The Miami Dolphins continued their hotly debated march toward 0-16, but it was not without at least trying to tilt against the windmills.
And that, as much as anything, may have earned coach Brian Flores some much-needed respect from his players. On Sunday, Flores went against the script the Dolphins have been living this season by trying to win. The fact the Dolphins fell to 0-5 with a 17-16 loss to previously winless Washington is just a footnote.
But the fact is most of the country had been mocking Flores every time he said that he was playing to win games. Flores is a nice enough man, so no one openly called him a liar. Rather, he was something of a rube in the not-so-grand plan the Dolphins developed to get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft and, presumably, the rights to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagavailoa.
The bigger issue for Flores was whether he would ever have a chance to survive this process. One of the unspoken issues in the NFL is that players tune out coaches who they don’t believe can help them. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s reality.
Flores can flash all the Super Bowl rings he won during his time in New England. That only lasts so long when your team is winless.
Eventually, players stop listening. They think about ways to preserve their jobs by trying to make a play or do something that will “flash” for either the next coach of the team or will impress some other team. Sure, most of the players from this season will be gone by the time the team becomes good (if it becomes good).
Still, losing like this can linger. Some people, such as Jimmy Johnson, survive it.
Some, like Rod Marinelli or Hue Jackson, don’t. Even the excuse that the team is trying to rebuild is not enough to convince players to stay with the program when they don’t believe in the program.
But Sunday was a chance to Flores to prove he was doing something more than just picking up a check until the team is ready to get serious again. Down 17-3, Flores benched the ineffective Josh Rosen for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In the “Tank For Tua” playbook, going with Fitzpatrick and trying to win isn’t really a high priority. Flores did it and Fitzpatrick responded with a great quarter, rallying the Dolphins to two touchdowns and getting them within one point on a touchdown pass to Davante Parker with six seconds remaining.
From a strategic standpoint, the next move is debatable. Most people believe you play for the tie at home and hope for the best in overtime, assuming that being home is an advantage. But for the Dolphins, playing the odds sort of misses the point.
This is a terrible team with no real future. Just winning a game and avoiding football’s version of the scarlet letter of 0-16 will be a major accomplishment for this group.
So Flores went for it with a pass from Fitzpatrick to Kenyan Drake that fell incomplete. As play designs go this was questionable. Drake was running directly into the pass, speeding up the short throw as if he was trying to hit a fastball from 55 feet instead of 60.
Drake was also coming back into traffic in the middle of the field and probably wouldn’t have scored even if he caught it.
But that misses the point. Instead of laying down in a moment when the Dolphins had a chance and continuing the theory of tanking, Flores looked for a chance to win.
No longer can players on the Dolphins – and, more importantly, around the league – look at Flores and think, “This dude was OK with losing.”
That may not ultimately be enough for Flores to survive what he’s up against in going through this process.
But, it’s at least something.
Dolphins were back to their bumbling ways Sunday
As the Dolphins came back down to earth in a humbling 37 – 20 loss to Buffalo Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, many of the same flaws from their 0- 7 start were back.
Although Ryan Fitzpatrick ended with good numbers and did not throw an interception, Miami lacked offensive punch from the outset.
Miami punted the ball on each of their first four possessions and by the time they had reached the middle of the second quarter, it was already 16 – 0 in favor of the Bills.
The Dolphins could not run the ball as Kalen Ballage had nine carries for only nine yards against what’s a good but not great Buffalo defense. Newly extended receiver Allen Hurns promptly fumbled after a first half reception.
It looked all too familiar to the home fans.
The pass protection was poor as Fitzpatrick suffered seven sacks in the game, and Miami was completely one-dimensional by the time the second half rolled around. Fitzpatrick was efficient in the air at 32 – 45 for 323 yards, but a lot of those yards came when the Dolphins trailed by more than two scores the whole second half.
As for the Bills, they ran the ball just fine with 168 yards on the ground and a 5 yard per carry average. Rookie Devin Singletary of FAU came back to the area and tallied 75 yards. And second year QB Josh Allen showed one of the traits that got him drafted in the top 15, as he scrambled seven times for 56 yards, including a second-half touchdown.
Yes, The Bills are putting themselves in position to be back in the playoffs for the second time in three years, as they completed the season sweep over the Fins.
It’s the kind of improvement under coach Sean McDermott that Miami eventually wants to see with coach Brian Flores. But, days after Flores was doing his best Bill Belichick “we’re on to Buffalo” with media questions, Miami was “on to another loss.”
And, as the Dolphins sank to 2 – 8, their reality is they aren’t talented enough or coached well enough, across-the-board to play good football game in and game out.
Buffalo reminded them of that Sunday.
Dolphins give veteran WR Hurns new deal
In a season that began horribly at 0- 7, the Dolphins have begun to come around and now, put some pieces into place for the future. That includes re-upping a veteran wide receiver on Saturday.
The team announced a new two-year extension for wideout Allen Hurns Saturday. And while it’s only a modest contract, it is a signal but the team is trying to build with at least some veteran players in the future..
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport had the contract details on Hurns is getting a new $8 million dollar extension through 2021:
The #Dolphins signed WR Allen Hurns to a 2-year extension worth $8M, source said. He gets $3.27M guaranteed.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 16, 2019
This is a raise over his 1-year 2.5 million contract he signed with Miami on the eve of training camp.
Hurns entered the league undrafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014. His best season in North Florida was 2015, where he caught for just over 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. After getting a four year extension from the Jags, they cut him loose to free up cap space after the 2017 season.
Hurns then signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys worth $12 million. However, after he played all 16 games in the regular season with 20 catches and 2 TDs, he suffered a horrific broken ankle in the Cowboys playoff win over Seattle, and was placed on injured reserve.
Dallas eventually released Hurns earlier this year and that’s when Dolphins GM Chris Grier swooped in bring a veteran presence to their locker room on a one year deal.
Hurns, who just turned 28 earlier this week, has played in nine games this season with three starts, including the last two. He doesn’t have more than three catches in any of them and only one touchdown, which came in the Monday night loss to the Steelers three weeks ago. Hurns also suffered a severe concussion against his team, Dallas, in week three.
It is obvious that Miami went on a veteran purge for most of their roster in the offseason and the beginning of this year. And, that included getting rid of veteran speedster Kenny Stills in a huge trade with team-mate Laremy Tunsil to the Texans on the eve of the season.
That brought the Dolphins to number one picks in return. Miami also released veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola in a salary cap move earlier this year.
Miami wants to count on former number one pick DeVante Parker. And, they were also very high on undrafted free agent Preston Williams before he suffered an ACL injury in the win over the Jets two weeks ago.
Finally, as has been the case with Hurns’ last couple of deals, the contract only reportedly has $3.2 million guaranteed and is therefore team friendly to get rid of him, if they choose to do so at any point next season.
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