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Why Your Team Sucks

Why Your Team Sucks 2022: Miami Dolphins

Tua tagovailoa
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Some people are fans of the Miami Dolphins. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Miami Dolphins. This 2022 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.

Your team: Miami Dolphins. Paragons of taste and excellence.

Photo via Caneswear.com

Pair those with some high-end, aqua blue toenail polish, and Jimmy Buffet will invite you backstage within five minutes.

Your 2021 record: 9-8. On paper, you could portray the 2021 Dolphins as having had a remarkable season. They started out 1-7, only to furiously rally their way back into playoff contention by winning their next seven games. Sure, they blew those playoffs hopes when they got dusted against the Titans in the penultimate week, but the Titans finished last season as the top seed in the AFC. No shame in losing to that bunch. Overall, 2021 sounded a whole lot like the kind of season that Miami could really build on. Here now was the reality …

Those seven straight wins? Only one of them came against a team that finished the season above .500, and that team was New Orleans. The Dolphins also gave Urban Meyer his first win as an NFL coach. They blew a 14-0 lead to the Raiders, whose comeback began thanks to the brilliant play design that you just watched up above. They lost to a dead-inside Falcons team at the end of the game. They openly attempted to trade for Deshaun Watson midseason to replace their current starter. They had the third worst rushing offense in the league (FUN FACT: Miami hasn’t had a running back go for more than 800 yards, let alone 1,000, in six years). Their head coach stopped talking to his staff “around Thanksgiving.” Their offensive line pass-blocked like the owner paid them to take a dive (not unlikely!). And their best touchdown of the season didn’t count.

That paints a less flattering portrait of the 2021 Dolphins, and yet there’s still a shitload of blank canvas left to fill in. That season had to end before every wart in Miami was laid bare. And once it was, even the picture of Dorian Gray was horrified by what it beheld.

Your coach: Well it was Brian Flores, until Flores was unceremoniously fired by the Dolphins and subsequently sued the ever-living fuck out of the NFL as result. Flores alleged that, in 2019, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 for every game he lost. He also alleged that Ross arranged a clandestine meeting between Flores and Tom Brady in 2020, part of a tampering effort that eventually became its own team-wide scandal. We’ll get to that part in just a moment, but before we do, we have to take a look at which hopelessly naïve young coach was willing to stick his dick into this industrial paper shredder of a franchise.

That’s former Niners offensive coordinator and boorish-mannered Yalie Mike McDaniel, who used his frighteningly normal press conference demeanor to land himself a head-coaching gig that Miami had once reserved for three other men. McDaniel, who looks like he writes for this website, told the press upon his hiring that he thinks much more of Ross, and of Ross’s organization, than the rest of us ever have.

“Red flags? I can honestly say there were absolutely no red flags… I was stepping into an organization with a boss that I don’t think people give it its proper due.”

So true. You simply have to respect an organization that hasn’t won a Super Bowl since the Triassic Age, hasn’t won a playoff game in 22 years, and has been looking for a decent starting quarterback since 2000. I’m not certain that Mike McDaniel even knows WHICH team hired him. He might currently be under the impression that he’s the new head coach of the Steelers. It’s the only sensible explanation for his present level of enthusiasm. Or perhaps he’s content to let his elevated salary speak for him now. That giddiness, be it real or a façade, won’t last long either way.

Your quarterback: It was almost Deshaun Watson. It was almost Tom Brady, in fact. Before McDaniel’s hiring, the Dolphins actively tried to pry away Brady from the teams employing him at the time and to pair him with then-Saints head coach Sean Payton. They even wanted to make Brady a part-owner, which surely would have resulted in some precious, Jeter/Marlins-esque, executive chicanery.

Not only did those efforts amount to nothing at all, but they ended up becoming public and resulting in the Ginger Hammer stripping the Dolphins of two draft picks that they could have traded away for a better QB than the ones they currently employ. Given Ross’s offenses, this constitutes meager punishment, perhaps because Ross has the advantage of not being Dan Snyder. The important thing to take away here is that the Dolphins can’t even tamper right. Usually tampering results in something good. You can even not get caught doing it. Sometimes you can even pull a Lakers and get the commissioner of your league to do the tampering for you. But when you’re the Dolphins, you tamper with about as much subtlety, and success, as Donald Trump trying to get election results nullified.

