Former backup QB Doug Pederson saved Don Shula’s bacon and now Nick Foles is doing the same for the Eagles’ coach

It’s not the way he would have wanted it, but it’s kind of cool that Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson is headed to the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback, Nick Foles.

11/14/93 – Dolphins backup QB Doug Pederson in action. Palm Beach Post File Photo

In a storyline that you’ll hear much more about in the two weeks before the Eagles face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, Pederson himself was a career backup in the NFL and bounced around in the World League of American Football, too.

He started 17 NFL games in his 10-year career with Green Bay, Philadelphia, Miami and Cleveland but is best remembered for a game he didn’t start.

It was Pederson who came off the bench in 1993 to help Don Shula to his 325th career victory, the one that moved the coach past George Halas and into first-place all time.

The game was in Philadelphia, as if there aren’t enough circular connections to this thing, and the Dolphins already were without Dan Marino because of a torn Achilles. Scott Mitchell had been doing a credible job in his stead for a couple of weeks but then Mitchell, too, was knocked from the Eagles game early in the second half with a separated throwing shoulder.

In came Pederson, whose name Shula sometimes had trouble remembering during the crazy scramble to find viable depth and the race to get the new guy ready for an emergency. Pederson had never thrown a pass in an NFL game and he showed some early nerves, fumbling the ball away at the 1-yard line on the first scoring opportunity that he got.

“He (Shula) just told me to keep my head up,” Pederson said. “He told me to just do the things I knew how to do. Kept giving me support and encouragement.”

In the end the Dolphins had just enough to get by, winning 19-14 on a couple of field-goal drives as Pederson (3-for-6 passing for 34 yards) tried simply to make the basic plays that were required of him.

He wasn’t with the team much longer as Shula, who was carried off the field that day at Philadelphia, turned back to 39-year-old Steve DeBerg and eventually to Mitchell to finish out a 9-7 season. The Dolphins were 7-2 on that magical afternoon, however, and Shula, in his wildest scramble since having to start halfback Tom Matte at quarterback in his Baltimore Colts days, had not given up hope.

“I would love to see this football team continue to win and go all the way to the Super Bowl,” Shula said. “We have to continue to believe in ourselves.”

That’s how Pederson is working this Eagles’ postseason run now in the absence of starting quarterback Carson Wentz, and so far it’s working. Foles, by the way, is far more competent than Pederson was and came make all the plays, as demonstrated in a 38-7 NFC title game win over Minnesota on Sunday.

Playoffs? Dolphins history says you just can’t get there from 5-7

The Miami Dolphins looked great against Denver last Sunday. Now all they have to do is play great enough to win the last four games of the regular season, including a Monday nighter against New England, and they’re, what, a remote playoff possibility?

Truth is, the reality of the situation is even tougher than that sounds.

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) enters the field during pre game introductions at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 3, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

No Miami team has ever gone from 5-7 to a playoff appearance. The only thing that comes close to that is 1995, Don Shula’s final season, when the Dolphins were 6-6 after 12 games and rallied to claim the AFC’s final wild-card spot at 9-7.

It was a struggle all the way, with Bernie Kosar starting a couple of midseason defeats at quarterback while Dan Marino was dealing with an injured hip. Three wins in the last four games earned a playoff spot, but the spark was quickly snuffed by a 37-22 loss at Buffalo in the opening playoff round.

The Bills led that one 37-0 through three quarters, which is a fair indication of how these things usually go when a flawed team barely reaches the playoffs and is matched against one of the league’s best. Today’s Dolphins, in comparison, have more flaws than the 1995 version, so it really is silly expecting anything spectacular to happen for them now.

Since 2000, no AFC team has qualified for the playoffs with fewer than nine wins.

One of the most disappointing memories in recent franchise history was the 2013 season, when Miami was almost there but ran out of gas.

