Looking Back and Moving On: The Dolphins 10 Worst Moments of the 2000s
We are in year three of the new Miami Dolphins regime, and as we embark on the next decade of Dolphins football it is time to embrace the present and take charge into a new decade of promise. The 70s, 80s and 90s provided several years of success for the Dolphins faithful, but the 00s did not. By far the worst decade in franchise history, it is time to shed the shattered recent past and look towards the future.
But, before we we go forward I believe it is important to understand where we came from. The Dolphins and their fans had a trying 10 years, and it's time to take a look back at the worst moments we've endured since the turn of the millennium. Think of it as a therapeutic goodbye to the years of Wanny, Saban, Feeley, and Beck.
Here we go with the 10 worst moments of the last 10 years:
Dishonorable Mention: 2009 vs. San Diego Chargers
I believe everything will eventually work out, so this isn't really a bad moment anymore, but for about an hour and a half, things seemed pretty bleek.
When Chad Pennington got hurt and came out of the game, Chad Henne came in and looked about as confused as any young quarterback I've seen. His pick six seeled the game, sending the Dolphins to an 0-3 record. Dolphins fans all feared the worst for Pennington, and the "Savior" looked like the next in a long line of failed Marino replacments. All of a sudden, the progress made in 2008 looked like it was for nothing and Miami was back to square one yet again.
The Dolphins went on to win seven of their next ten games and produced a respectable record considering all the adversity, but it was stilll a bad moment, especially at the time.
10. Getting Swept by the Patriots in 2003
The collective fates of the Patriots and Dolphins branched in separate directions in 2003, and the intersection was a ten minute period during a Week Seven matchup.
Sure-footed Dolphins kicker missed two potential game winning field goals, both kicked while in the Florida Marlins infield dirt. (In every other season this decade, the infield would have been gone by this point, but the Marlins won the World Series this year, so the field was still in tact.) After a few possessions in overtime with no scoring, the Patriots took over at their own 20 yard line after an interception. On the first play of the new series, Tom Brady hit Troy Brown for an 80-yard, game-winning touchdown. The Patriots improved to 4-2 after the win, and Miami fell to 4-2.
Two months later, the two teams faced off again in Foxboro. The Patriots hadn't lost since before the first meeting, and Miami was hanging onto its flattening playoff life line. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Massachusetts was rocked with a foot and a half of snow on the eve of their revenge match. They stood no chance from the second they stepped on the field. The Patriots dominated for a 12-0 victory, with the lone touchdown coming off of a Teddy Bruschi interception return for a touchdown. The infamous shot is him throwing the snow in the air. What isn't as well documented is the fact that Dolphins fans who attended the game like myself were covered in snow by the end of the game. The endless barrage of snowballs thrown at me that night by Pats fans is something I still think of, and it makes every Dolphins victory over the Patriots that much better.
New England would go on to finish 14-2 and win the Super Bowl. Miami finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs. In the following six seasons, the Patriots would win five more division titles, go to two more Super Bowls, and add another Lombardi trophy. The Dolphins had four losing seasons, including a 1-15 campaign, and have not won a playoff game since this moment. Who knows what would have happened if Miami had won that game in October.
9. Going 0-5 against the Houston Texans (2003-2009)
I would have bet all my money that the Dolphins would have defeated the Texans in Week One of the 2003 season.
The Texans were in their second season, and the Dolphins were one of the more talented teams in the league. When the Texans came away with the upset victory in Miami, it was arguably the most shocking loss I've seen the Phins have. Not only that, but it was a crazy loss, with an easy missed field goal.
Little did I know that it was a sign of things to come. Now it seems like every year the Dolphins lose to the Texans in bizarre fashion. They are now 0-5 against the team from Houston, the only NFL team they have no victories over.
The worst loss was probably in 2008, when they had gave up a huge lead, and on Houston's game winning drive, they converted two fourth downs by a penalty and a reversed challenge. They play in 2010, so here's hoping the finally get off the schnide.
