Off another dismal performance in blowout loss to the New England Patriots Sunday at home, the Washington Redskins have made the first coaching move of 2019 and fired Jay Gruden. While this does not come as a surprise, the timing is actually interesting, as the Redskins will now travel to Miami to play the equally winless Dolphins this week.
First, Gruden has been on the hot seat for the last 2 – 3 weeks as Washington’s offense, his specialty, has floundered. On Sunday, Gruden started veteran backup QB Colt McCoy (instead of top pick Dwayne Haskins) and actually took a 7 – 0 lead on the Pats.
But, then New England dominated the game from there 33-7, including Tom Brady throwing for 348 yards and three touchdowns. McCoy only mustered 119 yards passing without a touchdown and one interception as the Redskins dropped to 0-5.
Off of back to back 7-9 losing seasons, Gruden (above on Sunday) seemed to know the handwriting was on the wall for his firing, when after the game he was asked about his job status and gave a classic quote,
“If my key works tomorrow, I’ll keep working.”
Gruden, the younger brother of Raiders coach Jon Gruden and who was a former Arena Football League star QB in Tampa and Orlando, took over the Redskins as coach in 2014 and they were in the playoffs in 2015 with a 9-7 record. However, they have struggled to have any sustained success, since then.
Washington announced in a statement Monday morning that veteran offensive line coach and former head coach of the Raiders and the University of Nebraska, Bill Callahan will take over on an interim basis.
Callahan actually led the Raiders to the Superbowl in 2002 the year after Jon Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Of course, as you’re probably aware, Jon Gruden got the ultimate revenge on his old team with a Super Bowl 37 win over Oakland.
Back to the implications for the Dolphins. As we have written, there are several teams, including the Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals, that are equally as bad as Miami. And the Skins and Bengals play the Dolphins, too.
So, if the idea and intent is lose as many games as possible to try to get the number one pick, then clearly this Sunday with Washington and a new head coach and a quarterback situation in disarray is just as much of a threat to lose again and be 0-6.
Miami will be coming off a bye with second year QB Josh Rosen still slated to lead them in a season that has seen them beaten badly in all four losses for 0-4.
’85 Dolphins were part of dubious AFC playoff history
The Tennessee Titans are looking to make NFL playoff history and join four other teams as the only ones to ever win three straight road games and make a Super Bowl. That’s when they take on the Chiefs Sunday afternoon in Kansas City.
And, longtime Dolphins fans will remember that they were on the wrong end of one of those teams who pulled it off for the first time in NFL playoff history 34 years ago.
That’s when a Raymond Berry coached New England Patriots team behind Tony Eason at quarterback and an opportunistic defense stunned the seemingly invincible passing attack of second-year quarterback Dan Marino and Don Shula’s Dolphins in a shocking 31 – 14 upset at the Orange Bowl.
To set the scene, New England had already upset the New York Jets at the Meadowlands in the AFC Wildcard game and then, gone out to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and defeated the Raiders, who were the number one in AFC seed, 27 – 20.
The Dolphins, who were the AFC Champs the previous year behind Marino’s record-setting passing season of 1984, had struggled just to make the Championship Game a year later.
That’s because the Cleveland Browns actually led Miami the previous week 21 – 3 in the third quarter before Marino and the offense kicked it into gear for 21 unanswered points and a comeback 24 – 21 win.
However, on this day, they made simply too many mistakes and New England made them pay, including grinding the clock with over 40 minutes of possession to shorten the game.
Patriots ran for over 250 yards on the withering Dolphins defense and Miami had six turnovers in all including two critical Marino interceptions in the defeat.
New England surprisingly led 17 – 7 at the half, when Miami’s rookie kick returner and former Gator Lorenzo Hampton fumbled, while being tackled. A few plays later New England scored on a 4th and goal touchdown pass from Eason to Robert Weathers with a stunned Orange Bowl looking at a scoreboard that read 24 – 7, Pats.
Marino led the Dolphins down the field and looked like he was going to get them quickly in the end zone and right back in the game. However, he threw a critical bad pass that was picked off by Fred Marion at the New England goal line to keep the Dolphins off the board.
New England worked another four minutes off the clock before missing a few goal, but most of the damage had been done with most of the third period was erased with the Dolphins down by 17.
The Patriots Mosi Tatupu iced the game with a 1 yard touchdown midway through the final period and New England was on its way to a Super Bowl matchup with the Chicago Bears.
As you probably know by now, the ’85 Bears with their devastating “46 Defense,” Hall of Famer Walter Payton and brash quarterback Jim McMahon destroyed New England in the Super Bowl two weeks later.
Still, 1985 version the Patriots will always be remembered as a team that was able to pull off three straight wins away from home, including the shocker that ended Miami’s bid to capture the World Championship.
If you are wondering, the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and Green Bay Packers have also all since done this “road trifecta” in the NFL Playoffs. However, in all three of their cases, they finished what the Patriots could not, by also winning the Super Bowl.
The most recent was the Packers and their 2011 postseason run that saw them defeat the Steelers to win the title.
So, on Sunday, it’s former Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Derrick Henry and the Tennessee defense’s turn to try to match what four others have done before them.
Looks like Tua Tagovailoa will work out for teams prior to draft
There will be numerous NFL teams interested, including the Dolphins, on just how healthy injured Alabama star Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is. And, a report on Wednesday says that Tua will likely be ready to throw for teams later in the offseason draft process.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that “NFL quarterback super-agent” Leigh Steinberg and his firm are letting teams know that Tagovailoa’s injured hip should be healed enough for him to be able to throw in early April prior to the NFL Draft at the end of the month:
From our Championship Wednesday coverage on @NFLNetwork: #Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa may throw for NFL teams during a Pro Day in mid-April, thanks to some very positive health news. pic.twitter.com/ooVJCyf0ij
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 15, 2020
This will be especially important for teams like the Dolphins, who will be selecting fifth currently in the upcoming selection process.
Tagovailoa came to Alabama from Hawaii and the same high school as Marcus Mariota, having thrown for over 8,000 yards which at that time was a Hawaii High School record. And, he had a career of 84 passing and 27 rushing touchdowns in three seasons.
Tua burst onto the scene nationally, when he relieved Jalen Hurts in the second half and overtime of Alabama’s thrilling title game win over Georgia in the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game. Tagovailoa threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the first overtime possession, as Alabama celebrated their fifth National Title in nine seasons under Saban.
In his second season at the helm in the 2018 regular season, Tagovailoa was named second-team AP All-American and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, as the Tide reached the National Title game, again, before being beaten soundly by Clemson 12 months ago.
As this junior season unfolded, Tagovailoa was named almost became synonymous with the Dolphins, who started the season horribly at 0 – 7 and the moniker “Tank for Tua” began to gain momentum in South Florida.
However, Tagovailoa was injured in Alabama’s 10th game of the season suffering the hip injury on a sack late in the first half at Mississippi State. He missed the Tide’s final two regular-season games and their recent Citrus Bowl win over Michigan two weeks due to the injury.
Typically, players participate in some kind of individual workout or pro day, but as Rappaport relayed, most teams already know what Tagovailoa can do from his previous two seasons at Alabama. The bigger concern is his health and specifically his mobility, as he progresses through the summer and into the first NFL training camp and preseason of his career.
It is believed the Tagovailoa is the second, or at worst third rated, quarterback behind LSU Heisman Trophy winning National Championship QB Joe Burrow. Burrow is expected to be taken first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in late April.
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