Wins over Pittsburgh and New England raised hopes for those Dolphins, who improved to 8-6 in the process. Then came a 19-0 loss at Buffalo and a 20-7 loss at home to the New York Jets.

Kerplunk, Joe Philbin missed the playoffs by a game at 8-8. The only good news is that Ryan Tannehill somehow got through it in one piece after leading the league with 58 sacks.

Adam Gase’s 2017 Dolphins have demonstrated the same tendency to curl up into a ball for long stretches, getting shut out two times and very nearly a third. Until there is mathematical elimination, however, there will be talk of turning things around.

You understand how hollow that talk is, but I just wanted to highlight what the echoes of the past say about this.

When a team is 5-7 and there are so many other teams bunched just above, you can’t get there from here.

[Rams’ Sean McVay has overtaken Adam Gase as NFL’s Next Big Thing]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen]

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good situation who wants to be great]

Not expecting a major step back for Adam Gase, no matter what Las Vegas says

 

Not quite sure where I’m going with my Dolphins prediction right now. Training camp opens Thursday and it makes no sense to guess that there will be no injuries between now and September.

It does seem harsh, though, to predict a major step back in Adam Gase’s second year as coach. That’s what USA Today is doing with a 7-9 pick for Miami in 2017.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase smiles as he speaks during a news conference after an NFL organized team activities football practice, Thursday, May 25, 2017, at the Dolphins training facility in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Back in May, the Southpoint Casino in Las Vegas went the same way, naming 7.5 as the over-under for the Dolphins.

Of course, it could happen that way. Gase, among all people, can be counted upon to stress to his players that a 10-6 playoff season in 2016 is wiped clean. The Dolphins of 2017 are a different animal, with some new players but all the old challenges.

Looking back, though, I can only find seven times in franchise history where the Dolphins had a dropoff of three or more wins from one year to the next. That’s seven times in 51 seasons. (Can’t count 1982, the strike-shortened season when Miami dropped from 11 wins to seven but reached the Super Bowl anyway.)

Don Shula had three of those precipitous drop-offs, proving that not even the winningest coach in NFL history can win them all.

The others were 2004, the year Dave Wannstedt resigned. He was 10-6 the previous season but stumbled to a 1-8 start and bailed on what turned out to be a 4-12 finish.

Nick Saban had a three-game dropoff in 2006, the year he already had one foot out the door for Alabama.

Cam Cameron broke all Dolphin standards by going 1-15 in 2007, a dropoff of five wins from Saban’s low point.

Finally, Tony Sparano went from that magical 11-win debut season in 2008 to 7-9 the following year.

In the last four cases, Miami didn’t have a great quarterback, or, at times, even a serviceable one.

Gase, on the other hand, seems to have something going now with Ryan Tannehill, providing all the good signs on that rehab from last December’s ACL injury continue to be good.

Working against Miami is a schedule that ranks sixth-toughest in the NFL. The Dolphins’ 2017 opponents had a winning percentage of .547 last year.

It’s possible, however, to read too much into that.

Prior to the 2016 season, and using the same methods, Buffalo was judged to have the 10th-toughest schedule in the league. Miami was No. 11 and Carolina No. 12.

Two of those teams wound up with losing records. Miami, going against the grain, had its best season in eight years.

[’72 Dolphins put up entirely different numbers during a different time]

[Here are trap games that should worry Seminoles, UM and Gators]

[A travel itinerary to attend all the best college football games in our state]

So my inclination right now is to say 9-7 for Miami this year. Sure, it’s a small step back, but I can find just one example of a Dolphins coach improving the team’s win total by four games from one season to the next and then immediately stepping it up again.

That was Shula, who went from six wins to 10 to 11 between 1976-78.

It’s a tough ask.

 

The 1972 Dolphins put up entirely different stats in what was an entirely different game

Every now and again I pull out the box scores from the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl dynasty more than 40 years ago and marvel at how much the game has changed.

