It’s almost over, Dolphins nation.
Three more hours in Buffalo, and 2018 can be purged from your brains forever.
Three more hours and you won’t have to worry about the NFL’s 30th ranked offense and its 30th ranked defense.
You can forget all about the $7.9 million spent on Andre Branch. The $7.5 million spent on Josh Sitton. The one sack out of the Dolphins’ 2017 first-round draft pick. The 21 catches out of their 2018 second-round draft pick.
The collapses in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The no-shows in New England and Minnesota.
The exasperation of watching Matt Burke’s defense give up unprecedented chunks of yards and points. (Burke, whose seat is so hot it has combusted, said this week that he hasn’t stressed his future. “It’s part of what we do. It’s part of our profession, good or bad. It’s just kind of what we sign up for.”)
And you can forget about the injuries — oh, the many, many injuries. To Sitton and Albert Wilson and MarQueis Gray and William Hayes and Daniel Kilgore and Jakeem Grant and Xavien Howard and Vincent Taylor and Ryan Tannehill.
And yes, you can probably move on emotionally from Ryan Tannehill. All of those fan-on-fan fights over the last seven years will seem quaint in nine months, when Teddy Bridgewater or Joe Flacco or Nick Foles or some rookie is under center for Week 1.
Put simply, you can forget about this failed experiment, like you’ve probably forgotten about 2005 and 2010 and 2014 and countless others over this treadmill Dolphins century.
“We wanted to be competing for a championship and getting ready to go into the playoffs and obviously, that’s not where we’re at,” Tannehill said Wednesday, in what was likely his final midweek news conference as the Dolphins’ quarterback. “It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. A lot of emotions go into that, but we can’t stop and think about that at this point in time. We’ll have a chance to do that once we finish the season; but right now, we’re just focused on doing everything we can to get ready for Buffalo.”
Here’s the ugly truth: Nobody down here outside of Dolphins HQ is “ready for Buffalo.”
And all that’s generating any excitement is talk about who’s getting fired, and who’s replacing them.
We’re on to a whole other year.
But there’s a problem with that:
The Dolphins believe (or are at least telling themselves) that they have something to play for Sunday against the Bills.
Some might be artificial goals; Bobby McCain mentioned the importance of going 5-1 in the division.
Cameron Wake is just two sacks shy of 100 in his career. Wake would be just one of 33 players to reach that milestone in NFL history.
Kenyan Drake can become the first Dolphin with 500 rushing and 500 receiving yards in a season since Tony Nathan did in 1985. He needs eight yards on the ground and 75 through the air.
But those personal benchmarks are probably not enough to motivate an entire team that hates playing in the cold and has won in Buffalo just once in the last six years.
So it has been up to Adam Gase, whose job is probably safe but who really knows for sure, to condition all 53 to play Sunday like it matters. Because it might for him, and his staff.
“It’s the same mindset going into every week is you start fresh and your goal is to win one game,” Gase said. “Our goal is to go on the road and win a game and try to finish the right way in the division and overall record because 8-8 sounds a lot better than 7-9, I know that. Just like last year, 7-9 sounds a lot better than 6-10. We’re focused on that. I feel like the guys did a really good job at practice [Wednesday]. It was good to see them flying around and enjoy being out there. They just know it is the last week that this team will be together. It’ll never be the same.”
For that, if nothing else, Dolphins fans can be thankful.