It was 2008 and the Miami Dolphins found themselves 0-2 following an ugly 31-10 loss in Arizona. Rookie head coach Tony Sparano was winless and a looming matchup at New England didn’t make things any better.
Visions of going 1-15 once again were already growing across South Florida. However, a 38-13 trouncing of the Patriots marked the beginning of an amazing turnaround as the Dolphins went 11-5 and made the postseason.
Here in 2012, the Dolphins are set to face the Cardinals once more and the circumstances appear similar. Arizona is playing solid football while the Dolphins are under .500 at 1-2. Is another blowout victory in store for the Cardinals or can the Dolphins gain revenge? There’s no sure sign (yet) that Miami can resurrect that magical 2008 season.
In fact, it’s almost certain.
There’s no doubt that Joe Philbin is the right man to turn this team around. But after three weeks of the regular season, it’s clear the offense is nowhere near his preference.
“We’re still working through some things,” he told Miami reporters Wednesday. “We don’t have the rhythm in the passing game I envision us having a month from now. And I don’t think our passing game is operating at a high point of effectiveness right now.”
And he’s right. Miami is running the ball effectively but ranks just 25th in passing efficiency (194 yards per game). Philbin believes inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver has led to mistakes in route running, chemistry and ball catching.
Last week’s overtime loss to the Jets is a perfect example of Philbin’s frustrations. Rookie Ryan Tannehill threw for just 196 yards on 16/36 passing. A string of seven incomplete passes late in the fourth quarter doesn’t help matters. Chances of a go-ahead touchdown are plausible if Tannehill had more experience and a stronger supporting cast but that isn’t the case.
If Miami expects to make a strong run this season it begins this week in Arizona. The Dolphins have a so-so schedule but must capitalize on the road. Five of their next seven contests come away from Sun Life Stadium but manageable opponents are included in that stretch (Cincinnati, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Buffalo).
It’s not likely the Dolphins will match their shocking 2008 season. Sure, the pieces connect with a new head coach, quarterback and team philosophy. The odds are stacked against them and the AFC East appears out of their hands already. But that 0-2 team from 2008 also had zero hope heading into that Week 3 matchup against the Patriots.
Are we saying the Dolphins will give Arizona its first loss this season? It seems unlikely with the Cardinals playing disciplined football. It will also be Miami’s first west coast trip under Philbin and a playing in a time zone with a three-hour difference.
The odds are against the Dolphins once again. But as we all know, stranger things have happened.