In honor of the Dolphins winning 10 games this season, here are 10 things that went very right:
Adam Gase arrives
Everything starts at the top. After whiffing on coaching hires for the better part of forever, the Dolphins got this one right. Gase arrived from the Windy City like a breath of fresh air. He’s bold. He’s brash. (Would you rather have somebody timid?) The players both love and respect him. Prediction: This guy is going to be around for a while, and you don’t pull that off in this league by failing.
Jay Ajayi gets untracked
He’s no C.J. Anderson (437 yards, knee surgery). He’s no Chris Johnson (95 yards, injured reserve). He’s no Arian Foster (retired).
He’s nowhere (in the season-opener). And then, just like that, the Jay Train roared to life, posting three 200-yard games en route to 1,272 yards. He runs angry, churning up yards after contact even if the holes aren’t there. The next step for the running game (I’m including the line in this part of the equation) is greater consistency in 2017.
Franchise QB search finally ceases
Gase said a primary reason he came to Miami was Ryan Tannehill. After four years of debating whether Tannehill could be the guy, fans started to get their answer. Guided by the quarterback whisperer, Tannehill posted career-bests in completion percentage (67.1) and passer rating (93.5). Remember the six-game winning streak? Tannehill threw nine TD passes and one interception in that span and led four comeback victories in four games. He even showed he can deliver the deep ball.
Matt Moore rises, then rises again
After five years of inactivity, Moore proved he’s the consummate pro, stepping in after Tannehill injured his knee and keeping the team on course to make the playoffs. He also popped up off the turf after that illegal shot to the chin in the Steelers game. How? We’re still trying to figure that out, too.
Luck in draft (and it’s not the bad kind?)
You know exactly how the Dolphins managed to nab offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil with the 13th pick in the draft. Yup, it was weird. If you’re Tunsil’s accountant, it was unfortunate. If you’re the Dolphins, you’re thinking the last time something this fortuitous happened in the first round, the year was 1983.
The comeback kings
The Dolphins were down 24-21 with 2:57 left in San Diego and won 31-24. The next week, they were down 10-0 against the Rams with 4:02 remaining but won 14-10. At Buffalo, it was a 31-28 hole with six seconds left, which became a 34-31 overtime victory that was critical for the playoff hopes. When was the last time the Dolphins were in those kind of holes and gave you confidence something good might come out of it?
Hard Rock Stadium rocks
You don’t mind if I call it Joe Robbie Stadium in honor of the guy who made it happen, do you? Thirty years later, it doesn’t even resemble the same place. Credit Stephen Ross and his half a billion bucks with transforming it into a beautiful facility that the almighty NFL deems Super Bowl-worthy. How’s Robbie-Ross-Rock Stadium sound? The Triple R to counter the Heat’s Triple A?
There’s talent here?
Word is five teams want to talk to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph about their head coaching vacancy. That’s a good thing, proving there are people here whom others covet. Some wonder how this can be, since V.J.’s defense ranked 29th. They forget the Bears’ offense ranked 21st last season. It didn’t scare off suitors for that coordinator. Some guy named Gase.
J.T. knocking on the door
Jason Taylor, the Dolphins’ all-time sack artist with 131, is among the 15 finalists for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Class of 2017 will be announced Feb. 4, the day before the Super Bowl in Houston. The thought here: It’s a matter of when, not if.
Can’t sit Stills
Receiver Kenny Stills was honored by the team for community service, which during the season is primarily performed on Tuesdays, the players’ day off. This season, Stills participated in a ride-along with police, visited three schools and two hospitals, gave out back-to-school backpacks, distributed toys during the holidays and granted Make-A-Wish requests. If you didn’t know about most of that, it’s by design. Stills does it quietly, saying he gives back for the right reasons, not publicity. Best of all, Stills had stiff competition from teammates for the award. And did we say he had a good season?
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