It’s been 41 years since the Miami Dolphins completed their undefeated season with a Super Bowl VII win. It’s been 40 years since the Dolphins last won a Super Bowl. It’s been 20 years since the Dolphins last played in a Super Bowl, a 38-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
I know, there’s no need to rub salt in the wounds, Dolphins fans know full well how long it’s been since their beloved team has won a Super Bowl. The consolation prize? That drought is not unique to the Dolphins.
The New York Jets have not won a Super Bowl since 1969, a 45 year drought (smiles from ear to ear). That drought looks to continue for some time as Geno Smith continues to develop, and the vaunted Jets’ defense becomes less vaunted every year.
While Rex Ryan did a better than expected job this season to finish 8-8, the Jets have a long way to go to make it back to the big game, a longer way than the Dolphins.
The Kansas City Chiefs have not won a Super Bowl since 1970, a 44 year drought. The Chiefs are a different story than the Jets. The team finished 11-5 in 2013, and made a playoff appearance. With 8 pro bowlers, and stars like Jamaal Charles, Justin Houston, and Tamba Hali, the Chiefs are probably the closest to a Super Bowl of any of the 40 year drought club.
That brings is to the Dolphins, who’s 40 year Super Bowl drought is 10 years longer than 4th the 4th place Oakland Raiders. The question I have on this Super Bowl Sunday which once again does not feature my Dolphins, is what will it take to end this drought? It seems like a loaded question, but the building blocks are in place to have a contender in Miami.
There are 5 things that all winning teams do, and some of these things will take more work for the Dolphins than others, but this formula could help Miami reach the Promised Land. At this point, I think the entire Dolphins’ fan base would be happy with just a playoff win, let alone a Super Bowl win.
The Dolphins MUST begin to draft better consistently. Dolphins’ rookies played the fewest snaps in the NFL this season. The headliner of the draft class was Dion Jordan, who to the chagrin of Dolphins’ fans, served primarily as a 3rd down pass rusher, with Dolphins coaches citing his inability to play against the run. Seems like a reach to trade up to number 3 to draft an outside linebacker who can’t play the run. The Dolphins 2nd an 3rd round picks, cornerbacks Will Davis and Jamar Taylor, barely saw the field due to injury and inability, and the rest of the Dolphins draft class spent most of the season on the sidelines. The last really good Dolphins’ draft pick I can recall is Mike Pouncey in 2011. Pouncey was a Pro Bowl Starter in 2014, and is widely regarded as one of the top Centers in the NFL. One draft in particular almost assured the Dolphins’ Super Bowl drought would continue for quite some time. The 2007 draft that saw the Dolphins select Ted Ginn 7th overall, and Jon Beck in the second round set this team back 10 years. Players like Patrick Willis and Darelle Revis were selected just a few picks after Ginn, who has been to 2 different teams since the Dolphins drafted him. Its misses and miscues like this that create Super Bowl futility.
The next step in the formula is to improve on the offensive line. The teams playing in Super Bowl 48 on Sunday boast two of the best offensive lines in football. The Seahawks lead the NFL in rushing, and the Broncos offensive line has allowed just 18 sacks in 2014, FORTY fewer than the Dolphins’ offensive line. Expect the Dolphins to spend at least their first round pick on an offensive lineman, and make a hard push to sign a free agent tackle like Brandon Albert, who, if Jeff Ireland had been fired when he should have, would be a Dolphin as we speak. As you watch the Super Bowl, imagine Ryan Tannehill with the amount of time Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson have in the pocket to throw. Looks good doesn’t it?
Hand in hand with the offensive line is the running game. The Dolphins rushed for a measly 90 yards per game, with now fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman totally abandoning the run at times. Granted, it is difficult to run with a poor offensive line, but the Dolphins’ run game suffers from more than just poor blocking. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are not the answer at the running back position, plain and simple. While Miller’s athleticism and speed are impressive, his vision is poor, and his physicality isn’t much better. Thomas has the physical running nature, but is slower than most running backs, and lacks the big play ability a team needs in running back. Reggie Bush had big play ability to spare, but that’s a conversation for another day. Again, expect the Dolphins to look to fix the running back position through the draft and free agency.
A week ago I wrote about what must be done to fix the Dolphins run defense. The Dolphins front seven was supposed to be their strong suite. But with players like Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler playing out of position all season, and Paul Soliai struggling, the Dolphins’ run defense allowed 124 yard per game on the ground. The Dolphins must resign either Starks or Soliai. I prefer Starks to Soliai. Starks was rated at Pro Football Focus’s 7th best defensive tackle, and while Soliai is a run stuffer, Starks is the more versatile player. Whomever Miami decides to resign, they will be retaining a solid interior defensive lineman to bolster their run defense, something both Denver, and especially Seattle have.
Lastly, Ryan Tannehill needs to continue making strides. Tannehill improved in nearly every category in his 2nd NFL season. The Dolphins signal caller threw for more yards, and touchdowns, completed a higher percentage of his passes, and improved his TD-INT ratio from essentially 1:1 in 2013 to 1.5:1, give or take a decimal or two. His passer rating rose from 76.1 to 81.7, and anybody was able to see that he looked much more comfortable in his second season. Mike Sherman’s offense held Tannehill back all season. Play calling was poor, and Tannehill was never really put in the right spot to succeed in 2013. While some of it is his fault, like missing on countless deep balls to Mike Wallace, if Bill Lazor can do with Tannehill some of what he did with Nick Foles, the future is bright for the Miami Dolphins. While Tannehill certainly isn’t going to be Peyton Manning, I think he has a similar skill set to Russell Wilson, who didn’t have all that great of a season keep in mind, but made the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl.
There you have it, the formula to get back to a Super Bowl. Follow these steps Dolphins and it won’t be another 40 years until you hoist a Lombardi trophy.
You’ll notice I omitted anything on Joe Philbin. I wanted to be done writing, and you be done reading before the game started tonight. Enjoy the Super Bowl, and Go Dolphins!
Follow me on Twitter @Cover32_Shane.