The Dolphins are 7-5 right now. I know this better than anyone, trust me. They’re going to make the playoffs and hopefully win a game, and Miami’s about to hopefully get out of a terrible hole of losing and bad decisions and bizarre injuries. The period started after the 1984 season, and I know you think I’m exaggerating, but you really don’t know.
After Miami’s 1984 Super Bowl season, they began 1985 5-4 as defenses took the deep bomb away from Dan Marino. The Dolphins then won 7 straight games, including a win over the 12-0 Chicago Bears. The Dolphins then beat the Browns 24-21 after a 21-3 deficit, but suffered an embarrassing home loss against the Cinderella Patriots, who beat the Dolphins in the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1969. The loss cost Miami’s best shot at a Super Bowl since 1984, and they wouldn’t really get another great chance.
1986 was the Dolphins’ final season in the Orange Bowl, and Miami began the season 1-4, giving up 196 points in only five games. The Dolphins finished 8-8. In the years following, Miami went 8-7, 6-10 and 8-8.
In 1990, the Dolphins were led by a defensive resurgence as well as a strengthened offensive line thanks to Pro Bowl rookies Richmond Webb and Keith Sims. With a 12-4 record, the Dolphins couldn’t even win their division thanks to the 13-3 Buffalo Bills, a team they actually beat once in the season. Miami had a better defense than the Bills, and although their offense was good, it was light years behind the Bills’. They barely squeezed past the Chiefs 17-16 at home thanks to a Nick Lowery field goal that fell short, but then lost 44-34 to the same Bills in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
In 1991, the Dolphins finished with a better point differential (-6) than the 2011 Super Bowl Champion Giants (-7), but still finished 8-8 and not surprisingly did not make the playoffs or win the Super Bowl. Miami started 8-6 before losing their final two games to the 4-12 Chargers and the 8-8 Jets.
1992 came around, and thanks to another good defensive season featuring the likes of Louis Oliver and Jeff Cross, Miami actually won the AFC East by virtue of tiebreaker over the Bills, who would go on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Dolphins beat the Chargers, but lost again to Buffalo in the AFC Championship 29-10 thanks to a poor game from Dan Marino, four fumbles and only 276 total yards of offense.
In 1993, the Dolphins suffered the greatest collapse in league history (according to me) by starting 9-2 and then losing their final 5 games thanks to bad play by Scott Mitchell and a retirement-home worthy Steve DeBerg. These two were thrust into the starting quarterback job thanks to Dan Marino’s torn achilles against Cleveland. There was much disappointment to be had.
1994 began with an awesome 39-35 shootout win over New England and the “Fake Spike” game against the Jets in November, but other than that, there wasn’t very much change. The Dolphins choked away a 21-6 lead against the Chargers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, and wasted Dan Marino’s last really good year.
In 1995, the Dolphins were looked at as trendy AFC contenders, but quickly fell out of style with a mild 9-7 record. In the AFC Wild Card playoffs, Thurman Thomas and Derick Holmes had 40 carries for what seemed like 700 yards, as the Bills set a new playoff rushing record with 341. The Bills jumped out to a 27-0 lead and ultimately won 37-22.
In 1996, Don Shula retired and was replaced by Jimmy Johnson, the man who led Dallas to wins in Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII. The Dolphins finished 8-8 despite playing the 1-15 Jets twice, the lame duck Houston Oilers and a handful of 7-9 teams.
1997 proved to be a more successful season than 1996…barely. The Dolphins eeked out 9 wins, while 7 of their games were decided by a field goal or less. The Fins went 3-4 in these games, and suffered a 17-3 playoff loss to the Patriots.
1998 was the turning point for the Dolphins from “all pass, no run” to “all defense, no offense” that they sort of live by today. Thanks to guys like Trace Armstrong, the defense only gave up 265 points all season, and forced a game-winning fumble against the Bills in the playoffs. They would later get clubbed 38-3 to the 14-2 Denver Broncos, a team they had smeared across the grass in Joe Robbie Stadium during the regular season.
The ’99 Dolphins started the year 7-1 before finishing 2-6 and barely made the playoffs, winning against Seattle on Dan Marino’s final game-winning drive. In the divisional playoffs, however, Miami was humiliated 62-7 at the hands of 14-2 Jacksonville that I still think is the worst playoff loss in the team’s history.
After the season, Dan Marino retired, which forced a quarterback carousel on Dolphin fans that wasn’t stopped until Ryan Tannehill’s drafting in 2012. Jay Fiedler, a backup from the Jaguars, was brought in to quarterback Miami and did relatively okay at first. Dave Wannstedt was also hired as head coach, who took the team to the playoffs one time and then fizzled out somewhat. Miami’s 2000 season, as of 2014, included their last season sweep of New England. They won the AFC East, but they lost a Week 8 game to the Jets 40-37 in OT. This wouldn’t be terrible, but it certainly is considering Miami led 30-7 at one point. The Dolphins also recorded their last playoff win to date in 2000, beating the Colts 23-17 before getting shut out 27-0 by the Raiders.
Miami finished in second place in an admittedly competitive division with an 11-5 record, and promptly got clubbed 20-3 by Baltimore in the playoffs.
After 2001, the Dolphins didn’t make the playoffs again until 2008. Seasons of 9-7, 10-6, and 4-12 followed before the hiring of Nick Saban. The 4-12 season in 2004 was the year they threw money at A.J. Feely after he had three really good games for the Eagles against three crappy teams at the end of 2003, and was a terrible bust for Miami who never delivered his success in Philly. Back to Nick Saban. Saban took the Dolphins to a 9-7 (the venerable Gus Frerotte quarterbacked Miami in that season) record before driving them into the ground with a 6-10 mark and leaving for Alabama after saying he wasn’t going to go 567 times. Before the 2006 seasons, two quarterbacks were up for grabs in free agency: Daunte Culpepper and Drew Brees. So automatically, who did Miami sign? Daunte Culpepper, who only played one year and has been out of the league since 2009. Drew Brees is still doing pretty well for the Saints, I’ve heard. Apparently Brees wasn’t entirely proven and was injured during the offseason, and Culpepper had had an unbelievable 2004 season, so the Dolphins had every reason to sign Daunte, but it’s such a terrible mistake regardless that it just makes my and Miami’s collective fanbase’s toes curl.
After Saban left, Cam Cameron was hired as head coach and led Miami to a 1-15 season in 2007. The team was guided by John Beck and Cleo Lemon, finished 26th in scoring and 30th in points allowed. A hideous mark that surely won’t be matched again in franchise history, at least, I hope not…
2008 was a miraculous turnaround thanks to Tony Sparano (the Raiders’ interim man in 2014) and Chad Pennington, whom Miami acquired from the Jets, the Dolphins finished 11-5 and made the playoffs…where they got clinked 27-9 to Baltimore. The 2008 Dolphins have an estimated win-loss record of 8.8-7.2, and I think they’re one of the worse playoff teams in history.
Since then, Miami hasn’t made the playoffs, suffering through disappointing 7-9, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9 and an 8-8 season in 2013 in which Miami started 8-6 before losing their final two games to the Bills and Jets by a combined score of 39-7, costing them a playoff berth.
They’re 7-5 right now and are playoff bound, and hopefully Ryan Tannehill is a long-term answer at quarterback. He’s completed over 70% of his passes in five straight games, and is a lot better than the 16 schmucks who tried to replace Marino after he left:
Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, A.J. Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, and Matt Moore.