The Current State of Sunshine State Football: NFL Edition

Craig HortonCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2012

The Current State of Sunshine State Football: NFL Edition

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    Times have gotten tough for the NFL teams that call the Sunshine State home.

    Where once men such as Shula, Dungy and Coughlin—winners of five Super Bowls collectively—roamed the sidelines; now it's Philbin, Schiano and Mularkey.

    All three Florida NFL teams will start the 2012 season with a new head coach.

    With the offseason upon us, let's take a look at what was, and what is happening for Florida's NFL teams.

Jacksonville Jaguars . . . Then

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars were once the model of how-to build an NFL expansion team.

    After a 4-12 maiden season in 1995, the Jaguars made the playoffs in 1996 with a 9-7 record. They had to win their last five games to do this.

    They had huge road playoff wins over Buffalo and top-seded Denver. Their 30-27 win over Denver was John Elway's last postseason loss.

    Their season ended with a 20-6 loss to New England in the AFC Championship Game.

    It was the start of four consecutive playoff appearances under Tom Coughlin, including winning the AFC's No. 1 seed in 1999.

Jacksonville Jaguars . . . Now

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    The Jaguars just completed a 5-11 season.

    They were 32nd in passing yards. Their quarterback was rookie Blaine Gabbert. Their leading receiver had just 44 receptions. Their only star is running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

    The Jaguars' season was a recipe for disaster before Day One.

    Then-head coach Jack Del Rio cut starting quarterback David Garrard the last week of preseason. A few weeks later the inexperienced Gabbert was the starter.

    In 2012, new coach Mike Mularkey will try to get the Jaguars back to the playoffs—a place they haven't been since 2007.

Miami Dolphins . . . Then

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    Don Shula was a Miami institution as Dolphins head coach from 1970-1995. Shula retired, and still holds the record for NFL coaching victories.

    Under Shula, the Dolphins were one of the top NFL franchises. In his 26 seasons, the Dolphins were in the playoffs 16 times.

    Over that time, the Dolphins won five AFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls. The 1972 team that had a perfect 17-0 record was among his teams.

    Shula was paired up for 13 seasons with quarterback Dan Marino. Marino retired in 1999 with virtually every NFL passing record.

Miami Dolphins . . . Now

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    The Miami Dolphins just finished another losing season at 6-10. It was their sixth losing season in eight years. During that time, they only made the playoffs in 2008. They haven't won a playoff game since 2000.

    The Dolphins lost four games in 2011 after having a fourth-quarter lead.

    They are one of a handful of teams with uncertainty at quarterback.

    It will be up to the latest head coach, Joe Philbin, to determine whether to keep incumbent Matt Moore, or seek a free agent such as Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers . . . Then

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    When Tony Dungy became head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996, he took a franchise that had been one of the worst of all time in American sports—and turned them into winners.

    During his six years in Tampa, the Bucs made the playoffs four times. His rookie season was the only year the Buccaneers had a losing record under him.

    The Buccaneers defense was one of the toughest under Dungy's tenure. They were led by Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch.

    Unfortunately for Dungy, he was fired after the 2001 season and replaced by Jon Gruden—who won the Super Bowl in his first year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers . . . Now

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    The Buccaneers had a horrible end in 2011 by losing their last 10 games.

    To give you an idea of how bad it was, consider the scores of their last five games.

    A 38-19 loss to Carolina, 41-14 to Jacksonville, 31-15 to Dallas, 48-16 to Carolina and 45-24 to Atlanta. In that final game they were behind 42-0 in the second quarter.

    There were also losses earlier in the season by 48-3 to San Francisco and 37-9 against Houston.

    There is a lot of work to be done for new head coach Greg Schiano in 2012.