Why 2020 will be an exciting year to be a Miami Dolphins fan

DolfansNYC members look ahead, maybe to 2020. - Image by Brian Miller
DolfansNYC members look ahead, maybe to 2020. - Image by Brian Miller /

The Miami Dolphins are off today and four days into training camp but it is 2020 that could be the most exciting season in Dolphins history.

O.k. that is a little bit over the top but it does express the point that the 2020 Miami Dolphins season could be very exciting for the fans and it has nothing to do with the Super Bowl.

Somewhere I am sure that Cleveland Browns fans said or thought the same thing about their team. Teams at the bottom or mired in mediocrity rarely elicit excitement that doesn’t come with overhyping and unrealistic expectations. For Dolphins fans, that has been the year in and year out mantra since Joe Philbin arrived. It didn’t last long.

Philbin had one year as the coach before everyone realized that he wasn’t going to get it done. Adam Gase was supposed to be the savior and instead, he became a running joke. Almost literally. Now it is Brian Flores’ turn and there are no guarantees that Flores will fair any better than the previous two. That being said, 2020 is going to be a lot of fun and here is why.

Before we get into 2020 let us talk briefly about 2019. The season isn’t expected to be a good one for the Dolphins. They have a new coaching staff and new faces on both sides of the ball. They are working more towards installing systems and mindsets rather than finding the players that will be heavy hitters for years to come.

This year is the first part of the rebuild and it will be tough to watch. Excitement is building to see what the Dolphins can accomplish this year but it is tempered enthusiasm. Miami made off-season moves to save money and cap space but not for the now, they made it for the sake of the franchise’s future. For 2020.

Fast forward to the 2020 off-season. The Dolphins will have plenty of cap space, some predict almost or at $100 million to spend in the off-season. That does not mean that the Dolphins will use it on big-name free agents. That no longer seems to be the method of operation for this team anymore. We can expect maybe one top talent but more likely, we will see additions that fit within the system that is being installed.

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The draft is going to provide a lot of excitement as well. With as many as 10 possible draft picks, the Dolphins are going to add to their roster with young talent that again, fits what the Dolphins are trying to build. The question is where will the Dolphins be picking and that brings us to why 2020 could be so exciting.

If the Dolphins completely fail in 2019 as many predict nationally, then the Dolphins will draft in the top five or maybe even the top three. That in and of itself can be exciting. A new franchise quarterback perhaps or a top linebacker prospect. Maybe another edge corner that can physically shut down the opposite side of Xavien Howard. What if that the Dolphins do not finish that high in the draft?

If the Dolphins finish 8-8 in 2019 or even 6-10 they will not draft in the top five. That too is exciting because it means this coaching staff was able to win despite not having a well-rounded football team. A team that is universally without quality depth and in some cases quality starters. It would mean that the coaching staff did a damn good job with what they have.

It could also mean that Josh Rosen succeeded. It could mean that offensive lineman Michael Dieter paired well with Laremy Tunsil on the left side and the right side was able to do their job. It would mean that the receiving core was solid. Defensively it would show that despite a serious lack of depth at several positions, Miami was able to win with those deficiencies.

The lead up to 2020 does start with 2019 and while we believe that Miami will make a lot of off-season moves after the 2019 season.  If this year is even a small success we will know that the team is heading in the right direction because coaching, system, and situational substitutions worked.

Unlike 2016 when the Dolphins made the post-season, many believed that the team was on the right track but Adam Gase was in his own head and fans expected a lot from them in 2017. Ryan Tannehill‘s injury changed all that but so did really bad off-season additions of Jay Cutler and Julius Thomas. Gase’s own ego stopped the progress. So far, we don’t see any ego from Flores.

It is way too early to say that Flores will succeed, we simply don’t know. He will, however, unlike Gase, have the opportunity to really build his team from top to bottom including the quarterback position. With a solid slate of draft picks in 2020, room to make free agent moves, and the ability to identify players that can fit within the system instead of trying to fit existing players makes this a better chance for success.

Gase inherited a bad football team and the Dolphins didn’t blow it up then. Gase thought he could win with what he had but he couldn’t. He didn’t. Flores isn’t trying to necessarily win with what he has. He and Chris Grier are trying to win with what they have while accepting the fact that what they have now is not what they plan to have in the future.

2019 is going to be as much about the evaluation of players as it will be about winning football games. Flores isn’t the type of coach that is going to forfeit games for the sake of evaluation but they will go together as a total process. Or at least is should.

2020 is not the end of the rebuild, however. Consider that 2019 is the blow it up and start over year. That is why Cameron Wake, Ryan Tannehill, Andre Branch, and Robert Quinn to name four are gone. Next year it could be Reshad Jones and a few others. It is also the reason they committed to Xavien Howard and likely will do the same with Laremy Tunsil. It is a fluid process that Grier and Flores are working through. Expectations or no expectations.

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After this initial blow-up, the Dolphins will begin setting up the roster in 2020 when they have money and draft picks to work with. That will set up 2021 when they enter what should be the final year of the rebuild. Final pieces should be added then to supplement what they can not do in 2020.

This all plays out like a motion picture. The first part sets up the middle where the meat of the story unfolds which in turn sets up the finale. 2019 is going to be fun even though it will be a hard one to watch most of the year but 2020 stands to be one of the most exciting periods in Dolphins history, at least since Bill Parcells.

Consider this, the last time the Dolphins really started over was when Parcells came to Miami. That entire part of the team’s history was doomed from the start because of two things. One, Parcells was buying his own groceries but wasn’t the one coaching them. The in-fighting and problems that arose from Jeff Ireland and the power struggles and the change of ownership all combined to tear apart the team from within. This time, there is no in-fighting. The chain of command is clearly defined and Flores and Grier share the same rebuilding plan.

The knocks were taken this off-season and if Flores can change the team mentality, he will have a good chance to succeed. 2020 will go a long way to helping that come to fruition and that is pretty damn exciting.