Let’s be honest. Tua Tagovailoa is not Dan Marino. Myles Gaskin is not Tony Nathan. DeVante Parker and Will Fuller are not Mark Clayton and Mark Duper. None of the current Dolphins players are either of the players that played for the Dolphins during the 1984 season when they last went to the Super Bowl. For many people it is still to early to be talking about a rebuilt Brian Flores Coached Dolphins team going to the Super Bowl.
But if Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has his way, the Dolphins would be in the Super Bowl soon. This past July Ross said, “We want to win the Super Bowl.” He went on to say that he hopes that will be in a very short time.
In Marino’s second year in the NFL, he found himself in the Super Bowl playing for the Miami Dolphins. He also had passed for over 5,000 yards during his second season as well. Many would say it would be a reach for Dolphins starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to come even close to those kind of results. But it’s not impossible for a quarterback that is on a NFL roster his second season to have those same kind of results. In fact, it has recently been done by Patrick Mahomes.
The second year Mahomes was on a NFL roster, he passed for 50 touchdowns, over 5,000 yards, and by year three he made it to the Super Bowl. For some, comparing Tua Tagovailoa to Dan Marino and Patrick Mahomes would be an outcry. For Tua’s “rookie” season to be compared to Mahomes and Marino’s “second” season would definitely be an outcry. However, to say it’s impossible for Tua to have the same kind of second year results as Marino did his second year would be to early of a statement to say as well.
It is the NFL and anything is possible. Nobody knew when Tom Brady was drafted late in round 6 at pick 199 he would have the kind of career he has had. Tua has yet to begin his second season and how well he performs in the NFL being 100% healthy is yet to be seen. But, for Tua to lead the Miami Dolphins to a Super Bowl certain criteria definitely has to be met.
The Miami Dolphins has the honor of having the best football team in NFL history in 1972. That 1972 Miami Dolphins team is the only NFL team in NFL history to be ranked number one in offense and defense and to go undefeated simultaneously. However, unlike the way the 1972 team arrived with that number one ranked offense, today’s Miami Dolphins team may have to win a different way. The NFL today is mainly considered a passing league.
In 1972, the Dolphins didn’t have one receiver to catch any passes for more than 606 yards for the season or had a quarterback that passed more than 1360 yards. What they did have was a fullback and running back that collected most of the yardage. Larry Csonka and Mecury Morris both rushed for at least 1,000 yards. That team had more rushing touchdowns (26) than passing touchdowns (17).
The last team to have two 1,000 yard rushers was the 2019 Baltimore Ravens when Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram did it, but because of the current passing league era, Jackson still passed for over 3,000 yards and had 36 passing touchdowns. The 1973 Miami Dolphins again won in their second Super Bowl season with the same run heavy offense.
By the time Dan Marino entered the NFL, the passing game started to become more dominate than the run game. But how did Marino lead that 1984 Dolphins team to a Super Bowl? Dan Marino was great. But Marino also had great teammates. Clayton and Duper both had over 1,000 receiving yards while Tony Nathan had over 1,000 all-purpose yards during Marino’s second season when he led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl.
Mahomes had Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce. For Tua’s first year, splitting time with Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Miami Dolphins had no player that had 1,000 yards in receiving or rushing. With the addition of Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle to the receiving corps, those low yardage numbers should increase this year.
Because the Dolphins didn’t draft a running back until round 7 in the 2021 draft, whom was Gerrid Doaks, their plan is to utilize Myles Gaskin heavily. Miami is hoping that Gaskin can have the same kind of numbers in the NFL as he did in college where he rushed over 5,000 yards in 4 seasons at Washington. If Gaskin gets to the 1,000 yard rushing mark in 2021, as he did in each season of his college career, that would be a far distance from 2019 when the Dolphins had the embarrassing statistic of being last in the NFL in rushing with their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, leading the team with only 243 rushing yards.
