The season’s quarter-pole is a time for self-reflection, particularly when it syncs up with the bye.
And Dolphins coach Brian Flores, to his credit, was candid Monday about what he saw in the mirror after four games.
He saw a team that probably was not ready for the start of the season after adding a dozen or so players in the 10 days before the opener.
“We made a lot of changes to the roster, kind of building the team on the fly in a lot of ways, but we’re not going to make excuses about that,” Flores said.
He saw a team that, despite making progress on the margins over the past two weeks, still is not nearly good enough.
“‘Trending the right way’ — I don’t know if that’s the phrase I would use,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is a production business. It’s about wins and losses, and we’re not doing very well in that department.”
But does he see what the computers see — the worst team in the NFL, by a healthy margin?
Such sweeping generalizations are fun for talk radio, but in the real world they are usually hard to prove.
But in two weeks, we might get the chance.
Heading into Monday night’s game between 0-3 Pittsburgh and 0-3 Cincinnati, there were seven winless teams left in the NFL.
Odds are close to 100 percent that one of those seven teams will finish with the league’s worst record.
And the game that could decide it is just around the corner.
The Dolphins and Redskins play at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 13.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Redskins are the league’s No. 31 team. The Dolphins are No. 32.
So in a perverse way, this might be the most important regular-season game in a decade for the Dolphins. For the Dolphins, it could be the difference between having Tua, and not having Tua.
(To be clear, there’s no way a Week 6 regular-season game has more significance than the team’s 2016 playoff game, or any playoff game, for that matter.)
In other words, it’s Tua Bowl I, with sequels potentially to come against the Jets and Bengals.
If the Dolphins win, their margin for error (or more accurately, success) all but vanishes when it comes to securing the No. 1 pick, which most agree should be the top priority from here on out.
While they can’t mathematically be eliminated from the postseason for at least another month and a half, Football Outsiders gives the Dolphins literally no chance of making the playoffs. The analytics website ran 25,000 simulations of the rest of the season, and found that the Dolphins qualified for the postseason 0.0 percent of the time.
If the season ended after Sunday’s game (yes, we know it did not), the Dolphins would own the No. 1 pick, finishing “ahead” of the other two 0-4 teams — the Redskins and Broncos — by virtue of their strength of schedule.
Football Outsiders thinks they’ll end the year in the same spot. It projects the Dolphins will win 2.2 games, or half as many as the Redskins, Bengals and Broncos, who in this virtual reality would be fighting it out for the No. 2 pick.
But that’s assuming the Redskins win in two weeks. If they don’t, the Dolphins might not be able to afford another win the rest of the season and still end up with the No. 1 pick.
The good news for nervous fans: the Redskins are, at least on paper, substantially better than the Dolphins.
How much better? ESPN’s FPI says the Redskins are closer in team strength to being a top 10 team than they are to being as bad as the Dolphins.
The Dolphins, of course, will not (and should not) entertain any of this nonsense —at least publicly — now or at any point until New Year’s Eve. Flores wants to build a team and develop the players he has, not worry about ones he might draft in seven months.
“I think there’s some individual improvement, some improvement within groups, improvement for a half, good play for a half; but it’s a 60-minute ballgame, and we’ve got to find a way to put a 60-minute game together — not a 30-minute game, not a 40-minute game, not a 10-minute game,” Flores said. “A 60-minute game. That’s where our focus will be.”