The perfect Dolphins of 1972, for instance, averaged 359.7 yards in total offense. That was tops in the NFL at the time but would have ranked 11th in the league last year.

Don Shula and Bob Griese. (Bill Reinke/The Miami News)

Bob Griese completed eight passes for 88 yards in Super Bowl VII, the game that completed that 17-0 season. Ryan Tannehill has been held under 100 yards passing three times in his 77 career starts.

The 1972 Dolphins had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, and that was in a 14-game regular season. Jay Ajayi was the only Miami rusher over 1,000 yards last year. Nobody else cleared 200, and that was over 17 regular-season games.

Don Shula’s No Name Defense allowed 10 touchdowns passing during the 1972 regular season and two during the playoffs. Last year’s Dolphins allowed 30 touchdowns passing and two long scoring bombs by Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter of their only postseason game.

Sure, almost everything about the NFL has changed. The game is more wide open now, more exciting.

Got to hand it to Shula, though, for finding a way to win across 26 seasons as the Dolphins head coach, and seven years with the Baltimore Colts before that. He made the transition from Zonk to Dan Marino., but here’s the most unexpected stat of all.

Johnny Unitas attempted 44 passes and threw for 288 yards in Shula’s first career victory. Marino threw it 35 times and totaled 290 yards in completions during Shula’s 347th and final career win.

Bottom line, Shula was better than bold. He was smart enough to let his best players win for him, however that needed to be.

[Here are the trap games for Seminoles, Hurricanes and Gators in 2017]  

[Jeffrey Loria says media should stop talking about Marlins sale]

[Astros and Nats could bring World Series buzz back to WPB next spring]

 

 

A little candy to treat Dolphins fans who are sick of seeing the Patriots always in the Super Bowl

 

This time of year can be tough on Miami Dolphins fans, now 43 years removed from

1973 file photo. Don Shula.
Don Shula in 1973. (Post file photo)

the last NFL championship in franchise history, and that frustration goes double when the New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl again.

As a public service to the South Florida market we offer these proofs that it was not always this way (Patriots ruling the AFC East and, too frequently, the world) and it will not stay this way forever (in theory, at least).

  • Between 1964-75, the Boston/New England Patriots experienced a 12-season postseason drought. The Dolphins’ longest stretch without a playoff game is seven seasons.
  • During the sad period of Patriots history listed above, the Dolphins won a couple of Super Bowls, posted the only perfect season in NFL history and ran up a 13-6 record against the Pats.
  • Between 1963-82, the Patriots qualified for just four playoff games and lost them all. The last loss in that string was a first-rounder to Miami in 1982, and the Dolphins went on to play in the Super Bowl that year.
  • The Dolphins are 16 years without a postseason victory at the moment, but there’s still time to put one on the board before reaching the Patriots’ franchise worst drought of 21 years between 1964-84.
  • Three times in their history the Patriots have owned or shared the worst record in the NFL – 1970, 1990 and 1992. That has happened to Miami only once (2007).
  • The Dolphins lead the all-time series with the Patriots 53-50, playoffs included.
  • The Dolphins own the longest winning streak in the series, with nine straight victories over the Patriots between 1989-93. The Patriots have never won more than seven in a row against Miami.
  • The Dolphins have the most lopsided victory in the series, 52-0 in 1972.
  • When Tom Brady joines the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day, he’ll still be outnumbered by Bob Griese and Dan Marino.
  • Bill Belichick may have 262 career victories but he’s still 85 short of Don Shula.

 

Conclusions? This makes me feel a little bit better about the faulty concept that everything always goes New England’s way, and a little bit worse that it took so much work to find these Miami advantages.

Trust me, it does no good to dig further. Stop here, before counting up division titles, Super Bowls and such, and before recognizing that Shula was 65 when the Dolphins pushed him out of the way for Jimmy Johnson. Belichick is 64 and still working on his trophy case.

