If Cameron Wake went to bed early Sunday, as he says he often does, then he’s going to have quite a lot to celebrate when he wakes up Monday morning.
One of the longest tenured Dolphins and perhaps still the team’s best player even as he pushes 35 years old, is going to the playoffs. For the first time.
Wake joined the Dolphins in 2009 -- too late to go on the improbable 2008 worst-to-first ride, but just in time for the ensuing years of Dolphins misery.
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No more. The Dolphins, 1-4 in early October, clinched their first playoff spot in eight seasons on Christmas night when the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos, eliminating Denver from the postseason chase.
The Dolphins are the AFC’s sixth and final seed today. That can change through the right number or circumstances to where the Dolphins might move up to the No. 5 seed. I wouldn’t bet on that happening.
The most likely scenario is the Dolphins will play at the Pittsburgh Steelers, the AFC’s No. 3 seed, on the weekend of Jan. 7-8. The schedule will be released when the seeding is finalized.
And, I know, there are cynics out there who don’t think the Dolphins belong.
Count NBC analyst Rodney Harrison among those. He said some very nice things about Dolphins coach Adam Gase on national TV Sunday night. But in the same breath he also took a swipe at Gase’s team.
“I think Adam Gase should be the coach of the year,” Harrison said. “He’s done a phenomenal job turning that organization around. But I don’t see the Dolphins being able to play with anyone in the playoffs except Houston.”
I guess Harrison forgets the Dolphins already played with the Pittsburgh Steelers this year. And the Dolphins beat the Pittsburgh Steelers this year. That happened on October 16. The Dolphin didn’t just beat the Steelers, they kicked their tails.
The 30-15 whipping featured the Dolphins knocking Ben Roethlisberger out of the game and Jay Ajayi rushing for 204 yards on 25 carries.
Oh, yeah, that’s when Ajayi was hot and the Dolphins’ offensive line was healthy, right Rodney?
Well, Ajayi just carried the mail for 206 yards on 32 carries against the Buffalo Bills a mere two days ago. Facts, you see, are stubborn things.
They sometimes get in the way of a national analyst’s narrative.
Speaking of facts ... The fact is Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is making progress as he tries to get back on the field after partially tearing his left ACL and MCL a couple of weeks ago against Arizona. Matt Moore has started two games in Tannehill’s place and I expect the Dolphins qualifying for the playoffs means Moore will start on Sunday in the regular-season finale against New England.
I cannot see the Dolphins, who are extremely conservative, risking Tannehill against New England even if he was able to play -- which, by the way, there is zero certainty he could.
With the Dolphins season extending at least one more week, I do think Tannehill will push to be ready for that playoff game. He wants to play. The team has kept him on the roster with the hope he might be able to return this season.
The postseason is the perfect time for that return if all checks out.
Again, please recall that everything must check out. Tannehill is not on the precipice of being healthy. Not even close. But in two weeks? With a brace over that left knee? With his team in the playoffs?
The conversation about playing Tannehill in that game will definitely start taking place late this week -- maybe Saturdayish.
Next, it must be said that Stephen Ross’s Dolphins have never been in the playoffs all the years he’s been the primary owner. He was minority owner in 2008 and took over in 2009.
He’s fired a couple of coaches, fired a couple of general managers and missed on the hiring of a handful of guys to fill those vacancies over the years. He got it right with Gase this year.
Ross is going to the playoffs. The Dolphins are going to the playoffs.
Finally, I wish to congratulate Dolphins fans all around the world -- in South Florida, Nebraska, New York, Mexico, Canada, Haiti, Alaska and other parts not mentioned. I hear from you all the time.
Mostly you write to vent. To complain. To cry on my shoulder.
I’ve heard your cries and complaints and insecurities about your team for years and years. And now you get a much deserved reward for that misery and loyalty.
Your team is good enough to make the postseason. Enjoy it, no matter the outcome. This postseason is not the end of this season.
It seems more like the start of a grand future.
Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero