So the NFL goes on without the Miami Dolphins this weekend.
It all begins tonight with Kansas City at New England, which provides a handy 7:30 p.m. deadline for getting those houses boarded up and bringing out a football feast of all the food that will spoil without electricity.
Seems like nothing ever gets down without a hard deadline, right?
Am I disappointed that the Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t be playing Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium? Sure, but that’s so far down the list of priorities right now that it’s almost silly.
The Dolphins have already deflated their practice bubble at the practice facility in Davie, folks, and removed everything from the 100 and 300 levels of the stadium that wasn’t bolted down. Tables, chairs, portable vendor carts. Everything.
They’re not thinking football. They’re being smart, and we should be, too.
The storm will pass, though, and fans will begin to blame the rescheduling of the Bucs game for the November bye week as the reason that Miami isn’t having a great season. Oh, and you can be sure there will be grumbling from fans whose power and cable or satellite service get disrupted on Sunday when Irma comes calling and the rest of the NFL schedule goes unwatched around here.
Too bad. Life is not a fantasy and it’s does not revolve around fantasy leaguers.
Just to get ahead of the argument, though, when the sports-talk debate centers around the disadvantage Miami is under for losing the cushion of the bye week, here’s the common sense of it.
The Dolphins will have injuries all season, no matter what, just like every other team. They lost Ryan Tannehill before the first preseason game was played. They lost Raekwon McMillan and Tony Lippett, a couple of vital defenders, before this opening weekend of the regular season. There is no way to plan your way out of problems like this. They will come no matter what the schedule says and coach Adam Gase will have to deal with them when they do.
As it is, with Miami 0-0 and on hold until Sept. 17, there is lesser optimism that the team will challenge the Patriots for the division title or scramble to another wild-card playoff spot. That’s because of the injuries that already have happened, and it would be the same basic outlook even if Miami had gotten the chance to beat the Bucs on Sunday and jump to a 1-0 start.
Meanwhile, remember that the NFL didn’t always allow for a bye week in the 16-game schedule. That started in 1990.
There was a perfect Dolphins season 18 years prior to that, and a sturdy team that played 16 consecutive games in the process. Fourteen regular-season games, two playoff games and than a “bye” before the Super Bowl win that wrapped up a historic 17-0 run.
Bob Griese missed games to injury along the way, and so did others, but Miami proved itself to be the best team in the league just the same.
On Tuesday, before the NFL announced Miami vs. Tampa Bay would be rescheduled from the season opener to Nov. 19, Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry gave an honest answer to a question about the importance of the bye week.
“I think the stretch after our bye week is probably one of the toughest – if you want to be real about it – probably the toughest in the NFL,” Landry said. “That bye week will give us an opportunity to kind of get some guys healthy. In this NFL, in the league, you’re going to get banged up week in, week out. For us, that bye week, it comes at an appropriate time. For us, to keep it there would be huge.”
The post-Nov. 19 schedule truly is a bear, with games against Denver and Kansas City and, of course, two games with New England in the space of three weeks.
Give Landry credit, though, for following up that bye-week assessment with the kind of tough response that is needed in tough situations.
“I would play today if we could,” Landry said on Tuesday. ‘Obviously, again, that’s up to the team, the NFL, both organizations. If it is moved and we’ve got to play 16 weeks in a row, it’s something that we’ve got to do. We’re going to embrace the process, embrace the challenge and we’re going to make it happen.”
Schedules don’t make great seasons, in other words. Great talent combined with great coaching and great chemistry, that’s the only combination that ever works.
Be safe everybody.