[Here’s a Miami Heat upset crazier than Monday’s win over Warriors]

[Gators fall a touchdown short of college football’s scoring average]

[Wondering if Dolphins’ No. 22 draft slot is haunted]

In playoffs, Gase has won with Tebow and lost with Manning so why put limits on what might happen now?

For all of his success as the NFL’s winningest coach, Don Shula’s overall record in the playoffs was barely above .500 at 19-17, and that’s with Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese and Dan Marino at quarterback for most of those games.

Jimmy Johnson, meanwhile, was 2-3 in the postseason in his time as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, with a 62-7 blowout loss at Jacksonville to kick him out the door.

What we’re trying to say here, and what every Dolphins fan should understand, is that the playoffs are an exceedingly cruel and unpredictable environment, and that goes for everybody.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross talks with Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase before game against the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on January 1, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross talks with head coach Adam Gase before game against the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on January 1, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Adam Gase will try to communicate that to the Dolphins this week as they prepare to face Pittsburgh in Miami’s first playoff game since 2008. Some things, however, just have to be experienced to be believed.

“It’s another level,” Gase said Monday. “They’ll know it. They’ll know it when they hit the field. Trust me. “

How could a rookie head coach be so sure? Consider how much Gase already has seen in his NFL career.

A playoff win in overtime with Tim Tebow, back when Gase was the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach.

Two sudden dead ends when Peyton Manning was quarterbacking the Broncos but they lost their opening playoff game just the same.

Or how about 2013, the first of two seasons for Gase directly collaborating with Peyton on play-calling? Denver rolled all the way to the Super Bowl that year with the league’s No. 1 offense in all the big categories only to get smashed 43-8 by Seattle.

Put it all together, counting Gase’s time as an assistant in Detroit, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago, and he has been a part of three postseason wins in seven tries. Those were good teams, and sometimes even great, or they wouldn’t have been in the playoffs in the first place. Still, it can get ugly in a hurry.

[Kiffin’s breakup with Bama before title game does FAU no favors]

[Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign drew some comparisons to Tebow’s]

[Might as well let ESPN directly manage the College Football Playoff product]

On the other sideline Sunday at Heinz Field will be Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. He’s taken Pittsburgh to a couple of Super Bowls, sure, and won one at the age of 36, but overall Tomlin is 6-5 in postseason games. What’s more, half of his playoff teams have lost their opening game.

It’s another level, all right, and with confidence levels rising and falling with each crucial snap. No reason Miami should be counted out of anything, whether there’s a ton of playoff experience on the roster or not.

 

 

Holding Rams’ Jared Goff on bench is mistake Miami didn’t make with Ryan Tannehill

The Dolphins are in Southern California the next couple of Sunday’s, facing teams that started out the careers of a couple of first-round quarterbacks far differently than Miami did with Ryan Tannehill.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Quarterback Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams runs on to the field to play in the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – Quarterback Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams runs off the field after sitting out last Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

First comes a game at San Diego, which in 2004 wanted to take Eli Manning first overall in the draft but couldn’t convince the Ole Miss star to come without a fight. The result was a trade with the Giants and the arrival of Philip Rivers in a Chargers uniform.

Rivers, built for the NFL at 6-feet-5 and 230 pounds, was the No. 4 pick in that draft. He didn’t start right away, though. Didn’t start until his third pro season, as a matter of fact, because Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer preferred to have the kid learn the ropes behind veteran Drew Brees.

Seems crazy now, but maybe it wasn’t. By the time Brees was gone to New Orleans and Rivers got his chance everything was synched up for a 14-2 season for the Chargers. Rivers was great then and he’s still pretty good, hitting 24-of-33 passes with a couple of touchdowns in a 43-35 shootout win over Tennessee last week.

Next on the schedule for Miami comes the Los Angeles Rams at Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 20. The Rams are 3-5 with Case Keenum at quarterback and due to be a free agent after the season.

Never mind that the franchise had the No. 1 overall pick in the last draft and used it on Cal quarterback Jared Goff. Gave up a ton of draft picks, too, in order to move into that spot.

