In 2000 the Dolphins entered the playoffs with zero playoff victories under Jimmy Johnson. Miami would end that in round 1 with a come from behind 4th quarter comeback victory led by Dan Marino over the Seattle Seahawks. The Dolphins entered the game with perhaps their best and final shot at a Super Bowl for their aging star QB. They would leave defeated, morally, physically, and historically with a 62-7 loss at the hands of the Jaguars.
Marino would last only a portion of the game as the Jaguars not only took an early lead, but had the game put away and under control before halftime. Complementing the big plays that put the Jaguars ahead by 31 points, were a 25-yard touchdown run by James Stewart, a blocked punt by Corey Chamblin and an 8-yard touchdown pass from Brunell to Jimmy Smith. The Jaguars walked into the locker-room with a 41-7 lead.
The 2nd half would open with two noticeable changes on both sides of the ball, a fortelling of the future for the Miami Dolphins. Dan Marino would play his final play for the Dolphins, and Jay Fiedler would make a stirring debut for the Jaguars. That off-season, Fiedler would become the starter for the Miami Dolphins under new HC Dave Wannstedt.
The game was, at the time, the 2nd largest playoff blowout in the history of the NFL. To add insult to injury, the sprinklers came on in the 2nd half and showered the Miami Dolphins offense while in the huddle. Jimmy Johnson would say “”I guess this thing is full-circle,” Johnson said, once again referring back to the Dallas history he would not give up. ”I was on the other side of one of these where we got about seven takeaways from an opponent in the Super Bowl. It was a runaway, but I’ve never been on this side before.” Johnson would quit football shortly after the game.
If the loss to the Jaguars was not bad enough, Jimmy Johnson left Miami and in his stead named his replacement, Dave Wannstedt. Dave took over the team in the 2000 off-season and in his first order of business went shopping for a new QB. After watching Jay Fiedler march up and down on the Dolphins in the loss to the Jags during the 2nd half in relief of Mark Brunell, Fiedler became the staple of the Dolphins for the entire duration of Dave Wannstedts regime.
The next order of business was to inform Miami legend Dan Marino that if he wanted to play QB for the Dolphins he would have to win the job from Fiedler. Marino retired. Dave Wannstedt was the anti-Jimmy. He was friends with his players and was often relaxed in his approach to coaching. Early on it appeared that Dave may be able to lead this team deep into the playoffs. Utilizing a team that had been primarily built by Johnson, Dave was able to steer to the team to the playoffs.
While the Dolphins early on were still seeing season in excess of 9 wins, the Dolphins began a downward spiral that started with questionable draft picks that would haunt the team to the present day. Jamar Fletcher, Eddie Moore, two 1st rounders for Ricky Williams. 2nd, 3rd, and 2nd day picks that would not make the roster. In the end of all of Dave Wannstedts draft picks, only Chris Chambers and Randy McMichael would contribute at a level indicative of their draft slots. Today, only Yeremiah Bell, a late 2nd day pick remains on the Dolphins roster.
After a dismal start to the 2004 season, Dave Wannstedt would resign during the bye week. He would be replaced by interim HC Jim Bates and the Phins would finish with a then franchise worse record of 4-12. Dave Wannstedt’s career in Miami would prove disastorous for the franchise. No QB’s were drafted during his tenure except Josh Heupel in 2001. Heupel would not make the team. The events surrounding Dave Wannstedt would push the team into a continual rebuild that has entered its 4th off-season.
Often seen on the sidelines with his hands running through his hair, his lips puffed out, and a deer in the head-light look, Wannstedt often stood at a podium and told the media his plans for games and for personell. In the end, fans loathed him, players questioned him, and while he was stripped of his GM duties in 2003, his reluctance to start anyone but Jay Fiedler added to his legacy. 4 years later and the Dolphins are still feeling his presence.
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