Let’s not pretend: You know what I have to write today. You know what it signifies on the calendar for Miami Dolphins fans.
You know the dismal, deja-vu feeling you’ll have watching NFL games eating Cheez-Its and crow this weekend. It’s the same feeling you had on this same weekend last year, and past decade, and the decade before that.
And I write about this feeling, just like I wrote about it last year, and past decade, and the decade before that. It’s the day we re-live.
Same day, next year.
It’s 23 years without a Dolphins playoff win now. Twenty-three. That’s Michael Jordan’s number. It’s a Psalm. It shouldn’t be the years a once-proud Dolphins franchise has to walk through the cobwebs to find a playoff win.
As a historian of this repeating day, let me note this season didn’t follow script to its inevitable fate. This wasn’t 2007 when the Dolphins won a single game (and former owner H. Wayne Huizenga bumped the sales price of the franchise up $40 million to Steve Ross because that win was such fun).
This wasn’t 2014 when the only question the last half of the season was if Joe Philbin would survive (he did until early the following season). It wasn’t 2018, when the Adam Gase-Jay Cutler tag team had a toe tag on it by October.
And remember 2015?
“Get the groundhog ready,’’ former Dolphins guard Richie Incognito texted me early that year when he was playing for Buffalo.
He knew what was coming. You knew. Everyone typically knows. That’s what was different for so much of this season. Did you see the groundhog coming? Even in early December I was writing how much more fun it was to cover a winning team than the previous decades of losers.
Then came late December and, wham, the groundhog delivered a blindside hit.
Yes, there were injuries. There was enough cartilage floating on the Dolphins defense to raise the Titanic. And, yes, there was misfortune like playing in historically frigid weather in Kansas City in the playoffs. Being numb from that ending came in different ways.
Ultimately, there’s waking up to this empty weekend for the 23rd consecutive year. Detroit won a playoff game last weekend, too, so the Dolphins officially have the longest drought outside of the Sahara.
Detroit plays Tampa Bay Sunday in a playoff game that also explains the Dolphins fans’ common fate this weekend. That game pits former interim Dolphins coach Dan Campbell in Detroit versus former interim Dolphins coach Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay. Who ya got?
You can question coaches or players for the brush strokes of this disappointing season, but the big picture falls to the management and, ultimately, to Ross. He’s the best owner a community can have in some regards. His checkbook is always open, he pays for his stadium and he kept an international tennis tournament here and brought Formula One to town.
So, his work is first class everywhere but the first place Dolphins fans look. He hasn’t won a playoff game in his 15 years as owner. He hasn’t hired anyone who you can say has worked out (McDaniel remains a work in progress). The closest he came to an inspired hire was his opening swing when he went rogue and tried to hire Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh while having Tony Sparano under contract.
It was embarrassing the way it publicly played out. It also was the right move by Ross in retrospect. Harbaugh went to a Super Bowl with San Francisco and just won a national title with Ross’ beloved University of Michigan.
Harbaugh looks to be ready to jump back to the NFL now and Ross must have considered calling him again. Isn’t Harbaugh proven?
So, Ross is showing the kind of patience many 83 year olds don’t have and sticking with general manager Chris Grier and McDaniel. He must really believe he won’t be sitting here on Groundhog’s Day next year watching other teams play. Or he’s just tired of starting over.
Me? I’m tired of this same day, writing this same column, year after year, decade after decade. Turn on the game. And pass the crow.