Goff hasn’t thrown a pass in the first half of his rookie season, and if he’s in the lineup by the time Miami gets to town, it will be a surprise.

“As I say consistently, repeatedly, week after week, I’m pleased with Jared’s progress,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said following Sunday’s 13-10 loss to Carolina.

Fisher is the coach many South Florida fans hoped would agree to coach the Dolphins in 2012 instead of Joe Philbin.

Is he being stubborn or smart in not moving toward the future of the Rams franchise and turning the offense over to Goff?

Probably overcautious is the answer, taking a page from a 20th-century playbook for coaches and organizations. That’s really not the ticket in L.A., which just got the Rams from St. Louis and needs a reason to fall in love with pro football again.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, didn’t wait with Tannehill, the No. 8 overall draft pick in 2012. He started the season opener of his rookie season, got intercepted three times in a 30-10 loss at Houston and just kept going. The idea was to let him learn under fire rather than letting some caretaker quarterback hold the spot until Tannehill was completely ready.

I had my doubts at the time, in large part because Philbin was a rookie head coach that year, too. It was the right move, though. When and if the Dolphins decide they have had enough of Tannehill, the experiment of drafting him will have been given every opportunity to succeed.

He may not be the elite quarterback that fans hoped, but he wouldn’t have gotten better by wasting time on the bench. And what would have been better in 2012, a 7-9 finish with Tannehill the potential savior or 8-8 with some guy everyone is booing?

Don Shula struggled with the same issue when the Dolphins took Dan Marino late in the first round of the 1983 draft. The future Hall of Famer didn’t start until the sixth game of this rookie season, and it was about time. Marino went 9-2 the rest of the way and got the Dolphins a division title.

[In 2009, Dolphins burned Jets with TD returns even worse than Drake did]

[Running out of time to see Brad Kaaya at Hard Rock Stadium]

[Overtime TD vs. Browns is what kept Ajayi from being lost in the shuffle]

David Woodley, even with a prior appearance in the Super Bowl, was never going to be a dominating franchise quarterback like that. Knowing that and acting on it were just matters of timing.

When you invest a first-round pick in a quarterback, the payoff may not come soon enough to please everyone but the collection of real-time data on that decision should be immediate. At least, that’s how it feels in the 21st-century NFL.

Here’s hoping that Goff will be in the lineup against the Dolphins in a few weeks. Makes it more interesting and besides, what’s Hollywood without a star?

Pretty tough recognizing America the last time the Cubs or Indians won a World Series

Well, it’s finally on, a World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, and somebody’s guaranteed to get the victory parade of the century out of this thing.

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Chicago Cubs merchandise is offered for sale at Sports World Chicago across from Wrigley Field on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs will face off against the Cleveland Indians in the World Series beginning tomorrow. This will be the Cubs first trip to the series since 1945. The Indians last trip to the series was 1948. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 24: Chicago Cubs merchandise is offered for sale at Sports World Chicago across from Wrigley Field. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

I thought it might be fun to look back on the American sports scene in the years that these two franchise last won a World Series. That would be 1948 for the Indians and 1908 for the Cubs.

We’ll start with 1948.

Don Shula, a son of Northeast Ohio, was a freshman on the John Carroll University football team in Cleveland. Did pretty well for himself, too, with a 175-yard rushing performance and two touchdowns against the Penguins of Youngstown State.

The Cleveland Browns were not a joke that year. They won the 1948 championship of the All-America Football Conference, an NFL rival, by crushing the Buffalo Bills 49-7 to complete a 15-0 season. Imagine, the Browns and the Indians winning championships in the same year, just as the Indians will try to join the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.

There was no NBA franchise in Cleveland in 1948, but the league had teams in Rochester and Providence and Fort Wayne.

In 1948 Babe Ruth died and NASCAR was born.

