Perhaps the Dolphins should be grateful former Miami Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris didn’t end up on an NFL roster this season.
As it was, the Dolphins went 0 for 3 this year against quarterbacks who played their high school ball in South Florida. Previously, the Dolphins lost twice to the Buffalo Bills and Thad Lewis, who played at Hialeah-Miami Lakes.
And on Sunday, New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith — who prepped at nearby Miramar High — delivered the final blow to Miami’s season with a 20-7 win at Sun Life Stadium.
“It’s been a blessed and great day for all of us,” Smith said, referring to not only the victory but also the news that popular Jets coach Rex Ryan would return next season.
“It was a jubilant locker room. Everyone was ecstatic, grabbing one another, jumping around. You would have thought we won the Super Bowl.”
That didn’t happen, but the Jets kept their rivals, the Dolphins, out of the playoffs.
Ironically, the Dolphins dominated Smith at the Jets on Dec. 1, winning 23-3. Smith was held to 29 yards passing and two rushing before being benched in favor of Chris Simms, an even-more-untested quarterback.
“After the benching, I had to dig deep,” Smith said. “It’s the first time I’ve [been benched] in my life. I didn’t like it, but it’s part of the decision making and coaching, so I had to continue to believe in myself.”
One of the adjustments Smith made since the benching was running the ball more.
In the past four games, Smith has rushed for at least 44 yards each time out. The results have been startling: a 3-1 record and just two interceptions with no fumbles.
In the previous 12 games, Smith had a 5-7 record, 19 interceptions and eight fumbles, including four that the Jets lost.
And of his 366 yards rushing this season, 186 have come in the past four weeks.
“[Jets coaches] have been telling me [to run] all year,” Smith said. “But early on, I was so focused on my reads and trying to see the defense and figuring things out that I didn’t play the game.”
Smith scored the winning touchdown Sunday — a 7-yard run with three seconds left in the first half. Smith scrambled slightly to his right before turning upfield and finding some sturdy opposition in Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
That’s when Jets running back Bilal Powell made one of the most-underrated plays of the day, pushing Smith from behind and allowing his quarterback to crash into the end zone.
“I was really struggling right there with that linebacker,” Smith said. “It was very smart on [Powell’s] behalf to give me that extra push.”
Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler noticed a change in Smith’s game on Sunday.
“He ran the ball a little more,” Wheeler said. “They changed their game plan a little bit. They did a good job.”
Smith finished Sunday with 17 completions in 27 attempts for 190 yards. It was his second straight game without a turnover, a remarkable stat given that he had lost the ball 25 times in his first 14 games.
As for playing so close to home, Smith said it was not a big deal.
Smith may be a rookie, but he oozes the confidence of a veteran.
“It was the same,” Smith said. “It’s still a game. I’ve been playing in Florida my entire life, so it’s no different.”