Marc Daniels: Dolphins Dysfunction Leads To Contender Status

Pittsburgh Steelers v Miami Dolphins

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After two decades of bad football and numerous coaching changes, owner Stephen Ross was desperate. Ross is in his 80s and has owned the team since 2008 and older owners want to win before their time is up, see Jerry Jones. Ross is able to control his success in real estate and most business ventures but not on the football field. Other billionaires are trying to win as well. So when fans and the media turned their criticism up a notch Ross knew he was becoming the bad guy. So what do people do in situations like that? They get desperate start making radical decisions.

Ross and Dolphins decided to rebuild a couple of seasons ago and when they hired Brian Flores the plan was to build up draft picks and plan for the future. The 2019 Dolphins started 2-9 and literally had healthy scratches for some games during that season. Miami won three of its final five games to finish 5-11. In 2020, they drafted Tua and the team went 10-6 with Ryan Fitzpatrick filling in when Tua was injured. They went 9-8 in 2021 and Flores was fired, a firing that led to a lawsuit against Ross and the team.

Over the last two-plus seasons Ross tried to replace Tua with DeShaun Watson, which obviously didn't happen. Miami tried to add receivers to help Tua but they rarely stayed healthy. Their offensive line was subpar and the running game was among the worst in the league. What did you expect from Tua?

Aside from trying to find another quarterback, Ross went looking for other coaches. He allegedly invited Tom Brady, under contract with the Bucs, on his boat to talk about ownership shares and maybe even playing for the Dolphins. Ross supposedly spoke with Sean Payton, who was under contract with the New Orleans Saints.

All of the shenanigans led to the NFL investigating the Dolphins and suspending Ross for a period of time and taking a few draft picks along the way.

But some of that dysfunction allowed a few things to happen. 

When Ross swung and missed on Brady and Payton he needed a coach and settled on Mike McDaniel. That may be a blessing in disguise as the young offensive wizard seems to know what he's doing. But McDaniel needed weapons to build an offense around a quarterback he believed in. Imagine that, a head coach and owner not involved, allowed Tua to relax a bit and find someone who believes in him and wants him to succeed?

But the Dolphins also turned some deals into talent. The team drafted receiver Jaylen Waddle and hybrid pass rusher Jaelen Phillips in 2021. The Dolphins added talent to their offensive line via free agency this past summer and depth at running back.

But one of the biggest moves Miami made in years has paid off big time. Back in March 2021, Miami made a deal with the Niners to allow San Francisco to move up 19 spots and select quarterback Trey Lance. The Dolphins got the 12th pick in that draft and took Waddle and got first round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a third round pick in 2022. The 2022 pick was part of a five pick package sent to Kansas City to land Tyreek Hill. Yesterday, the Dolphins sent that 2023 first rounder in a package to Denver to acquire defensive end Bradley Chubb.

Miami has gone from dysfunctional to contender and their offense looks like one of the NFL's best. McDaniel has his quarterback playing at a high level and the fun is back in Miami. This team may not win a Super Bowl but the playoffs are a real goal. The team sits at 5-3 and have looked sharp on offense in their last two wins with Tua back. With games at Chicago and then home for games with Cleveland and Houston, Miami could be 8-3 or 7-4 before a big two game road trip to play the Niners and Chargers.

That's how fast things can turn in the NFL. Sean Payton is not coaching the team and Tom Brady looks old in Tampa. Meanwhile, the Dolphins look young and fun and that hasn't been said in two decades about a once proud franchise...

Final note: The average lifespan of a bottled-nose dolphin is 13 years.

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