8. Blowing a 24-3 lead to the Saints (2009)
Not a huge deal in the big scheme of things, but man was this one depressing.
Now, a 7-9 team losing to the Super Bowl champion is not breaking news, and there's no shame in losing to a great team, but I will always wonder, "What if."
After an 0-3 start, the Phins were winners of two in a row, with new QB Chad Henne looking like heir apparent to Dan Marino. After taking a 24-3 lead, Miami looked like they were all the way back from their rough start, and were a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season. I would have bet anything I had halfway through the second quarter that the Dolphins were going to finish the season 11-5 and repeat as AFC East champions. Then Drew Brees his Marquis Colsten with a few seconds left in the half. They were going to kick a field goal to make the score 24-6, but Miami called a time out, allowing the Saints to decide to go for the touchdown. Brees snuck one in as time expired and the score was 24-10 at halftime.
The team fell apart in the second half, and they ended up losing 48-38. Who knows what would have happened if they prevented the Saints from scoring before the half ended.
Monday Night Meltdown vs. Jets (2000)
A game that transcended both teams, and for much longer than I thought it would. It was talked about ad nauseum for the rest of the year, and to this day even the casual fans still remember this game.
I can't think of any other regular season game that has that kind of legs. When you are at the losing end of an event of this magnitude, it has to be up there with one of the worst moments. Jumbo Elliot's wide eyes after receiving the tying touchdown is one of the worst shots for Dolphins fans. Miami would have finished 12-4 if they won this game, and their loss to Raiders in the second round of the playoffs would have been played in Miami, and not in Oakland.
If they had won that game, they would have hosted Baltimore in the AFC Championship game, a team that they already beat at home earlier that season. Would Miami have been Super Bowl XXXV champions if they didn't blow this one to the Jets? Possibly, but we'll never know.
6. Culpepper over Brees (2006)
One of the ultimate "What ifs" in sports. When the Dolphins pursued Culpepper and Brees in March of 2006, they were both considered huge risks due to sever injuries suffered in the 2005 season. Culpepper blew out his knee, and Brees injured his shoulder.
Since a quarterback needs his shoulder to throw, the Dolphins front office thought Culpepper was the safer option. They thought wrong.
Culpepper played exactly four games for the Dolphins, going 1-3 as a starter. Brees was signed by the Saints led them to the NFC South division title and took the team to its first ever NFC Championship Game. Dolphins coach Nick Saban quickly realized he made the wrong choice and left the team high and dry after a disappointing 6-10 record in 2006.
Brees became a top quarterback in New Orleans and won a Super Bowl in 2010, on Miami's home field, just a few short weeks after Saban won a National Championship with Alabama, the team he screwed the Dolphins over to join. I need to stop writing in this slide before I break my computer.
5. 62-7 (2000)
I'm not as down on this game as others. Obviously they were not prepared for this game. That's the understatement of the decade. But it wasn't a heart wrenching loss.
If you remember, they had already won a playoff game on the road, so they were pretty much playing with house money. We all figured it was Dan's last chance for a title, but the way the regular season ended was so bad that no one was fooling themselves into thinking they were going to win the Super Bowl. In the end, a 14-2 team blew out a 9-7 team.
Of course the blowout was of epic proportions, so that's why it makes this list. One thing could have made this game better though; if Dan Marino was taken out at halftime. His last pass of the first half was a touchdown. He came out in the third quarter, and his last pass ever in the NFL right before he got taken out was an interception. It just doesn't seem right.
4. From home field advantage to missing the playoffs (2002)
Perhaps the worst two week span in Miami Dolphins history. After Week 15, Miami was 9-5 and controlled their own destiny to get home field throughout the playoffs. They just beat down the eventual AFC champion Raiders, and were looking great.
