The Bengals were Miami’s “Grinch” this year and knocked the Dolphins out of the playoff chase for good with their 13-10 OT win over the Steelers. While Miami will not be playing come January this season, there is so much to thankful for as a Fins fan. For one, the Fins seem to be moving in the right direction, and have won twice the games everyone expected them to win. On another note, they aren’t the New York Jets or Buffalo Bills, and are not experiencing a downward slide. You can say “If Miami had won this game, or if this had happened…” all you want, but Miami’s record is what it is and this is how the 2012 season turned out. Here are five things we can be thankful for this holiday season.
1. Ryan Tannehill - Whether you like RT17 or not, there is no denying that this kid can play. Is he the next Dan Marino? The “savior” of the franchise? We won’t know that for some time, but what we do know is that Tannehill is a leader and a pretty darn good quarterback. Because he hasn’t put up the big numbers like RG3 or Andrew Luck, and his team is not in the playoff chase (like Russell Wilson), many question Tannehill’s ability and mark him off as the fourth or third best rookie quarterback. The fact that Tannehill has shown so much potential and gotten better with each week is more important than any statistic or number. He does not have the talent around him that the rest of the rookie QB’s have, and we can’t truly judge him until he has all the pieces put around him. With as little talent offensively as this team has, Tannehill has shown that he is the future of this franchise, and I think we can be thankful for that.
2. Joe Philbin - Not only do I think the Fins have found their franchise quarterback, but I believe they have also found a great head coach. Philbin is a no nonsense guy, and while the Fins are not in the playoffs this year, look at how much Philbin has done this year. Ignore the team’s record for a second. He turned a team that was the league’s source of jokes during Hard Knocks into an respectable NFL organization that has beaten some playoff caliber teams this season. He dismissed anyone that did not portray a disciplined and hard-working attitude (Chad Johnson, Vontae Davis), and has demanded and received his players’ respect and attention. Philbin has accomplished this all in his first year, and hopefully he will exert himself in the upcoming draft and build a team that can embody his motto on the field.
3. Reshad Jones - I consider Jones the biggest surprise of the season. This guy can really play. He barely made the team in his first couple seasons, and he has since flourished into a ball-hawking NFL safety. I can’t remember a play in the past few weeks where Jones has not been flying in to make a tackle or making a ridiculous interception or recovering a fumble. He owned the Bills last week with two fumble recoveries and an interception on the Miami 1 yard line that sealed the Fins’ victory. Jones is the brightest star in an otherwise dull Miami secondary, and if he continues to progress at this rate, I think we’ll be seeing Jones in the Pro Bowl next year.
4. Brandon Fields - Some may consider it sad or pathetic that one of the things to be thankful as a Fins fan is our punter, but then again some fans don’t realize the impact Fields has had on this team this season. Perhaps the most consistent player all year (and one of my nominees for Dolphins’ MVP), Fields has been a special teams juggernaut. He can flip the field with one mighty boot no matter where the Dolphins’ offense leaves him, and with an offense that has struggled periodically all year, a sky-high rocket off of Fields’ mighty foot has proven to be crucial in many of Miami’s victories. Fields ranks in the top ten in almost every punting stat, and he has my vote for the Pro Bowl for sure.
5. Miami’s Ten Draft Picks - Miami currently has the second most draft picks in the 2013 NFL draft with ten, behind only the Seahawks (who have eleven). Barring a trade in free agency that would send some of Miami’s picks to other teams, they have a great chance to fill much needed holes in April. Miami needs a lot of help, but the glaring holes are at WR and CB (and OT if they get rid of Long). Miami’s 2013 season will greatly depend on their success in the draft, and I think Miami should not go for the best player on the board and address their needs. While this can be risky, the Fins have no room to wait another season and “make do with what they have” again. If they can’t snag a top wide receiver or corner in Free Agency, then I expect them to address those needs first in the draft. Hopefully they will use their 10 picks fully, and come away with some players who can start immediately and help RT17 on offense and Jones in the secondary.
While we won’t be seeing teal and orange on the field after the New Year rolls along, we still have a lot to be thankful for as Fins fans. I believe this organization is on its way back to the top, but the time it takes to reach the top will depend on the draft and Free Agency moves. I am confident in Philbin as a coach and believe Miami will be playing in January shortly. Let’s hope the Dolphins are making it their New Year’s Resolution.