For the Dolphins to even get to the Super Bowl as the 1972, 1973, 1982, and 1984 teams did, they have to be ranked in the top 10 in both defense and offense with fewest points allowed and most points scored. In the Dolphins four Super Bowl appearances from 1972-1984 in chronological order, they were the number one, number one, number two, and number seven ranked NFL defense with fewest points allowed. They were also the number one, number five, number two, and number one ranked NFL offense with most points scored.
From then to today’s standard, that top ten in both offense and defense requirement to make the Super Bowl hasn’t changed. Last season’s NFL Super Bowl Champions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the number eight ranked NFL defense with fewest points allowed and the number three ranked NFL offense with most points scored. During the same 2020 season the Buccaneers went to the Super Bowl, the Miami Dolphins were a better ranked defense with fewest points allowed at number six. As far as points scored, the 2020 Miami Dolphins weren’t great, but not bad either, ranking at fifteen.
With improvements to the receiving corps, Miami’s offensive rank should at least make it to a top ten ranking. However, many believe if Xavien Howard’s contract talks end with him not playing for the Dolphins in 2021, the defensive ranking could fall out of the top ten. Out of the seven draft picks for 2021, Miami only drafted two defensive players, Jaelan Phillips and Jevon Holland. If Howard does play for Miami in 2021 it will alleviate the built pressure among Dolphins fans.
Out of all the positions on the team, the secondary seems to be the one that has the most eyes on them at the moment. If the secondary can’t keep opposing teams out of the end zone, it is possible that it could be another long Miami Dolphins season. If the secondary does well at keeping opposing teams out of the end zone, then the Dolphins should be in the top ten in both offense and defense with most points scored and fewest points allowed. And the Miami Dolphins will have a real possibility to get to that Super Bowl that Stephen Ross and Dolphins fans have been longing for.
MIAMI HAS TALENT ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL
The real question is “Do the 2021 Miami Dolphins have what it takes to be a top ten ranked defense and offense?” As mentioned before, Xavien Howard asking for a trade because of presumably failed contract negotiations has put the most pressure on the secondary, especially among cornerbacks. If Howard doesn’t return in a Dolphins uniform to play on the field in 2021 and Brian Flores is able to coach the team to at least the playoffs without him, he should win coach of the year.
But Brian Flores doesn’t want to coach the Dolphins without Xavien Howard. Flores said this past week, “We don’t want to trade X. Write that down. He’s a big part of the team. We don’t want to trade him.” There is no doubt if the Dolphins continue without Howard, the other cornerbacks must step up. Byron Jones will have to prove his $82.5 million dollar worth (which is part of the Xavien Howard situation) and Noah Igbinoghene will have to live up to that first round draft status.
That also includes free agent signees. Regardless if Howard plays for the Dolphins this season or not, Flores expects all of his team to step it up to another level that is better than last season. Safeties will have to do their part as well, which includes this year’s draft pick Jevon Holland, whom was the best safety in college football last season.
The defensive front seems to be doing well in training camp. The Dolphins are expecting big years from Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins, Jerome Baker, Ogbah, Andrew Van Ginkel, Zach Sieler, and returning Benardrick McKinney along with draft pick Jaelan Phillips. Another off season signing to keep an eye on is Shaquem Griffin whom has done extremely well in camp.
With offseason improvements to the offensive units through signings and draft picks there should be no reason that the Dolphins won’t at least land where the offense will be ranked tenth.
As with all NFL teams, since football is a tough sport, the Miami Dolphins must have a contingency plan for injuries. And that means if the one player that the Dolphins rely on to get the job done goes out with an injury, can their back up do what it takes to help get a Dolphins victory?
There are 32 teams currently in the NFL. Only two of those teams will make it to the Super Bowl. For the Miami Dolphins to get there they must do what it takes. Players staying healthy, avoiding penalties and turnovers as much as possible are all part of that.
But most importantly, what it will take for the Miami Dolphins to even have a chance at playing in the Super Bowl is that they must be ranked in the top ten in offense with most points scored and in the top ten in defense with fewest points allowed. If the Dolphins can do that, there is always a chance that the prized Lombardi Trophy will be hoisted in the air by the Miami Dolphins at the end of the Super Bowl game.