Greg Cote

Here’s why woeful Dolphins-Redskins matchup of winless teams is not must-lose for Miami | Opinion

It is an even 200 days until the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, or, as Miami Dolphins fans call it, “A reason to live.” Excitement is building. In South Florida, what we are feeling is akin to playoff fever — except the exact opposite. Losses stack up before us like chips at a poker table.

Now the Hunt For April ratchets up.

It is Winless Week in Miami, the official kickoff of the Tua Tournament. Redskins at Dolphins on Sunday — the Battle of the Beatens — is the first of six direct matchups this season between what are currently the NFL’s four remaining winless teams.

Washington just fired coach Jay Gruden, isn’t sure who its quarterback is, and is a fully engulfed dumpster fire at 0-5 — yet is an early 3 1/2-point road favorite over an 0-4 Miami team coming off a bye week. Which speaks not to any glimmer of light in the Skins tunnel, but to the abject black hole that is this Fins season.

Picking a team to win a Redskins-Dolphins game is likely choosing whether to wear underwear made of sandpaper or burlap.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores, asked on Monday how an opponent’s coaching change affects his preparation, replied: “We’re just going to go about our business as we normally do..”

A cheer might have erupted had Dolfans been in the room. “Keep Doing What You’re Doing — Losing!” might as well be the official team slogan moving forward.

Be careful up in the owner’s suite Sunday at Hard Rock, Stephen Ross. Don’t let the TV cameras catch you discreetly fist-bumping anybody should the Redskins score first.

Seasons don’t get much weirder than this one. Poor Flores, of the Bill Belichick/Patriots upbringing and professional DNA, is sworn to keep preaching how he’s trying to win every game — even as ample evidence suggests Miami winning any game could be a stretch, and most of his own fans likely would prefer he not.

Questions put to Flores about a winless opponent see the coach as a fencer deftly parrying a saber’s thrust.

“My focus is on practice today,” he said Monday, media blade deflected.

The whole point of this season is to win. But not to win a game, necessarily — rather to win the overall No. 1 draft pick and the guarantee of landing top prize Tua Tagovailoa, the Alabama quarterback. Anything else would be a colossal disappointment. Oregon’s Justin Herbert is the only other QB who qualifies as maybe an acceptable consolation.

Miami’s talent fire sale in the name of blatant tanking means the Fins will have three first-round draft picks in ‘20, and all could be in the top 20. But only the first one can solve the fundamental issue that has made this franchise largely irrelevant ever since Dan Marino retired, the last playoff win coming in 2000.

We know the answer must be Tua, because we know its surely isn’t Josh Rosen. A quarter of a season has been enough to show that. Rosen’s 51.2 percent completion percentage and 57.7 passer rating rank 34th and 34th of 34 qualifying passers.

Those numbers say much about a poor surrounding cast, yes. But they say even more about this young man’s inability to lift that cast or manage to shine despite it.

Astute readers know that I’m all for the Tanking For Tua. After decades of wheel-spinning it is the boldest, most forward-looking thing this franchise has done in a long while.

But way too much is being made of the idea Miami could go 0-16, or might have to to get the top pick.

No, and no.

The chances of 0-16 are slight. After the Redskins, Miami plays the winless Jets twice and the winless Bengals. At least a couple of other games surely will turn up as reasonably winnable.

The thing is, Miami likely won’t need the top pick to get Tua — and if it does, those two other first-round picks provide the NFL’s best arsenal for a trade-up if needed.

Tua might not require the overall No. 1 pick because, through luck and years of poor planning, Miami looks like it will be the last bad team standing that still desperately needs a franchise quarterback.

The Redskins spent a first-round pick last year on Dwyane Haskins.

The Jets spent the third-overall pick in 2018 on Sam Darnold.

The Bengals are the biggest Tua threat of the remaining winless teams, but, as of now, Cincinnati sees ‘19 draft pick Ryan Finely as heir to Andy Dalton.

The Broncos at 1-4, you say? Denver, not as awful, spent a second-round pick on Drew Lock last spring.

So Miami might not end up having real competition for Tagovailoa among the teams likeliest to have a chance at him, even if the Dolphins were to somehow slip up and inadvertently win a game or two.

You know what that means, right?

Yes, Dolfans, you can cheer for your team on Sunday — guilt-free!

Because Redskins-Dolphins is not must-lose.

See, Miami’s tanking appears well-orchestrated and well-positioned enough to survive even the ultimate threat: a victory.

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