Then they lost to the last place Minnesota Vikings. The following week, they still had a chance to win the AFC East and had an 11 point lead with three minutes remaining in a battle against the Patriots up in New England. But Wanny's horrible coaching down the stretch did them in. When the Patriots tied it up with seconds remaining, I knew the game was over. It was inevitable that the Patriots were going to win the toss, drive down the field and kick the game winning field goal in overtime. Of course it happened, and that was that.
It's rare that you have the NFL's rushing leader and sack leader in one season. It's even rarer when you have those two and MISS the playoffs.
Another great opportunity down the drain.
3.Wanny's contract extension (2004)
After two consecutive seasons in which Dave Wannstedt led incredibly talented teams to non-playoff seasons, I thought for sure he would get the ax.
Many coaches have been let go for less. The way they were unprepared for certain games was unacceptable. He ran Ricky Williams into the ground. He wasted the use of his best players. Eventually, he took a very talented team that Jimmy Johnson helped build and turned them into a laughing stock. He got out when the talent pool dried up and he couldn't win, but he should have left after '03, or '02, or '01.
Heck, he never should have been head coach. At the very least though, he never should have had the opportunity to lead the team in the 2004 off-season. It ultimately led to...
2. Ricky WIlliams Retirement (2004)
A moment I'll never forget. It was July 24th, the day before my sister's birthday. I was visiting her at college for her birthday, as she lived in her off campus apartment over the summer. We went out to a party with some of her friends, and a buddy of mine (also a Dolphins fan) that lived an hour away from her school. When we got home and saw the news headline on ESPN at around 2 in the morning, I assumed it was the alcohol and I was just seeing things. It wasn't until the next morning when I realized how real it was.
One side note about this day for you baseball fans out there: The day Ricky retired was the same day my beloved Red Sox got into a bench clearing brawl with the Yankees. You may remember the shot of Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez duking it out. The game ended with an incredible comeback, capped off by a Bill Mueller walk-off home run against Mariano Rivera. This game propelled the Sox into the best record in baseball in August and September. They gained incredible confidence against the Yankees, and were able to use that when they came back from 3 games down to beat them in the ALCS three months later, leading to Boston's first World Series victory in 86 years.
Ask most Red Sox fans, and they'll tell you that the fight with the Yankees turned it all around. It's ironic that that my second favorite sports team got saved on the same day that my favorite sports team died. The two teams went in incredibly different directions in the second half of the decade, and July 24th 2004 is the day the separation took place.
For the Dolphins, I never thought I would have a bigger shock when it came to someone leaving the team, until...
1. Saban quits/Huisinga press conference/1-15
These are all intertwined, and you could even say that numbers two, three, and six were related to this as well.
I'll never forget the moment. The week leading upto Saban's departure, he was adamant that the wasn't leaving. He yelled at the media for even suggesting something so proposturous. In reality, he was probably laughing behind his words.
I was flying home from visiting relatives in Florida for the holidays. I was in the airport when the official word came in the Saban was leaving Miami for Alabama. I had a two hour wait for my flight, so I watched as CNN showed Wayne Huisinga's press conference, where he asked the #*&$! media for suggestions on what to do. I should have seen 1-15 coming right then and there. When I boarded my flight, there were a few Alabama football fans on the plane, sitting just two rows in front of me. They spent the entire flight to Boston talking about how excited they were for Saban to coach Alabama.
Like I said, what followed next should have been predicted. They hired a guy with no head coaching success as a panic move. Ted Ginn and John Beck followed as the first two picks of the draft. The 1-15 season was torture. I remember on numerous occasions when ESPN would let all journalistic integrity fall by the wayside and laugh at Miami's misfortunes.
So those are the worst moments of a tumultuous ten years, but as they say, whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Every moment of the 2008 season was that much sweeter due to the bitterness of 2007. It will be interesting to see where the future leads this franchise, but I am optimistic. If they can get through everything they experienced in the past decade, they can handle all hurdles that the new decade will present.