Can History Repeat Itself? – 2023 Miami Dolphins Preview

They say history repeats itself. Miami Dolphins fans should hope so.

Flashback to 2008. The only time since Bill Clinton was president that the Miami Dolphins won their division. The New England Patriots were the heavy favorites to win the AFC East division. The New York Jets had just signed multi-time  MVP Brett Favre from the Green Bay Packers to be their quarterback while the Dolphins signed the Jets’ quarterback Chad Pennington.

And what happened?

New England quarterback Tom Brady got knocked out in the first game of the season. The Jets and Favre started off hot only to fade down the stretch, where Pennington’s steady hand led the Dolphins to as much glory as they’ve seen in the 21st century.

Now it’s 2023 and look at the similarities. The Buffalo Bills  are the heavy favorites to win the AFC East division. The New York Jets had just signed multi-time MVP Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers to be their quarterback while the Dolphins signed the Jets’ quarterback Mike White.

Can history repeat itself?

If the Miami Dolphins have any hope of that being the case it will probably come down to the play of Mike White.

Yes, Tua Tagovailoa is the Dolphins starting quarterback. But in Tua’s three years with the Dolphins he has shown two things. He is a winning quarterback when he plays. The Dolphins have a 21-13 record with Tua as  starter. Unfortunately he has also shown his body is not made for the rigors of football. He has never been able to play a complete season in college or the pros whether due to hip, rib injuries, or last year’s concussion epidemic.

Based on previous seasons the Dolphins have to be prepared to play at least  four games without Tua available. The last couple years the Dolphins backups failed. In 2022 they went 1-4 including the playoffs when Tua missed an entire game. In 2021 the Dolphins went 1-6 without Tua. Mike White will need to do better than Jacoby Brissett, Teddy Bridgewater, and Skylar Thompson when he subs in for Tua.

To help White out the Dolphins have perhaps the best wide receiver in football in Tyreek Hill and an awesome #2 in Jaylen Waddle.

I wasn’t prepared for how good Tyreek Hill is.

His hands were strong enough to steal interceptions into first downs. He’s also speedy enough to make a three yard play into a touchdown. In my 33 years of watching the Dolphins, Hill was undoubtedly the best receiver I’d ever seen in a Miami uniform. He’s probably also the best offensive player the team has had since Ricky Williams. But for all of Hill’s talent the limitation of the wide receiver position (barring direct snaps) is you need a quarterback to get them the ball. And last year in the last three games of the season without Tua, Hill disappeared.

The Dolphins decent running back squadron is led by Raheem Mostert. There are rumors the Dolphins are trying to trade for one of the best running backs in the  game in the Indianapolis Colts Jonathan Taylor. I’d feel a lot better about the Dolphins’ chances this season if they pulled the trigger on the trade, but the Dolphins are being stingy on giving up their first round pick. Maybe in 2024 they can draft better than a 24 year old running back that has rushed for the fourth most yards of anyone in the league since he was drafted in 2020, but I doubt it.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was the Miami Dolphins big offseason acquisition.

Well actually it was cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but an injury has the all-pro out until December. So we have to see if Fangio is as brilliant as everyone says to scheme last year’s underachieving unit to competence. The 2022 Dolphins defense took quite a step back from the turnover creating machine they were under previous coach Brian Flores. All-pro cornerback Xavien Howard seemed to lose a step and they couldn’t stop anyone on 3rd and 4th downs.

But beyond all this criticism the Dolphins still managed to back their way into the playoffs last year with a 9-8 record. Sure that same won-loss record got Brian Flores fired as head coach the previous season, but somehow Dolphins current coach Mike McDaniel is considered a genius for stagnation even with the cheat code of having Ty Hill on his team.

I get the reputation McDaniel has built up. He graduated from Yale, he wears glasses, the dude has to be smart, right?

But the only genius I saw exhibited from McDaniel last year was in his public relations. He showed up at Heat and Panthers playoff games. He did any interview that would have him.  The guys is very social media savvy. He always knows where the camera is and how and where to take a selfie. But he wasn’t too top notch in decisions made on the football field. Last year’s playoff loss to the Bills was due in part to McDaniel not getting the calls into the huddle in time resulting in costly delay of game penalties.

Maybe with reps McDaniel will improve his game management skills?

But I’m a long suffering Dolphins fan. So it’s hard to ever see the glass as half full. While many are calling McDaniel the next Don Shula, I see too many similarities to Adam Gase.

And so with all that being said after looking up and down the Dolphins schedule I see history repeating itself. But not in 2008 AFC East division championship style.  Rather I see the Miami Dolphins having their third 9-8 season in a row.

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David Rolland

David Rolland edits the Jitney blog. He is the author of the novels Yo-Yo & The End of the Century.