After the total team meltdown on Sunday vs. the Tennessee Titans, there is no individual goat of the week for the Miami Dolphins. There certainly are no heroes. What there is, is a series of fractures in a previously promising season which head coach Joe Philbin and his staff must now find a way to prevent from falling apart. The Dolphins need a rebound game in order to not waste all the positive vibes generated in the first half of the season.
Coming off the bye, when looking at the upcoming schedule, a long trip to Buffalo to play the Bills on a Thursday night did not seem a favorable way to conduct the first matchup of the year against the rival opponent. But after the debacle against the Titans, the Dolphins are probably the first team this year to enjoy having a quick Thursday turnaround. You hope that the team sees this as an opportunity to strike an all-around putrid performance from the minds of themselves and their fans as quickly as possible. This is where the pressure falls back to Philbin and the coaching staff.
As the leader of the franchise, Philbin is at least partially responsible for what happened last week, but he is also responsible for helping the team move on as quickly as possible and making sure it never happens again. That’s why this week’s rebound performance is so important. If Philbin is in over his head, the team could very well continue to slide against the Bills and possibly further into the rest of the season, as the schedule does begin to get tougher. But if he is the leader we’ve all thought he could be, and every indication still remains that he is, he needs to get the team fired up to take the anger created from a poor performance and channel it into playing the Bills.
While fans, myself included, were probably overreacting to the team’s contention chances this season just a few weeks ago, what was not an unreasonable expectation was for the team to maintain competitiveness week in and week out in the hopes of building toward contention in 2013 and beyond. What we saw on the field last Sunday was not a step on the path to competitiveness, and every member of the Dolphins organization would agree. Philbin had built up some goodwill with Dolphins fans for the fast start (even though the stands on Sunday did not show it), but this is still a fragile organization and fan base that is ready to panic at the slightest signs of negativity. Another egg on Thursday would start another round of whispers around the organization, be it about Ryan Tannehill or Jeff Ireland or even Philbin himself.
Despite it always being the goal, the Dolphins don’t have to make the postseason for this year to be a success. No matter how great everyone felt about the team after the defeat of the New York Jets, a Super Bowl run was never on anyone’s mind. So valuable lessons and developmental progress for all of the team’s long-term assets was always at the forefront of the team’s objectives. If Philbin can lead the team to a victory Thursday (or at the least a very competitive performance), the Dolphins can be back on the road to contention, albeit likely in future seasons. If not, we may be in for another long December and offseason of questions surrounding the franchise’s future, despite the answers to those questions seeming so promising just two short weeks ago.