Over the last ten years if not longer, the Dolphins have watched talented players underperform on their roster. Yet once they were released they excelled for other teams. The question became talent vs. coaching. This year it’s safe to say that the Dolphins were well coached.
Miami was decimated with injuries all season long which makes this years success more impressive. That can be shouldered on the change of vision and culture that was brought to Miami by Adam Gase.
There is no reason to believe that won’t continue in 2017. Regardless of Vance Joseph’s status. The coaches are earning the respect of the players who want to play for him. That will be an attractive element in free agency. More importantly it will be a huge element in the continued development of the Dolphins young roster.
A year ago people wanted Ryan Tannehill out of Miami now a lot of them are changing their tune. Consider that the Dolphins in the last six years have been one of the worst in red-zone offense. In the last eight weeks, Tannehill led the NFL in touchdowns in the red-zone.
Tannehill is learning under Gase and there is still a lot more that needs to be done and Tannehill still has a long way to go but he has made tremendous strides in 2016, especially with his long ball ability which has been sorely lacking in years past.
With so many young players learning the new systems and even learning to play at this level given their inexperience, there is a lot of hope that these players will develop quicker under the coaching staff over the course of this off-season. Consider that last off-season Gase was building his staff and really working with a lot of hold overs from Joe Philbins seasons. From installing a new system on both sides of the ball, the Dolphins finally came together.
Now what happens if they get the pieces that fit those systems?
Will the Dolphins improve in 2017? Will they win 10 games again or 11 or will they, facing a tough group of games, fall back? It’s hard to say but there is a lot of reasons to be optimistic. Miami won against weaker teams this year but the way they won speaks volumes to how far the team has come and while you can’t judge the 2016 team on games against the 49’ers and Browns, you can look at how they performed against teams like the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Patriots and realize this is a team that is getting better.
Fan expectations will be high in 2017 but they should also come with some reservations. The Dolphins expectations will be higher as well but they are starting realize that they can hold their own against just about anyone. By next season, they just might.