The Dolphins and their Week 11 opponent, the Buccaneers, are a lot alike.
They both have second-year coaches — Adam Gase and Dirk Koetter — who were both on the Dolphins’ list of candidates for Miami’s opening in 2016. (Dolphins football czar Mike Tannebaum was once Koetter’s agent.)
They both are having rough years — the Dolphins, losers of three straight, are 4-5; the Buccaneers lost six of their first eight before beating the Jets on Sunday.
Both will start backups Sunday — Ryan Fitzpatrick for Tampa Bay, Jay Cutler for Miami.
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They both think highly of Brent Grimes — and have dealt with controversies created by his shoot-from-the-hip spouse.
And they are both about to learn what life is like in the NFL without a midseason bye.
The football bill from Hurricane Irma comes due Sunday, and both the Dolphins and Bucs will be paying it off for the rest of the season.
This was supposed to be an off-week for both teams; that changed when the Category 4 storm made landfall in the Lower Keys the day the Dolphins and Buccaneers were supposed to open their seasons.
The game had no chance of being played in South Florida. But both teams hoped it could be moved to another venue; the league determined that unfeasible and instead postponed it to Nov. 19, when — serendipitously — each team had its scheduled bye.
Koetter, speaking with the Miami Herald Wednesday, declined to say how close the game was to being moved, but did weigh in on the toll the league’s decision will take on his team, and Gase’s.
“Well, you don’t really know that, because this is the week we would have the bye, right?” Koetter said. “You don’t know the ramifications until you get here. I’m sure both teams, with the number of games we played and the number of guys both teams have banged up, I’m sure both teams would prefer to have a few days off. That’s just not the hand we were dealt. The Dolphins have the added inconvenience of coming off a Monday night game.”
An real-life example of how Tampa Bay has been put out: Koetter has already ruled out quarterback Jameis Winston for Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. Winston was healthy and would have played against the Dolphins if the game had been held in Week 1.
Instead, it will be an old Dolphins adversary under center Sunday: Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Bucs signed the veteran quarterback in the offseason, a contingency plan for just this situation. This will be Fitzpatrick’s 11th start against the Dolphins, but just his first out of division. He played for the Bills from 2009-2012 and spent the last two seasons with the Jets.
Fitzpatrick is 5-5 as a starter against Miami. His career stats: 180 of 303 for 2,122 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions (good for a passer rating of 77.5).
So why Fitzpatrick?
“Experience, No. 1, and I’ve kind of admired Ryan from afar for several years,” Koetter said. “We thought he would be really good with Jameis in the quarterback room. Also, we wanted him to provide competition for our backup role with Ryan Griffin and we knew he was an extremely smart guy, the mixture of experience and intelligence and production, that’s hard to replicate with a young guy.”
But if the Buccaneers win Sunday, it will probably be because of their defense. They allowed just 10 points against the Jets Sunday, due in no small part to Grimes, who had an interception in his first game back from a shoulder injury.
“Brent’s a fantastic player,” Koetter said. “You guys already know that. We had him in Atlanta before he came to Miami. Brent’s just one of those guys that defies age. A fantastic, freakish athletic ability. His spring, his timing, his ball skills. To be honest, he doesn’t get a lot of balls his way. That’s why our other corner a year ago led the league in targets, because people throw away from Brent a lot.”
And as for his incendiary wife, Miko, who seems to create national controversy on a yearly basis? Koetter wanted nothing to do with that topic during Wednesday’s out-of-town conference call.