Larry Doby and Satchel Paige became the first African-American players to win a World Series with the Indians of 1948. It was only one year earlier that Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line.

The 1948 World Series between Cleveland and the Boston Braves was the first to be televised on any kind of national network, but it took some doing. A retrofitted B-29 bomber had to fly a continuous pattern over Pennsylvania to help transmit the signal between Eastern and Midwestern cities.

Now on to 1908.

Trains got major league baseball teams from one city to another. That’s because Henry Ford’s Model T automobile first rolled off the assembly line in 1908 with a price tag of $825. Meanwhile, the Wright brothers were still hustling to convince the U.S. military or anybody else that the flying machine they built would work and it would make sense to place some orders.

Sports results got to Americans slowly, perhaps weeks after the fact depending on location. Ninety percent of U.S. homes lacked electricity in 1908 and there was no commercial radio, much less TV.

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber talks during a news conference for baseball's upcoming World Series against the Chicago Cubs on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016 in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber talks during a news conference for baseball’s World Series against the Chicago Cubs. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack, born during the Civil War, had yet to win a World Series in 1908. He eventually won five and managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years, retiring at the age of 87.

Wrigley Field did not exist in 1908. The Cubs played their home games at West Side Park, a wooden structure on a rectangular lot that required a 560-foot drive to clear the fence in center field.

The 1908 World Series between the Cubs and Detroit Tigers was played on five consecutive days with games usually lasting about 90 minutes. Attendance for the final game in Detroit was 6,210, still a record low.

Jim Thorpe was just beginning his athletic career at Carlisle Indian School in 1908. Years later, after he gained fame as an Olympic champion and a professional star in football and baseball, Thorpe was voted the Greatest Athlete of the Twentieth Century in an ABC Sports fan poll.

If women had wanted to vote for president in 1908, however, forget it. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was still more than a decade away.

[Some startling historical context for Ajayi’s 200-yard blockbusters]

[Shades of Tommy Vigorito as Jakeem Grant wakes up Dolphins crowd]

[Lamar Jackson could do what no PB County athlete ever has]

The Chicago Bears didn’t exist in 1908. They came along 12 years later and the Chicago Bulls weren’t established until 1966.

The 1908 Summer Olympics were in London, with a pool built on the infield of the main stadium’s track and tug-of-war as an official medal sport.

You get the picture. So much has changed that the Cubs and Indians World Series of 2016 might as well be played on a different planet than those early years.

It adds a layer of romance, however, to what often turns into a series of four-hour marathon games ending well after midnight on the East Coast.

Enough to keep me watching, though, and hoping that it will all be worth the wait.

 

Dolphins’ most recent playoff season started out 0-2, so simmer down a bit

There’s so much excitement over any season opener, and such an oversized letdown when it goes the wrong way.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89) catches a pass for a touchdown over Miami Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain (28) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
SEATTLE – Wide receiver Doug Baldwin catches a pass for a touchdown over Miami Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain  to give the Seahawks a 12-10 victory on Sept. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Wallow in the disappointment of Miami’s 12-10 loss to Seattle and you miss the larger point. Half of the teams in the league lost last weekend. Half of the teams in the league got off to a bad start.

If there weren’t 15 regular-season games to go, this would be a major problem. Instead it is a challenge, and judging by this first look at Adam Gase’s team, the Dolphins are up to a challenge.

Maybe this helps. Total up the opening-day records of all the teams left on Miami’s 2016 schedule. The answer is 5-7.

The NFL is set up for everybody to be in a scrap every week, in other words, and the Dolphins are hardly alone in really needing a win in Week 2.

Suppose they get one at New England on Sunday. That would be enormous, if only because there is so little margin for error in keeping the Patriots close in the AFC East. There is no point, however, in rifling through playoff scenarios in September, good or bad.

Miami’s most recent trip to the playoffs, Tony Sparano’s debut season of 2008, started out with a couple of losses.

