Every year when the NFL season rolls around, every team has the same aspirations: a Super Bowl victory.
For most, this goal is not attainable and it is evident by the offseason moves that are created by the front office. Every year we can, on paper, dissect and breakdown the best rosters in the league and roughly determine what kind of success that team may accomplish.
While this isn’t an exact science, it is a pretty good tool in determining what teams might surprise, what teams improved and which teams are actually setup for a poor season while the rebuilding process begins.
Teams like the Patriots and Rams, the defending Super Bowl participants both improved on paper with the moves they made in the off-season. The Saints and Bears look to be in better position to make a late push, while the Chiefs and Chargers appear to do the same on the AFC side of the league.
But what is the formula of success for these teams? Why do the New England Patriots continue to be amongst the best in the league while teams like the Bills and Raiders appear to be in a lifetime rebuilding process?
I believe we can all agree it starts with a great front office and coaching staff. That’s generally the key to any team’s success. But where do you start from there? How do you go about making the right roster additions and subtractions to be able to build a winning team? For 2019, the team I’m most intrigued by is the Miami Dolphins.
Being in a division with the powerhouse Patriots is hard for any team in the NFL, but more so for the Dolphins, Jets and Bills. The pressure a lot of coaches face when they take on the assignment of taking over a team in the AFC East has to be on par with the pressures of being the President. Ok, that may be a little over the top, but in NFL terms, it has to be pretty close.
So, if you’re one of those three teams, how do you go about tackling the giant that is New England? Well, it starts at the top. The general manager and owner have to be on the same page. The general manger then has to hire a coach with similar goals and vision for the team. From there, it’s up to the general manger to gives the right players and tools to the head coach to succeed. From there, it’s the job of the head coach to develop those players to reach their potential or, in some cases, exceed their talent abilities and potential capabilities.
The Dolphins, in 2019, have turned over their roster, brought in a new coaching staff and have started the perennial rebuilding process essentially for teams struggling to win. They fired head coach Adam Gase in the off-season; Gase, who some questioned whether he deserved the position in the first place, was hired after a successful offensive coordinating stint in Denver that saw him coach an offense to two Super Bowls, one victory, with Peyton Manning at the helm.
Needless to say, Gase did not duplicate that success in Miami. General Manager Chris Grier, who became the general manager in 2016, turned his attention to a familiar foe: the New England Patriots. Grier, who spent time in the New England Patriots organization in the 90’s, brought in defensive coordinator Brian Flores to become the new head coach for the season. This move indicates that Grier understands that the philosophy surrounding the Miami organization needed to be changed in order to succeed; the 2018 Detroit Lions took a similar approach that didn’t yield the results they desired immediately.
After two straight losing seasons, Grier and the front office decided that not only was a coaching staff change needed but the roster needed maintenance, as well.
They needed a quarterback after Ryan Tannehill left the team, Matt Moore was let go and they didn’t roster a quarterback until April. After they offered a contract to New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater which he turned down in favor of returning to the Saints in a backup role for one year; they signed journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick, who had mild success in Tampa Bay in 2018, was allowed to walk away from the organization after the team, and new head coach Bruce Arians, committed to Jamies Winston. They got their quarterback, but Fitzpatrick is not a franchise guy. Speculation was strong that the Dolphins were interested in former Arizona Cardinals first-round pick Josh Rosen. During the second day of the draft, the Dolphins traded a second-round and fifth-round pick.
The Dolphins landed their franchise quarterback. Or did they? Fitzpatrick started the first game this year and the limited action Rosen saw was unimpressive.
Just before the season started, they traded left tackle Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills to the Houston Texans for two first-round picks and a second-round pick. Not to mention, that week one saw a roster with 33 new faces on the team, with only 22 returning players from the year before. The Dolphins are clearly rebuilding.
While head coach Brian Flores continually insists that the Dolphins are not tanking the season to get the first overall pick, the 59-10 drumming that the Ravens handed them in week one has sparked the question if Flores can be trusted with those comments.
Numerous Dolphin players contacted their agents after week one asking to be traded and the Dolphins front office granted rising safety Minkah Fitzpatrick permission to seek a trade partner.
The Dolphins have the assets to build for the future, it is the correct way to rebuild if you’re confident that you’re capable of building through the draft. While they may not necessarily be “tanking,” this team is in for a long season and a lot of lopsided losses. So far, the only mistake the Dolphins have made is not naming Josh Rosen their starter for the season. That should change by week three because they’re going to want to see what they have in the young man before committing to a rookie quarterback in 2020.
Will the “Patriot way” with Flores paired with a young team rebuilding and acquiring draft picks to build those cornerstones of this franchise proof successful? We’ll find out. It’s a proven method if you go about it correctly and the Dolphins are certainly headed in that direction.