The Miami Dolphins last made the playoffs in 2008. Some will credit Chad Pennington others the Wild Cat. Almost universally, no one credited the head coach. Tony Sparano.
After Sparano left Miami a trend continued for the next four seasons. A trend that Adam Gase needs to stop now. And it starts this weekend against the Patriots. Gase has to lead this team to victory over AFC East opponents if Miami is to get back to the playoffs.
For Gase, that may not come this year. His team is young and largely inexperienced at several positions but here is where the framework for the future is built. New England will be a tough game to win but doing so would send a positive wave through the Dolphins players. A wave that says “we can”.
Winning divisional games are the most important of any season. Six of a teams 16 games are against divisional opponents but it’s those six games that are the first tie-breakers at season’s end. Add in the “like” games and the head to head becomes that much more important.
Since the 2008 season Miami has remained in contention for the post-season late in the year. Yet they have failed to finish with many of those games coming against divisional teams.
In that 2008 season the Dolphins lost only two games to division opponents. The opening weekend game against the Jets and the 2nd game against the Patriots in the middle of the season. They were 4-2 on the year in the division.
Miami was able to win four games in 2009 as well yet they finished 7-9 with three losses to open the season and three losses to close out the season. None of those three were against divisional opponents. Miami split with the Patriots and the Bills.
Miami fell to the division 2-4 on the season splitting the season with the Bills and Jets. They finished 7-9.
Miami finished the season with 6 wins and ten losses. Three of those wins came against divisional opponents, New York and Buffalo twice. The 2011 season was significant in that Tony Sparano was fired with three weeks remaining and Todd Bowles rallied the team to a 2-1 finish. All three of those games were against divisional teams.
In the debut season of Joe Philbin, the Dolphin lost 4 to divisional opponents on their way to a 7-9 record.
Miami would again finish the season 2-4 against divisional opponents. Miami opened the season 3-0 under Philbin and appeared to have things heading in the right direction. Miami would drop their next four games including two against the division.
The Dolphins would rally in the middle of the year and win two divisional games but with hopes of a playoff game on the horizon, Miami would drop their final two games of the year. To the Bills and the Jets. And miss the playoffs. Miami finished the season 8-8.
Another 8-8 season for Joe Philbin and another wasted opportunity in the division. The Dolphins went 3-3 in the division with an opening weekend victory against the Patriots. The Dolphins split with each team in the division and again with playoffs a possibility late, Miami dropped their second game to New England and lost the final game to the Jets.
The entire season was a mess from the start. Joe Philbin lost his job after returning from London in week four and Miami could not turn the opening 1-3 stretch into anything better than 6-10.
Miami finished the season 1-5 in the division with their lone victory coming against the Patriots in week 10.
Now it’s Adam Gase’s turn. Miami has to find a way to beat their division rivals. Not simply split the season, Miami needs to start taking the series. It’s the fastest way to a turnaround and victories against divisional teams make up for losses like last week to very good out of division teams.
Since 2009 the Dolphins have gone 17- 25 in divisional games.