Seven times in franchise history the Dolphins have made the playoffs after splitting their first two games.

Four of those opening splits on the way to the postseason began with a loss. I remember covering a particularly disheartening flop on opening day in 1985.

The Dolphins lost 26-23 at Houston that day, with Don Shula pulling Dan Marino from the lineup in the fourth quarter because the future Hall of Famer was not sharp coming off a long training-camp contract holdout. To make matters worse, the Oilers were 6-35 in the previous three seasons and were considered a soft touch, even in the Astrodome. Instead, they beat Miami on a Mike Rozier touchdown run with 25 seconds to play.

[Anthem protest by some Dolphin players makes political football of opener]

[Nate Silver’s vaunted prediction team sees a last-place finish for Dolphins]

[It’s a soft opening for Tiger Woods’ return, and that’s a smart move]

By season’s end, however, the Dolphins were the host team for the AFC title game and gunning for a second-straight trip to the Super Bowl.

Not trying to make a comparison between the roster on that Miami team and this one, but the word on opening-game losses is the same: Settle down and look to build on the positives.

There were plenty of those in Sunday’s battle to the end with the talented Seahawks.

 

Beating Atlanta in tonight’s preseason game wouldn’t make Adam Gase a great coach, but it sure would set a tone

The Miami Dolphins’ third preseason game is tonight in Orlando and who cares if they lose?

Something tells me that Adam Gase does, whether or not he’ll admit it.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase at Miami Dolphins training camp in Davie, Florida on August 10, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase at training camp in Davie, Florida. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

He’s a rookie head coach, for openers, and it builds confidence to have the other guy meeting you with congratulations at the postgame handshake rather than a conciliatory pat on the back.

Also, Gase means to build a winning culture in Miami. He wants every play to count on the practice field for every individual, and every group effort to yield positive results. Losing preseason games may not stop that momentum, but it does get in the way.

So the Dolphins prepare to play the Falcons, knowing that many of the players who take the field at Camping World Stadium won’t make the NFL regular-season rosters of their respective teams. Who cares if they lose?

Fans do. They see the good things that the first unit did, even in a lousy loss like last week’s 41-14 blowout at Dallas. They understand the process of winnowing through a long list of players and philosophies to see which ones stand up to pressure. They really do get what’s happening here, but they also really do want to trust in Gase’s ability to turn around the franchise, sooner rather than later.

That’s the difference between 2-1 and 1-2 once this Falcons game is finished.

That’s why Don Shula winning his first three preseason games as Dolphins coach was such a boost. Before his arrival the franchise had only won 20 games altogether, regular season and preseason included.

That also is why Joe Philbin going 0-4 in his first preseason as Dolphins coach was so predictive of the mood to come. Counting the regular season, Joe lost seven of his first eight games here. Each failure was met with calm analysis and a note of congratulation to the other side. There would be small winning streaks in the future, but never enough of a psychological wave in the opposite direction.

Now I’m not saying that exhibition records are the best method for dividing the sideline savants from the duds. Cam Cameron won his first two preseason games as Dolphins coach, after all, and Nick Saban lost his first three.

[Don’t tell Anthony Steen what happened to Dolphins’ last fill-in at center]

[If head coaches had to play QB in an emergency, who would you leading your team?]

[A look back at 1985 Dolphins, loaded for the Super Bowl return that never came]

Gase will make certain, however, that his players learn to hate disorganization, to hate sloppiness, to hate losing, no matter the opponent or the circumstances. That begins with the preseason, and in tonight’s game he will be earnestly working, too, on the art of head coaching, from the bus ride to the stadium to the final gun.

There’s just no use in wasting these opportunities. Cameron did. In the fourth and final preseason game of 2007, a 7-0 loss to New Orleans featuring tons of reserves on both sides, he didn’t even wear a headset, abdicating his normal playcalling duties and giving to an assistant coach the job of throwing the red challenge flag.

That’s not Gase. It can’t be.