Everything has aligned beautifully for the Miami Dolphins. The setup could not be more perfect. We saw it as the 2019 NFL schedule rolled out Wednesday night.
This is where I might be writing how the Fins will be better than expected against a friendly schedule, and be a playoff contender, and...
The opposite is true. There might be four wins, maybe five, to be realistically squeezed from a schedule that starts off tough and never lets up. The playoffs are beyond the realm of plausibility. But something more important is out there, looming bigger than ever, closer than ever:
No overt “tanking” required. Not against this schedule. The normal course of things should be enough to see Miami with the league’s worst record in 2019 and secure the overall No. 1 pick in the watershed 2020 draft.
You can expect the Dolphins to also take a quarterback in next week’s ‘19 draft, though maybe not in the first round. But it is a year from now when the grand prize will be ripe for Miami’s picking unless they blow it and ruin everything by being unexpectedly competitive and getting back onto the familiar 7-9 treadmill.
Even if Miami took a first-round QB next week (say, Missouri’s Drew Lock), Tagovailoa still would loom as the overarching grand prize.
Optimism, the idea that,”They can’t possibly be that bad,” comes naturally for most of us. Hope is free. But it also has teeth. It bites, Says, “I told you so.”
The Dolphins might very well be better than expected, yes, but in this case that would be too bad. A very weird season approaches, maybe one unlike any other. It’s a season that will challenge Dolfans whose every fiber is to cheer for a win, but who know that, in 2019, losing is the more direct, smarter path in the broad view.
New coach Brian Flores can make an I-bit-a-lemon face when the notion of “tanking” is presented to him. That’s expected. He’s a professional coach. He’s playing to win yada yada yada. But is he in this case? Better question: Should he be?
Tagovailoa, Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner, is a generational talent by all advertisement and evidence, an electrifying two-way threat who would be the answer Miami has been looking for ever since Dan Marino left us 20 years ago.
Miami is the favored horse, and on the inside rail, in the Grade 1 Tua Stakes.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has Miami’s betting over/under at five wins, tied with Arizona for the worst in the NFL. But The Cardinals own next week’s No. 1 overall pick (to Miami’s 13th), and figure to select quarterback Kyler Murray. If that happens, he will either make the Cards good fast, or mean Arizona wouldn’t be in the market for a QB in ‘20.
Dolfans should hope the Cardinals take Murray next week. It would eliminate Miami’s chief competition for Tagovailoa in 2020.
ESPN came out with projected records on Thursday and put Miami at 4-12, alone on the league’s bottom rung. Arizona was at 5-11, and the New York Giants at 6-10. The Giants are rumored to strongly be considering QB Dwayne Haskins with the No. 6 overall pick next week. High-five somebody, Dolfans, if NYG takes Haskins, because it would eliminated Miami’s other big threat for Tagovailoa.
Interestingly, the Dolphins have late-season games at the Giants on Dec. 15 and vs. Cincinnati (also expected to be bad) on Dec. 22. So while the top half of the league is jockeying for playoff tickets, Miami could be jockeying for the No. 1 draft pick.
Miami closes the regular season at New England on Dec. 29, typically a sure loss for the Fins. But what if the Pats already have secured their playoff position and rested Tom Brady and others? The Fins could be at risk of winning! And blowing everything!
There is intrigue in losing, too. The draft system does that. And when the QB need is as acute as Miami’s, and a player as great as Taglovailao is the prize, the whole season is turned upside down and the bottom of the standings is what you watch..
There are little pockets of intrigue on the schedule.
Flores faces his ex-team and his mentor, Bill Belichick, twice. The Dolphins face the Jets and former coach Adam Gase twice. Miami also faces former receiver Jarvis Landry and Cleveland, which has been kind enough to get good and erase one of the bottom-feeders that would otherwise be a Miami rival for that No. 1 pick in 2020.
So it is laying out perfectly, and the choice is simple.
Winning vs. Tua Tagovailoa.
Can’t have both.
Choose one, Miami.