Miami Dolphins Must Step Back to Leap Forward

From a swamp the Miami Dolphins came and to a swamp they have returned. While South Florida has expanded wildly over the past 20 years, the Dolphins have regressed. Interestingly enough, Chris Grier has seen it all in his 19 years with the team. Somehow the longest tenured Dolphin, who rode the ebbing tide, will now reside at the top of the heap.

And it is a heap… 31st in offense, 29th in defense, scored the 26th most points on offense and gave up the 27th most on defense. The Dolphins were outgained by 1619 yards and outscored by 114 points. Miami’s 31 sacks were fourth fewest in the league, while allowing 52, tied for fifth most. The quarterback was ranked dead last by Pro Football Focus.

It is amazing this team was able to scrape out 7 wins while being so statistically horrendous. The axe fell on Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum, but Gase realistically had little to work with as a fool’s game was playing out behind the scenes. The win now philosophy was doomed without a true star at quarterback and a penchant for paying older free agents that plagued the team with injuries.

The Miami Dolphins are a complete mess and any coach with winning aspirations is certain to choke on this franchise. Not only is Miami once again in a middling draft position, they have very little cap space to work with and enough dead money to fill Davy Jones’ locker.

The Dolphins would have to cut, Ryan Tannehill, Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, Ja’Wuan James, Andre Branch and rescind the fifth-year option for receiver DeVante Parker, in order to amass $60 million in cap space. Even with these drastic cuts the Dolphins will carry close to $30 million in dead money from Tannehill and Ndomukong Suh’s terrible contracts.

Not a good look for a coach to step into, no money, no quarterback and no early draft picks to acquire one. While division rivals are loaded with cap space and have either the GOAT at QB, or a shiny new QB heading into his second year. The win now philosophy that only ever produced mediocrity has left the Miami Dolphins in dire straights that may take years to overcome.

Wherever Adam Gase is at, he’s probably grinning from ear to ear, having a Miami Miracle of his own being pushed off the sinking ship just before the final plunge. Sometimes a team must sink before it can swim, and Miami is destined to be underwater for the next two or three years trying to amend the mistakes Mike Tannenbaum inflicted.

The only players likely to see the renaissance are Larimy Tunsil, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Xavien Howard. That means Miami should trade players like Reshad Jones, TJ MacDonald, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Kiko Alonzo. Even Kenyan Drake should be included because by the time Miami is relevant, he will be an older running back. The cuts and trades will leave the cupboard bare, but only then can Miami find a way out of the perpetual purgatory of mediocrity.

The six prominent choices making a splash in the press are, Chiefs offensive coordinator - Eric Bieniemy. Bears defensive coordinator - Vic Fangio, Patriots linebacker’s coach - Brian Flores, Steelers’ offensive line coach - Mike Munchak, Cowboys’ passing game coordinator/DBs - Kris Richard, and the Dolphins own special team’s coordinator and assistant head coach - Darren Rizzi.

Of the above names, only Mike Munchak has prior head coaching experience in the NFL and in three seasons with the Tennessee Titans, he never produced a winning team. The problem with this coaching search is, no candidate with any hopes of winning for three years should take this job.

The Miami Dolphins have been gutted and more cuts are needed to add draft picks and cap space. The Dolphins need to find a true stud at quarterback before any coach is going to win with any consistency. The truth is, the Miami Dolphins are at least a three-year project away from winning anything. Coaches who lose for three seasons, are fired like the last five in Miami.

There is one candidate in this bunch that will approach this job without any illusions. Darren Rizzi knows exactly what he is getting into. Rizzi knows what must happen, knows the expectations of Chris Grier and Stephen Ross and knows the players currently on the roster. Rizzi can quickly look at these players and decide which will be peaking in three years and which will have passed their prime.

Rizzi is not the shiny new coordinator of the moment looking to blaze into head coaching with last-to-first aspirations. It’s not to say the next Dolphin coach shouldn’t have expectations, but the shiny coordinators are much like Adam Gase, they want win now and it’s just not going to happen in Miami.

The Dolphins need a coach willing to purge and rebuild. They need a coach who knows this roster. When it’s open season for trading and cutting, there is no worry about being the jerk who sent some player to Cleveland. This coach gets a clean slate without the expectation of winning now. It’s the perfect place for a first time coach with the patience to rebuild.

Miami also needs a homer coach that really likes South Florida, one who understands the pitfalls of places like South Beach. That knowledge is critical in the player selection process because no matter how talented, troubled players always find the dark side of Miami. Rizzi knows this, he knows this town. Newcomers may have heard tales, but when presented with super talent, they make the critical mistake of believing they can change and control people.

For these reasons, Darren Rizzi is the best candidate for the Miami Dolphins. He must tell the ownership he cannot be judged by his record for at least three seasons. After his third season, then the clock can begin ticking because make no mistake about it, the Miami Dolphins will take at least three years to overcome the win-now philosophy that has gutted this team.

Sorry Dolphin fans, sometimes it takes a step backwards to make a leap forward…