In a sport so greatly influenced by uncontrollable variables, we sometimes seem to find it all too easy to reduce the definition of success to an appearance in a 17th game of an NFL season.
Before u get too positive or negative about Fins make sure u are setting the bar at the right level..playoffs is where the bar should be set
— Daniel Eliesen (@PhinsDaniel) August 12, 2013
@Robi2184 The idea of comparing the team to this time last year is a joke. Raise the damn bar. It’s playoffs or bust. Last yr means nothing.
— Matty I (@TheMattyI) August 12, 2013
Yes, according to some, this season is “playoffs or bust” for the Miami Dolphins. (Apparently, if Miami misses the playoffs, they’re relegated to NCAA Division I football next season; that’s rumored to be the new rule change. Otherwise, I have no idea what that silly phrase even means.) However, it should be noted that thinking of a 2013 playoff appearance as the definitive barometer of franchise success is a dumb opinion to have.
If you have it, stop having it immediately.
Slightly less dumb (but still really, really dumb) is linking the definition of success to an arbitrary number of victories pulled directly from one’s own ass. This, too, is a thing folks in Dolphins Universe are doing. This, too, is a dumb opinion to have. Stop having that one, as well.
Seriously, read these tweets and tell me you don’t want to wipe your ass with them:
— Marc Kohn (@KohneysKorner) August 12, 2013
@adamsmoot It’s 9 wins + playoffs or 10 wins. And since 8-8 isn’t getting it done in the AFC, I’m not concerned about ur douchey scenario.
— Matty I (@TheMattyI) August 12, 2013
So, lemme get this straight. If the Dolphins win nine games and the rest of the AFC stinks, allowing Miami to make the playoffs, then the 2013 season will be considered a success, but if the Dolphins win nine games and the rest of the AFC is pretty good, causing Miami to miss the playoffs, then the 2013 season will be considered an epic failure? Furthermore, if the Dolphins win just one more game (in a league where entire outcomes can shift on single bounces), whether they make the playoffs or not, then this season is all good? What in the ever-loving-f— are you talking about?
The Dolphins have gone 9-7 six times since 1990. They made the playoffs in three of those seasons. The other three they went home empty-handed. Were the nine wins in ’95, ’97 and ’99 somehow more valuable than the nine wins in ’93, ’02 and ’05?
And if you believe that to be so (and, again, you shouldn’t because it’s extremely dumb), then you’ll have to explain to the class how the nine wins in ’99–the same nine wins that were more valuable than the nine wins in ’02–were somehow more valuable than even the ten wins in ’03, because that wasn’t enough to get them into the playoffs that year, either.
You know what? Don’t answer any of that. Let’s keep going.
Lest you think this is just some crazy Dolphins fluke, some really talented Pittsburgh Steelers teams missed the playoffs in ’06 (8-8), ’09 (9-7) and ’12 (8-8). Not because they inexplicably weren’t any good those years. Not because those seasons were failures. But, because sometimes it’s just a bounce or two, a factor completely out of your control, that keeps you from the postseason.
Nobody knows that feeling better than the Seattle Seahawks, who in 1998 could have been a postseason-bound 9-7 instead of a playoff-less 8-8 thanks to one blown-call. Had Vinny Testaverde been ruled down at the goal line in Week 14–a call so dreadful, it led to the implementation of instant replay–would your opinion of that Seattle team be any different?
Probably the most damning argument against records-as-indicators comes in the form of the New York Giants, who went 9-7 with a minus-6 point differential in 2011. They won the Super Bowl. The very next season, they went 9-7 again, this time with a plus-85 point differential and missed the playoffs.
The other problem with judging this Dolphins team on their record or by a playoff appearance is that their starting quarterback is only in his second year. And although we’ve seen plenty of teams’ starting second-year quarterbacks succeed almost immediately (Peyton Manning’s Colts and Eli Manning’s Giants come to mind) we’ve also seen plenty of examples where teams finished with a perfectly mediocre record the second–and sometimes third–season, yet still went on to have wildly successful futures:
What’s baffling in all of this is that the people holding up the postseason as some kind of odd measure of success have presumably been Dolphins fans for a long time. Long enough to see Dan Marino finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs four times. And if not that long, at least long enough to have seen Bill Parcells’ fraudulent 11-5 AFC East Champion.
And let’s say the Dolphins make the playoffs at 9-7 this year. Success! But if they lose in the first round, is that really any more of a success than going 9-7 and not making it at all?
When it comes down to it, no matter which side of .500 they finish on, the Miami Dolphins’ record at the end of the 2013 season probably won’t tell us a lot about the franchise. At least not unless we take a deeper look at what got them to that point.
Personally, I’m more concerned with developement–Tannehill’s progress, how Mike Wallace affects a secondary, Dion Jordan’s impact on the defensive line, whether the team can figure out how to get Jonathan Martin to not be a giant bag of suck. Those are the things that will determine whether this organization will be successful long-term. Those are the things you should care about. Not a first-round loss to the Broncos.
It’s entirely possible that the Miami Dolphins 2013 record will tell us nothing about the state of the franchise. None of Marino’s four playoff-deprived seasons did. And you’d kill to be the Steelers despite those few hiccups.
Sometimes the bounces that help you go 10-6 can also bring you to your 8-8 knees. In the NFL, 7-9, 8-8, 9-7–there isn’t much of a difference between them.
A botched extra point, a tipped pass, a fumble at the goalline. Sometimes the difference between success and failure… isn’t really a difference at all.