Thus, your starting QB is still Tua Tagovailoa, who makes Marcus Mariota look explosive. Tagovailoa’ll be benched two months from now, in favor of America’s Favorite Backup Now That Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Retired™, Teddy Bridgewater, who ranked higher than Tagovailoa in PFF’s final QB ratings at the end of 2021. Both of these quarterbacks are good for exactly two impressive downfield throws per game. BUT WHAT THROWS!

So true. Anytime I watch Tagovailoa check down to a flare pass that goes for a six-yard loss, I think to myself WHAT TOUCH THAT YOUNG MAN HAS. The Dolphins would be better off starting Dan Marino again. Right now. This is a team led exclusively by last-ditch options.

What’s new that sucks: A team that had a -32 net point differential a year ago might not seem like it’s on the cusp, but here we are. Still in the midst of a manic episode disguised as a sophisticated rebuild, the Dolphins went into Dolan Mode and tried to land Brady, Payton, and then Jim Harbaugh. When all of those gambits failed, they plowed ahead anyway and traded all of their carefully amassed future draft capital for Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill, who is more dangerous to small children than he is to opposing defenses. Hill’s yards-per-catch plummeted a year ago, and the Bengals gave every other NFL team a blueprint for stopping him in the AFC title game when they used a mix of single-safety looks in the second half that rendered both Hill, and the Chiefs’ offense, helpless. And it ain’t like joining this organization is gonna make Hill any more prolific than he once was.

The Chiefs let Hill walk because extending him meant death for their cap flexibility. But such issues aren’t a problem when you’re the Dolphins and you can’t tell your asshole from your blowhole. Miami handed Hill $72 million guaranteed, and here again we bear witness to one man’s newfound largesse doing the talking for him:

“Obviously, like I’m gonna go with 15 as the strongest arm but as far as accuracy-wise, I’m going with Tua all day,” Hill said.

Did Tagovailoa drug these men? He never struck me as the type, but maybe that’s his real touch at work. Miami also poached left tackle Terron Armstead away from New Orleans with over $43 million in guarantees, and then signed the three-headed non-monster of Sony Michel, Chase Edmonds, and Raheem Mostert to split carries in a RBBC from hell. None of these moves will make the Dolphins any better, mind you. But they do a good job of at least indulging the sense of delusion for which their home state is so famously known.

Speaking of delusional, the Dolphins traded antivax tight end Adam Shaheen, who was easily the most Florida Man guy on their roster, to Houston, only to have the trade voided and then lose Shaheen to injury for the entire year. If it hasn’t already been evident for the past two decades, there’s no plan in Miami. There can’t be when the owner is a feckless dilettante who appears to have purchased this team without knowing what sport they play, and when THIS man is your GM …

What has always sucked: Chris Grier. Here’s Grier talking to the media after he was promoted to his current position in 2016:

“The past decade has been unacceptable for this organization. We will earn your trust back, both on and off the field. … The talk of dysfunction within the organization is over.”

Two days later, he hired Adam Gase. Talk of dysfunction within this organization is currently at an all-time high. There are divorces in South Beach that go more smoothly. That’s what happens when sabotage your own coaches, change your team-building model every five days, and ditch a uniform scheme that was the sole remaining positive attribute this franchise had left. The last time Miami won a Super Bowl, Bob Griese was 6-for-7 for 73 yards, despite having played the whole game. Nothing about the Dolphins has evolved since that time. They should be one of the coolest teams in the sport and a prized destination for any free agent. Instead, they’re Siberia with a wave pool.

And as for the fans … well, you can currently spot them frantically searching Cameo to see if Dwyane Wade does birthday greetings. This city is wasted on its residents.

Ratto says: They have a 96-113 record (24th with one playoff appearance) and minus-582 point differential (27th) in Ross’s 13 years of ownership. But somehow, they’ve still only managed one top-10 pick that ever amounted to anything, and that’s Ryan Tannehill, who only amounted to something once he moved two states over. If you can’t win and can’t lose, what exactly are you?

