New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins: Takeaways from Miami's Horrendous Finale
If you are a connoisseur of Miami Dolphins history like I am, you could say that you saw this coming.
Needing one win in their final two games to get into the postseason, the Dolphins choked it all away in the most boring way imaginable: by exposing the flaws that they've had all season and being out-coached by two teams that knew their playoff fates two weeks ago.
Really, there's not much to take away from this game that we didn't take away from last week's debacle against Buffalo, so this will be as much of a takeaways of the season piece as it is about takeaways from Sunday's game.
Let's relive a disappointing end to a roller coaster of a season that only two weeks ago still seemed so promising.
Miami's Run Game Can Run Against the Jets, but Struggled Overall
That's pretty decent against one of the better run defenses in the NFL. This comes weeks after he had another good game against the Jets.
None of those teams was really strong against the run, which makes the Dolphins' inability to utilize that weapon against those teams even more perplexing.
Miami will have to improve in this aspect in 2014, whether it is through the offensive line or by drafting another running back who can run with power.
The Dolphins Really Missed Brian Hartline
Today we got to see why Brian Hartline is so important to this Dolphins offense.
Hartline began the day with two catches for 38 yards. After a catch in the first quarter that went for 25 yards, Hartline came off the field limping, as James Walker of ESPN reported.
Right now there is no diagnosis for Hartline, but his absence from the rest of the game set the Dolphins' offense back.
Without Hartline opening up the underneath routes for Miami, it became that much tougher for Mike Wallace and Charles Clay to get going since they both faced tight coverage.
The good news for the Dolphins is that the wide receivers are a strength for this team when this unit is whole. Mike Wallace started to come on at the end of the season, while Brian Hartline had his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, Meanwhile, Brandon Gibson was money at the start of the season when he played, and Rishard Matthews showed us this year that he had enough skill to play.
That's not counting Charles Clay, who himself had a great year, and the possibility of a returning Armon Binns, who was beating out Brandon Gibson in camp before tearing his ACL.
The wide receivers look good, but they will need a little more depth in 2014.
More Weak Play from Miami's Linebackers
I've written way too much about the ineptitude of the Dolphins' linebackers.
Once again, they failed to show up, especially Philip Wheeler, whom offenses started to pick on in the last three weeks of the season.
It looked like Wheeler made a great play in the third quarter when he broke up a pass by Geno Smith to Jeff Cumberland.
But there was a reason why Wheeler was able to keep in step with Cumberland and break up the pass: He held him, which gave the Jets new life for what would be their go-ahead touchdown.
The Jets, like other teams, were able to run and pass all over the Dolphins' linebackers throughout the game, which is one reason why this defense looked so weak.
We Don't Know What We Have with Ryan Tannehill
Is Ryan Tannehill the answer?
Honestly, we don't know.
It is only his second year, and we can point to the positives.
Positive one: He won more games in Year 2.
Positive two: He doubled his touchdowns from last year while throwing more touchdowns than interceptions.
Positive three: He had the Dolphins on the precipice of a playoff spot.
Now the negatives. Miami's seven points in two games when the Dolphins had the chance to make the playoffs does fall on him since he is the quarterback.
He also still doesn't seem to have his timing down with Mike Wallace, which was shown when he overthrew him in the second quarter.
Tannehill seemed rattled during the Week 17 contest against the Jets after he lost Brian Hartline. As painful as his loss was, elite quarterbacks can overcome this (who's New England's top receiver again?).
What do we know about Tannehill? We know he can improve and has skills, and he deserves another season to prove that.
At the same time, I wouldn't be against the Dolphins drafting a quarterback either.
Dolphins Will Have Defensive Line Questions Next Season
The defensive line was supposed to be a strength for the Dolphins in 2013, but thanks to some bad schemes, bad linebacker play and at times apathy from the players themselves, they wound up looking worse than they truly are.
Now here come the questions about the line: Where does it go from here? Both Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are free agents this offseason, and both might wind up fleeing if the money is right.
I doubt the Dolphins put the franchise tag on any of them either; that's likely to go to Brent Grimes.
We could see a very different defensive line in 2014, which adds even more uncertainty to a team that right now is filled with it.
A Cleanup Is in Order for the Dolphins (and Might Have Already Started)
I'm tired of looking up pictures each week of Mike Sherman, who in this picture seems to look like he's eating the plays that might work for this team.
The good news is, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, there's a feeling that Mike Sherman will be gone in the Dolphins' locker room.
This would be great news for the Miami Dolphins, as Sherman's play-calling has been an issue for the Dolphins all season long.
Marc Kohn, Dolphins fan and Bleacher Report's director of video programming, also brings up a good point as to how losing Mike Sherman might help the Dolphins find out what they really have with Ryan Tannehill:
You have no choice but to get Tannehill a new voice...I said it a month ago that Sherman needed to be removed from situation to see about RT— Marc Kohn (@KohneysKorner) December 29, 2013
This is a point that I agree with, but I also believe that Sherman shouldn't be the only one gone.
I never thought Joe Philbin was a coach of the year candidate like some did after Week 15, but I did think he deserved another year.
Not after the uninspired performance of this team in the final two games.
Kevin Coyle deserves scrutiny too; his defensive schemes were torn apart as the season progressed, despite the fact that there's plenty of talent on that side of the ball.
Then there's Jeff Ireland. But that's the next slide.
Debating Jeff Ireland
For the final slide of the takeaways piece (and final slide of the season), I'm going to refrain from blindly saying to fire general manager Jeff Ireland. Instead I'll debate his merits and his detriments.
One could make the argument that Ireland actually did a good job acquiring talent. One can point to the coaching staff for not utilizing that talent properly.
That's a very valid argument. All year this season when Dion Jordan played, he made an impact, yet the coaches rarely used him.
Jordan is just one example. You could also look at the schemes the coaches used with the players, and how sometimes it just didn't seem to fit.
Check out agent David Canter's timeline on Twitter, as this is the argument he's making.
It's a valid argument in favor of Jeff Ireland—he acquired the talent, it wasn't used well—and it is all true. However, I just have one question.
Who hired these coaches to begin with?
The staff was put together by Joe Philbin himself, and Joe Philbin appeared to be the choice of Stephen Ross two years ago when he was hired.
But Jeff Ireland, as the general manager, had a voice and could've gone to bat for someone else as coach. He didn't, and Philbin was hired to complete what I call the confederacy of dunces.
That by itself cancels out any other argument, in my not-so-humble opinion. As the general manager, you not only acquire the talent but also the coaches to coach up that talent.
The Dolphins' coaches failed to do that—coaches hired by Jeff Ireland.
There are other reasons Ireland must go (he hasn't had the best drafts, especially on Day 2), but this is reason No. 1.
Now before I sign off for the season, I'd like to thank all of you readers for such a great season. Sure the Dolphins disappointed us, but it was never a disappointment to write about the Dolphins and analyze them for all of you, nor was it ever a disappointment to participate in some of the more lively discussions with you all on Twitter and in the comments section.
I'll continue writing about the Dolphins this offseason, and it is my hope that you will continue reading. Thank you for making this year a good one professionally for me, and may the Dolphins give me reasons to write positively about them in 2014.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year everybody!