, and then-head coach Joe Philbin said after the game that he had felt “queasy.”
I, clearly, had felt much more than “queasy.”
But I digress.
On Sunday, the Dolphins ventured north to Foxborough and beat the Patriots in their own stadium, 17-16. It wasn’t a perfect win, or even a pretty one, but winning is winning is winning.
We know this because countless times over the past decade, the Dolphins have lost that exact same kind of close contest. Now, Miami is alone in first place in the AFC East after the Jets and Bills both dropped their week one contests.
It’s obviously early, but how awesome does that feel? This is where the piece on perspective comes into play.
In 2019, Brian Flores’ first season as head coach and the campaign where the idea was to “Tank for Tua,” the Dolphins were eviscerated by the Ravens 59-10 to open the season. I remember settling in for the game and fully expecting to get throttled given the rebuild that was on, but it still hurt. 59-10 hurts no matter what.
In 2020, the Patriots played host to Flores’ squad. The Dolphins lost that game 21-11 on a day that saw Cam Newton stunt all over the Miami defense and let them know about it with a smirk he wore all game.
And before the start of the Brian Flores era? The Dolphins actually went 3-0 in 2018 to start the season, but that was with head coach Adam “bug-eyes” Gase and a roster that was the 6th oldest in the league. We now know that the 2018 start was a complete fluke. The wheels came off as the season went, the team essentially stopped trying, and Gase was canned.
This is all that makes last Sunday’s win such a good reason to pause. The franchise has pulled a complete 180 under Brian Flores.
No matter how you spin it, no matter what you’ll hear outside of Miami about the Dolphins right now, the team is in a fantastic spot compared to years past.
They now have Brian Flores rather than Gase, Philbin, etc.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) September 16, 2021
And on top of everything else, they’re the 14th youngest team in the league. They’d be even younger if not for the fact that players who came to Miami at the start of the rebuild — think Christian Wilkins, Myles Gaskin, Michael Deiter, etc. — have stuck and aged by a few years. There’s been less turnover because the Dolphins now have the legitimate talent to work with across the board.
Moving forward, all eyes will be on Buffalo for week two, and rightfully so. Even off a loss, the Bills are still a team with incredible upside and absolutely demolished Miami in a dreadful week 17 contest that ended last season on a sour note.
But they looked beatable last week.
As for the rest of the division, the Jets lost, and Zach Wilson looked, well, like a rookie. And the Patriots?
That’s right, Miami already beat those guys. And in Gillette Stadium, too, which is traditionally hard for any team.
There’s no telling how this Sunday will go, and there’s no telling how every Sunday the rest of the season will go. But before we get lost in the seasonal chatter about injury reports, contenders vs. pretenders, and playoff odds, take a second to realize where your Miami Dolphins are at compared to seasons from recent memory.
Then, hope like hell that Miami drops the Bills to 0-2 once Sunday rolls around.