What might not suck: Imagine if Jaylen Waddle had an actual quarterback throwing him the ball. That fantasy alone is all fans of this team will have to comfort them for the next 18 weeks.

HEAR IT FROM DOLPHINS FANS!

Matt:

They’ll probably still trade for Deshaun Watson somehow.

David:

Even when they don’t suck, they suck. 

Andy:

Why would any person under the age of 45 be a fan of them.

Tyler:

By all accounts, they stand poised to have one of their most talented teams in 20 years. Should that inspire confidence? Absolutely the fuck not.

Brock:

We hired a coach with no experience, signed a big money tackle with no elbows or knees, and traded a shitload of picks for a wide receiver with no respect for women. This is the most excited we’ve been in decades. 

Bion:

Together at last: the NFL’s highest paid receiver and the NFL’s most accurate quarterback on passes of one-to-nine yards.

Dan:

Another year of splashy signings and preseason optimism before inevitably ending up between six and nine wins. Brady finally fucks off out of the division after 20 years, only to have Josh Allen show up ready to drop 40 on us twice a year for the next 20. We go through quarterbacks at about the same pace we go through new stadium names. I look forward to the next four years of everyone wondering if Tua is any good. We haven’t been relevant since Ace Ventura. Stephen Ross can get fucked. I’m going to go drink a Landshark.

Mike:

$100k per loss, Stephen Ross? Kiss my ass you cheap, Trump’s balls-guzzling schmuck. 

BoosterGold:

Life hasn’t gotten better, but at least football no longer factors into my anxiety.

Kevin:

After another disappointing season without a playoff appearance, I went to bed telling my wife that, at the very least, I was certain that the Dolphins were in the hands of the best head coach since Don Shula. The next morning I woke up and saw that they had fired him.

Drew (not me):

Because I spend every waking moment trying to convince myself that maybe Tua isn’t that bad.

Justin:

Tua sucks, but I still think he’s gonna be great because I’m a moron. Fuck Richie Incognito.

Tyler:

We endured years of suffering to finally get a top-10 first-round QB pick. A year later, Bill Belichick farted himself awake during the draft, looked around and said, “Sure, I guess I’ll take that guy at QB,” and Mac Jones will still end up being eight times better than Tua. 

Aaron:

I have no doubt that Mac Jones will lead the Patriots back to the Super Bowl this year, where he will likely face the quarterback we couldn’t even cheat our way into getting. 

Shepard:

The Dolphins haven’t won 12 games in the regular season since 1990. The only longer streak is the Browns (1986). In the 31 seasons since the Dolphins won 12 games, they’ve averaged 8.09 wins a season. Somewhere in Wyoming, Jeff Fisher just came in his pants and shot his arrow twenty feet above the head of a majestic ten-point buck. This team has killed me with their averageness.

Amanda:

I was born in 1979 and fully indoctrinated by my mega Dolfan dad (who, for much of the time I was growing up, maintained a fully tricked-out, aqua-and-orange Dolphins mancave/). For him, the Dolphins were and always will be: undefeated season, back to back Super Bowls, Shula, Griese, Csonka, winningest team in the four major sports, etc.

*My* Dolphins, on the other hand, have been:

-A blowout 1985 Super Bowl loss.

-The wasted career of a Hall Of Fame QB.

-The ignominious decline of a Hall Of Fame head coach.

-*22* starting quarterbacks since Marino’s retirement in 1999, arguably the best of the bunch being a guy who roundly sucked as a Dolphin and miraculously became competent only after joining the Titans.

-*12* head coaches since Shula’s retirement in ‘95, most of whom have sucked so tremendously that I remain nostalgic for Dan Campbell’s brief sub-.500 tenure in the wake of Joe Philbin’s firing.

-A racist firing scandal so awful that it almost fully obscures the public memory of a bullying scandal from only a few years prior.

