The Dolphins can learn from Miami’s 2016 playoffs teams


With the Miami Dolphins having appeared in the playoffs just once since the 2001 season, there are at least two lessons the team can learn from Miami’s 2016 playoffs teams, the Miami Heat and the Florida Panthers.

The Dolphins last appeared in the NFL playoffs after the 2008 season, losing to the Ravens 27-9 in a wild card game.  Prior to that, the Dolphins appeared in the NFL playoffs after the 2001 season, also losing to the Ravens 20-3 in a wild card game.  In looking to more consistently return to the playoffs as the team did prior to 2000, the Dolphins can learn certain lessons from the Miami Heat (12 NBA playoff appearances since 2001) and even the Florida Panthers (2 NHL playoff appearances since 2011).

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Stability in the front office and coaching ranks.  For the Heat, Pat Riley has been the team president since 1995, serving as their de facto general manager and twice as their head coach (1995-2003 and 2005-2008), while Eric Spoelstra has coached the team since 2008.  For the Panthers, Dale Tallon took over as General Manager in 2010, following a five-year general manager stint in Chicago, while Gerard Gallant has been coaching since 2014.

In contrast, the Dolphins are now on their ninth head coach (three were fired during the season) and their fifth general manager since 2001.  Thus, while Nick Saban, Joe Philbin, Bill Parcells and others arrived with much fanfare, the excitement did not last long or produce the expected results.  Ownership appears confident that Chris Grier (General Manager) and Adam Gase (Head Coach) can change that trend, and Dolphins fans have to hope that they will bring some necessary stability to the team.

Build a successful team through intelligent use of the draft and free agency.  While the Heat tend to build through free agency, their 2015 draft picks of Justise Winslow (1st round) and Josh Richardson (2nd round) and signing of Hassan Whiteside have keyed this season’s success.  Moreover, 2003 draft choice Dwayne Wade and free agents Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Ray Allen, Chris Anderson, and even Shaquille O’Neal have been keys in the Heat’s previous championship seasons.  The Florida Panthers, by contrast, tend to draft and develop their prospects through the NCAA.  The young core that included Sasha Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Vincent Trocheck helped the Panthers capture the Atlantic Division title this year and set the team up for even better success in the years ahead.

In contrast, the Dolphins have tried making huge splashes in both the draft (for example, moving up to pick Dion Jordan with the 3rd pick in 2013) and free agency (for example, Ndamukong Suh in 2015, Mike Wallace in 2013), but the cost of obtaining such players has so far greatly outweighed their Miami production.  This off-season, the Dolphins have already shown more temperance in free agency.  Looking toward Thursday’s NFL draft, Dolphins fans have to hope that the team will intelligently use the draft to build for a long and sustainable future.