There was this wonderfully ridiculous juxtaposition during the Debacle of the Disappearing Dolphins on Sunday.
The team’s cheerleaders incongruously were all smiles on the sideline, shaking pom-pons and hip-shimmying in red-velvet Santa outfits to a Hard Rock Stadium gone silent except for the booing. Ryan Tannehill’s intercepted pass returned for a touchdown late in the embarrassment of this 17-7 loss had ended Miami’s home finale and its last breath of any hope for a postseason.
The Grinch stole the playoffs.
He might also have stolen Tannehill’s Dolphins future on Sunday.
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And maybe coach Adam Gase’s job, too.
Change happens after losses like this one, to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, on top of losses like last week’s. It could be minor, like changing defensive coordinators. It could be much bigger. But something has to change around here. If owner Stephen Ross isn’t feeling it, then maybe that’s where the problem starts.
For the 15th time in the past 17 seasons your Miami Dolphins have failed to make the playoffs. Only two NFL teams have made the playoffs one fewer than the Fins’ two on this timeline, but at least those teams, the Browns and Bills, get to hang their hope on recent first-round quarterbacks they expect to be franchise-saviors.
For almost the past 20 years, since this club’s last playoff victory in 2000, we have the refrain of Sunday’s lockerroom post-mortem -- an endless series of rotating coaches and quarterbacks and players trying to explain why the Dolphins are not good enough.
“I can’t put my fingers on it right now,” said Tannehill on Sunday.
Can anybody around here? Ever?
When this long run of irrelevance and mediocrity started back when this century was new it was a forlorn Jason Taylor in the losing lockerroom, head under a white towel. It was Zach Thomas fighting anger or tears. Now it’s Cam Wake, asked Sunday if this is a player issue or a coaching issue, and saying:
“It’s a Dolphins issue.”
One unsolved, from Jay Fiedler to Tannehill with about a dozen starting quarterback in between.
Dolphins coaches since Dave Wannstedt was the time one to win in the postseason: Nick Saban, Cam Cameon, Tony Sparano, Joe Philbin, Gase, three interim guys and a partridge in a pear tree.,
And still no answers.
It took a Miami Miracle against New England two weeks ago to create the illusion of playoff hope, but what followed was no-mentum.
Last week’s 41-17 loss at Minnesota was a no-show by the Dolphins.
Sunday was worse, a dud of a home performance by a Fins squad that had been 7-1 at The Rock this season, and a Jags team that was 1-5 on the road.
“The offense was awful,” Gase said with laudable candor. “Brutal to watch.”
Tannehill? He failed to outplay or outscore the NFL’s worst QB combo in Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler.
“Today was a rough day for [Tannehill],” admitted Gase.
The late pick-6 was a killer.
“I should have just thrown the ball away,” said Tannehill. “I’ve just to be smart there.”
The head coach might survive this. The number of players lost to injuries has been extraordinary. You could argue Miami’s current 7-8 record amounts to overachieving. But Tannehill’s future here for me is shakier as his contract kicks into the stratosphere next season. Miami is long overdue needing to high-draft a quarterback able to be the future. Fins haven’t had one since Dan Marino. Tannehill has spent seven seasons falling short.
The Dolphins have failed to generate 200 yards of offense in three of the past four games. That’s unheard of. Two-hundred is such a a low bar in the high-octane NFL. Sunday that came against a 4-10 Jags team that might be the leagues’ biggest disappointment.
“They just dominated us up front, and holes were closing up quick,” Gase said. “And penalties crushed us. We could not get in any kind of rhythm.”
A team playing its 15th game, at home,. with a veteran QB, failing again to find its rhythm. Excuses don’t solve that. Change does.
There have been games the Dolphins offense was solid but the defense collapsed. Sunday, “The defense played great, but on the offensive side of the ball we just didn’t get the job done,” admitted running back Kenyan Drake.
It was another game -- another season -- with a schizoid Dolphins team that is rarely great at once, all over the field.
Almost 20 years of almost uninterrupted mediocrity means the problem is systemic, But in the NFL you always know where to begin
You start with a great quarterback, and a head coach who has the answers or knows how to find them.
Stephen Ross needs to decide if he has either of those men moving forward.