Despite offering little more than a few meaningless late-season victories in losing seasons over vastly superior opponents to feed my fandom, and despite a uniquely nauseating team and fan culture, my upbringing has imprinted Dolphins fandom on me so thoroughly that I dust off my orange Ricky Williams jersey every year and settle in for 18 weeks of boring, utterly depressing football. Meanwhile, dad happily toasts the downfall of the final undefeated team each year along with the remaining assholes from ‘72. Fuck me.

Dylan:

I won’t even talk about the season because it was pretty typical Dolphins: look like they’re out of it by Week 6 and then, by week 14, you’ve got hope again only to have it crushed.

My family doesn’t want to hear me rant about them anymore.

Steve:

We’ve had 23 different starting QBs since Marino retired, four embarrassing and brief playoff appearances in 22 years, eight head coaches in the same period (not including interim coaches), a bullying scandal that engulfed both the team and the league, an assistant coach who took the whole Miami thing so seriously he snorted coke on video while in the team offices, the worst fight song in the league by far, a highly visible team sponsor with their name on the stadium scoreboard that turned out to be a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, a past owner who made his fortune hauling garbage, and a current owner who claims to be for racial justice while supporting Trump.

Danny Marino has done a lot for the city but he’s also kind of an asshole.

Ryan:

I thought I’d finally sworn off this dumpster fire of a franchise when Flores was fired for wanting to win and they traded for a domestic abuser. Then I see a LeBatard podcast titled “Dan Finally Believes!” and I’m sucked back in. I feel all of the shame.

Oscar:

The last time they had a top-10 offense was in 1995. Every few years we have a guy that runs really fast.

David:

We narrowly avoided acquiring a sexual predator only to go ahead and pay absurd money to a child abuser. My only hope for this year is our nerd coach has devised some bastardized version of the Wildcat to keep the ball out of Tua’s hands. 

Matt:

Our only real competition is the Cleveland Browns in the battle over which team has officially become the AFC’s Washington Commanders. The parallels between the three are endless: forever-unresolved QB situations; revolving-door coaching staffs; owners perpetually vacillating between criminally incompetent and incompetently criminal; blockbuster moves for A-list talent whose best seasons always come for the team they’re leaving or the team they’ll go to next; and unearned organizational gravitas based on faded glories of which no one under 30 has even the faintest recollection.

After the spate of damning headlines involving Stephen Ross, a feeling of hope flickered ever so briefly that this offseason might actually usher in some kind of sea change: if not a comeuppance for these shitbags, then at least mild accountability. And yet we reached the “Ah! Well. Nevertheless,” stage of things all but instantly.

The fucking Bengals (!) got to enjoy two weeks of Super Bowl hype and I got to spend my Super Bowl week Googling “Stephen Ross Sports Bribery Act” and watching our former coach spell out what an utter disgrace our franchise is on multiple cable news shows while surrounded by two lawyers.

The Tom Brady/Sean Payton package was SO peak-Snyder it verged on copyright infringement.

Our entire running back depth chart is every guy who starts the fantasy season on waivers.

I would’ve rather kept watching Tyreek with Mahomes.

Wyatt:

I’m sure that there will be many posts that talk about the horrific rapidly enclosing fascist state that is Florida. While I could happily give my two cents on that, I’ll take things a different direction and talk about the emotional impact that 48 years of brutal underachievement has had on people. 

My aunt is a nice Russian Jewish woman who was converted to Dolphins fandom by my Florida Man uncle. It was September 1999 and my sister and I were visiting, sitting on the couch with her watching Jurassic Park on VHS. Midway through the movie, my uncle bursts in and tells her that her older sister had just been confirmed dead in a Chechen apartment bombing. 

I still remember her exact words: “Oh, that is not good.” She went to the kitchen for a minute to get a drink of water, then sat back down, finished the movie, and took us out to play mini golf and eat ice cream later that night.

Later, in January 2000, the uncle had gathered the family for a big watch party at their house to watch the Dolphins take on the Jaguars in the divisional round. There was a palpable excitement in the air to watch Dan Marino make one last run. The Dolphins promptly lost that game 62-7, I was traumatized, and my aunt cried so hard that she literally went through an entire box of tissues. 

Phins up!

Submissions for the Defector NFL previews are closed. Next up: Indianapolis Colts.