The Dolphins have concluded a three-week stretch of nationally televised games with three losses, punctuated by surrendering 548 yards in a 45-21 loss to the Panthers. And it has sparked something other than pessimism from some members of a team that sunk from 4-2 to 4-5 with losses to the Ravens, Raiders, and Panthers, in games where the Dolphins were outscored 112-45.
“Adam [Gase] said it really well in the locker room, that’s three weeks out of 16,” quarterback Jay Cutler said after the Monday night debacle in Charlotte, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “There’s a lot of football left. The pieces are in that locker room. I truly believe that. I have been around a lot of good teams, there [are] a lot of good guys in there, a lot of talent. And there’s really good coaches. So we just have to get back to work. That’s the only thing we can do. We can’t fold up shop because there’s a lot of football left to play and anything can happen.”
Center Mike Pouncey was similarly delusion. I mean, confident.
“We’re good,” Pouncey said, via Salguero. “You’ve just got to regroup. We still control our own destiny. It’s just we’ve got to win these kinds of football games. It’s the second half of the season and we can’t lose these kind of games. We just put ourselves in a deeper hole, but we’re going to keep working hard and we’re going to get us a win next week.”
Pouncey’s guarantee isn’t much of a stretch, since they get a visit from the Buccaneers in the game postponed from Week One. That game could provide a spark, but then the flame is coming: Pats-Broncos-Pats, followed by Bills-Chiefs-Bills.
The good news is that half of the final six games suddenly don’t look as daunting as they did two weeks ago, thanks to the struggles in Denver and Buffalo. But let’s say they finish 4-3 to go with 4-5. That’s 8-8 — and that’s almost certainly a season without a postseason.
Which once again underscores the downside of a new coach succeeding too quickly. Whether it’s Ben McAdoo in New York or Gase in Miami, a first-year playoff berth results in artificially increased expectations for Year Two. Which can make Year Two look like a lot worse than it otherwise would or should, even if the second season ends up reflecting improvement over the prior regime.