The world changed in many ways this year due to the pandemic; one of the casualties of the virus has been the NFL’s series in London. For the first time since 2007, the NFL will be unable to play international games.
While this is understandable for public health reasons, it’s yet another disappointment in a year full of them. The letdown is not only felt by residents of London and elsewhere in England and Europe, but also by the NFL itself. As Roger Goodell was rumored to say, “We’re sure as heck gonna miss all that money.”
The persons of London and the surrounding areas sure do seem to love their American Football; almost every game in the series has sold out. The Miami Dolphins have played four times In Wembley, and were scheduled for a fifth game this year. Until the world gets itself together again post-COVID-19, here’s a brief and at least partially accurate history of their games in London.
From 1991 through 2007, the NFL had a European division, intermittently operational from 1991 through 1998 as the World League of American Football. Alas, it didn’t make very much money because the players simply weren’t very good. The league was rebranded as “NFL Europe” from 1998-2006. Unimpressed by the clever name change, the franchises continued losing money at a rapid pace. A last ditch effort was made in 2007 by calling the league “NFL Europa – we’re more than just one new vowel! We swear!”
NFL Europa folded for good on June 29, 2007. Undaunted, the NFL decided to have one game per year in London (with multiple games starting in 2013), because as they said, “We have to get money from those British people somehow!”
Dolphins vs Giants: October 28, 2007
Play quality, or lack thereof, was recognized as one of NFL Europa’s biggest drawbacks. Naturally, the NFL responded by sending one of the worst teams in league history to London for the first-ever NFL regular season game in Wembley Stadium. The Dolphins were 0-7 before they traveled to London, and one player was rumored to say, “Well, we suck domestically, let’s see if we can suck internationally!”
It turns out that they could. The Giants defeated the Dolphins 13-10 in a game that can most accurately be described as “mind-numbingly boring.” The Dolphins would go on to finish with a 1-15 record for the year. On the bright side, those same Giants would go on to defeat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, ruining their bid for a perfect season.
Raiders vs Dolphins: September 28, 2014
It was nearly seven full years before the Dolphins were allowed back in London, after an Act of Parliament was passed in exchange for the team promising to “never, ever play that poorly again.” This game is best known for Joe Philbin’s refusal to commit to Ryan Tannehill as the team’s starting QB in the week leading up to the game. Ryan Tannehill’s response was to make Joe Philbin look fairly silly for that stance. He led Miami to a thoroughly dominant 38-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Dolphins vs Jets: October 4, 2015
Joe Philbin really doesn’t like London. In retrospect, this seems a bit odd, as he appears to be the living embodiment of a Charles Dickens character. Approximately a year after Joe Philbin seemed to have had enough of Ryan Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins lost to the New York Jets 27-14, and the Dolphins decided they’d had enough of Joe Philbin. He was fired the next day.
Dolphins vs Saints: October 1, 2017
This one, most everyone saw coming. The events leading up to the Miami Dolphins/New Orleans Saints London game in 2017 were nothing short of catastrophic. Ryan Tannehill’s knee was determined to be unstable, and he had season-ending surgery. Adam Gase decided that the wisest choice would be to offer the recently-retired Jay Cutler ten million dollars to quarterback the Miami Dolphins.
Jay Cutler might not care about much, but he certainly cares about ten million dollars. As if the ambivalence of Jay Cutler at the helm wasn’t enough, the Dolphins had a hurricane displace them for the first week of the season. Then, they traveled to Los Angeles, New York, and London, flying over 8,000 miles in just over two weeks. Predictably, they lost to Drew Brees and the Saints 20-0, but were spared any subsequent Biblical plagues (unless you count Adam Gase through the end of 2018.)
Looking back on previous contests, Dolphins fans can certainly hope for a brighter future in London. As the world heals and international play, we can hope that one stance helps assure future wins.
All we have to do is refuse to commit to Ryan Tannehill as the QB of the Miami Dolphins.
You can also find more from Chip Turner on phinmaniacs.com.