MIAMI GARDENS — When Monday night’s exciting, frustrating game finally came to an end — and the Dolphins were officially knocked out of the playoffs with a 31-24 loss to the New York Giants — Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds blasted out of the speakers at Sun Life Stadium.
“Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright.”
OK, maybe in the grand scheme of the universe, everything’s gonna be alright. Hey, it’s just football, right?
But in the Dolphins world, all — or at least a lot — is wrong.
The Dolphins have to win out just to finish at .500. They were a hot preseason pick to make the playoffs or even win the AFC East.
Instead, they feel further away from long-term success then they have at any point this decade.
“Not a good team,” safety Michael Thomas said when asked to describe the Dolphins the year. “We didn’t put it together.”
How could a team that had such high expectations in the preseason be so lousy?
In reality they were never that good to begin with, and we — the media, the fans, the former players who get paid a lot of money to make predictions — didn’t recognize all the holes.
But maybe the team knew what they had all along.
“Obviously we wanted to win, but we didn’t put those expectations on us,” Thomas said. “Outsiders put those expectations us.”
Well, if we want to be precise here, former coach Joe Philbin publicity uttered the words “Super Bowl” in the preseason. More than once.
Instead it’s the toilet bowl, even if they almost pulled off what would have been a thrilling albeit mostly meaningless win.
It didn’t happen and now it’s about reflection on what went wrong this year and what they Dolphins can do to make it right next year.
The former is a lot easier to figure out than the latter.
It’s becoming more and more clear that the Dolphins have holes everywhere.
On Monday night, it started with the defense.
The secondary might need a major overhaul with safety Reshad Jones the only proven starter still in his prime.
Top-tier receivers have had some of their best games against the Dolphins this season, including Odell Beckham Jr.’s 166 yards, two touchdown performance on Monday.
The Dolphins had no answer for Beckham or Eli Manning.
Miami’s linebackers are still mediocre.
The defensive line is the unit closest to complete on that side of the ball but there’s long-term questions on the edge.
On offense the Dolphins have a talented running back in Lamar Miller who was dominating in the first half of Monday’s game and was strangely neglected in the second half.
He’s a free agent after this season. It’ll be interesting to see how much the Dolphins value him.
There’s an offensive line that hasn’t been consistently good in over a decade.
There’s quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who for most of Monday night played one of his best games in weeks but was let down by his receivers and their dropped passes.
“We threw a lot of good passes and Ryan threw the ball pretty good,” Campbell said. “I thought Ryan made some accurate passes. We had some critical drops in this game that killed us.
Then when the game was on line, Tannehill let himself down by missing a wide open Jarvis Landry on what could have turned in to a game-tying touchdown.
For much of the game, the offense looked sharp and did its part, but the defense fell apart.
Yet when Miami’s defense is strong this season the offense usually struggles.
Then there’s the obligatory curious coaching decision, which is typical on a 5-7 team.
This time it was Miller’s second half disappearance.
He had seven carries for 69 yards (9.9 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in the first half. That included a 38-yard touchdown on the best run of his career.
But he had just five carries in the second half.
Miller didn’t know why he had so few carries after halftime.
He said it wasn’t an injury issue. He was seen on TV having his ankles looked at, but he said he was merely getting taped.
“I always try to stay positive and when they call my number I have to make plays,” he said.
Miller went as far as to say, “When my number’s called I have to do a better job.”
No, that’s ridiculous. He did just fine, finishing with 89 rushing yards on 7.4 yards per carry.
Backup running back Jay Ajayi had five carries for 15 yards.
They both should’ve had more rushes in a close game — especially Miller who carried the ball just 12 times, and especially after Campbell fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to kickstart the run game.
Campbell tried to explain the lack of rushing attempts in the second half.
“We were just inefficient on first down and it really killed us,” he said. “We’d start the drive with a run and we’d get no gain or a one-yard gain. We’d then come back with an incomplete or a drop and that’s the thing — if you look at it we ran the ball pretty good. The problem is if you don’t run it well on first and second down it puts you in a bad situation.”
It doesn’t add up. Even with that explanation, how could Miller have just five second half carries after such the strong first half performance?
But it’s a moot point now because the Dolphins will officially miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. It’s been 15 years since they’ve won a postseason game.
If you’re 30, it was a half a lifetime ago since the Dolphins won a playoff game. And it’ll probably be up to a new coach to turn it around.
“I hate to be in that situation again but it seems like the same thing every year,” center Mike Pouncey said.
“When you have nothing else to play for, you have three games left and you’re not making the playoffs… we’ll see what kind of guys really like football. And we’ll find the ones that don’t and we’ll get them out of here.”
When asked why fans should have any optimism about the team even beyond this season, Pouncey still believes they’re close.
“I believe in this football team,” he said. “It’s not like that team blew us out today. We beat ourselves.”
But hey, every little thing gonna be alright.