In 2009, the Dol-Fans' reality was set back after last year’s Cindarella team was not sought out by the prince and the glass slipper was never put back on to prove they were the one’s dancing at the ball last year. This year the Miami Dolphins went back to mediocrity and did not whip together any late season magic to keep midnight from coming, and the carriage from turning back into a pumpkin.
However, all that being said, there were a lot of positives. Don’t believe me? Then sit down and let me show you.
First and foremost, since the 62-7 shellacking the Dolphins took at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional playoffs back in 2000, Miami has been in desperate need of a quarterback. The 2009 season has finally allowed them to feel confident in a long-term plan at the most important position in football. I know Henne’s statistics were unimpressive (2878 yards, 12 touchdowns, 14 interceptions), but he gave the Dolphins a down-field passing threat that they have been without for so long now.Henne definitely gave fans, coaches, and teammate’s confidence that he will develop into a very fine looking NFL player, he just needs more reps.
Since Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison controlled the opposing team's airways in the early 2000's, Miami has been weak at the cornerback position and has relied on the likes of Will Allen and journeymen to shut down receivers like Randy Moss. In 2009, the Dolphins were able to contain high potent passing attacks with two rookies, Sean Smith and Vontae Davis (Indianapolis killed them with a healthy dose of Dallas Clark and th Saints got big contributions for Reggie Bush in their fourth-quarter comeback). These two rookies held their own with Smith leading the team in passes defended (12) and Davis leading the Dolphins in interceptions (4). Although, these two were not Champ Bailey and Ty Law or Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, they were serviceable in their first pro season.
Smith’s 6’3 stature and long limbs are going to help him contest jump balls and make up for losing a step or two on a receiver, while Davis' big-play ability and tackling will only improve when he learns how to pick up tendencies. Similar to Henne, the sky is the limit right now with these two.
Heading into week five, the best-ranked defense in the NFL called the Dolphins' patented Wildcat offense “a gimmick” just to have the Dolphins run it on them at will picking up five a clip. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams ran at will against Rex Ryan’s defense as if it wasn't there. MNF Analyst and SuperBowl winning coach Jon Gruden praised the Wildcat to the point where it sounded like he would return to the sidelines just so he could run it.
Unfortunately, Brown’s season ended prematurely and the Wildcat slowly found its way out of the Dolphins offensive strategy. However, they still played competitively with every team they faced and even won a few games. My point: the Dolphins proved they did not need “a gimmick” to compete with the rest of the NFL. This may not seem like a big deal, and really isn’t but does give a confidence boost to a team that is accused of relying on trick plays to beat its opponents.
Miami was also this close (imagine me holding my index finger and thumb about an inch apart) from winning a few more games and making the playoffs.
If Ted Ginn Jr. catches one of the two drops he had in the end zone against the Colts, they finish 8-8. If Ginn doesn’t tap the ball back to the Saints they don't return it for a touchdown and they might just go 9-7. If they don’t give Ricky Williams a pass attempt on the goal line against Buffalo they may finish 10-6. If they don’t poop the bed early against Tennessee, Houston, and Pittsburgh, maybe they go 11-5, 12-4, or 13-3.
Even though all of those "ifs" went against the Miami Dolphins and they finished a full four games worse than they did in 2008, that did not stop them from having positive outcomes during 2009.