Miami Dolphins: Gut Check Time

Danny DolphinAnalyst INovember 23, 2010

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 14:  Running Back Ronnie Brown #23 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates a touchdown with teammate Anthony Fasano #80 against the Tennessee Titans at Sun Life Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

The Dolphins don’t have much going for them these days.

They’re the epitome of mediocrity at 5-5. They’ve lost their top two quarterbacks to injury. Their starting left tackle, the best in football, has a nagging shoulder injury. Their top receiver’s status is in doubt after suffering a hamstring injury during last week’s disaster 16-0 loss against the Bears at home.

As if that were not enough, they are fighting for a playoff spot with teams that have superior advantages down the stretch. Two of those teams are the Steelers and Ravens, who are both have two games up on Miami. Both teams also beat Miami, meaning they would hold any tie-breaker advantage. Essentially, the Fins are three games back.

The other two teams are the division foes in the Jets and Patriots, who each have a share of the NFL’s best record at 8-2. Both have beat Miami in Miami. The Dolphins will travel to New York (Dec 12) and New England (Jan 2) in the heart of winter and must find a way to win one of the two.

It’s clear a ton would have to happen for Miami to make the playoffs this year. There’s no question—barring some bizarre things happening over the season’s final two months— that they would have to win five of the six games remaining.

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

Yes, albeit a slim one, they can still make the playoffs.

The following needs to happen:

  1. An identity on offense must be established. They say they’re a running team, yet last week the backs ran the ball seven times. Which is it? There’s no excuse about the injuries on the offensive line, because it’s easier to run-block than pass-block. It’s time to build some sort of consistency on offense.
  2. Key players must get healthy, and fast. Jake Long is a tough SOB. But it’s clear he is not 100 percent. Brandon Marshall is banged up, and without him this offense goes from dull to nonexistent—although some might argue it already is. For Chad Henne (when he returns) or Tyler Thigpen, they need those two men around them. I am confident we could win with either quarterback.
  3. Mental toughness. It’s easy for a team to sit back and say, “You know what? This isn’t our year. There are too many injuries”. However, the strong teams go the route of win at whatever cost. Injuries are a part of the game. Every team has them. It’s about other players stepping up when the opportunity presents itself.
  4. Creativity. Remember two years ago when Miami went 11-5 and made the playoffs a year after going 1-15? On both sides of the ball they lacked elite talent. There were no big-time playmakers. They won because they were disciplined and the coaches created ways for them to be successful. It’s time to develop some unique schemes to give this team an edge, especially on offense. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning still hasn’t found the best way to utilize his personell. At week twelve in the season that is no longer acceptable. It’s time for some razzle-dazzle type plays to get chunk yardage down the field.
  5. Luck. You can say Miami controls their own destiny, but really they don’t. It’s unrealistic to expect this team to win out or even lose one. They are going to need some help. One team among the Jets, Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers is going to have to fall apart because it’s impossible for Miami to make it if those four teams are in the playoffs.

The Dolphins face the Raiders this week in Oakland and both teams are coming off bad losses.

It’s time for this football team to step back, take a look in the mirror, and decide who they want to be. They can either shut down and accept mediocrity or step up and fight.

I’m betting on the latter.