Hyde: Dolphins hope for hope
What the final home game of the year means for the team.
Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake, 36, acknowledges that it would be quite difficult to envision putting on another NFL jersey after playing 10 seasons with Miami.
Running back Frank Gore, 35, is a former University of Miami great whose 14th NFL season ended last week after suffering a foot injury. He wants to play another season with the Dolphins, too.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has battled shoulder and ankle injuries while playing on a surgically repaired knee this season, but has yet to lead Miami to a playoff victory in seven seasons.
Third-year coach Adam Gase and second-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke, despite a number of injuries to key players and an abysmal showing on the road this year, have managed to keep the Dolphins afloat with a 7-7 record through 15 weeks of the regular season.
The Dolphins will play their final home game of the season Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) at Hard Rock Stadium, which has hosted several eventful contest this year.
The Dolphins have a chance to improve their home
record to 7-1 for the first time since 2002, and just the fifth time since the stadium opened in 1987.
It could also be the last Dolphins home game for players like Tannehill and Wake, coaches like Gase and Burke, general manager Chris Grier and vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum before an offseason with some uncertainty begins.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will have to decide where each player, coach and executive fits into the fold next season.
A final home victory, which could keep Miami’s slim playoff hopes this season alive, could aid all of their cases for at least one more week before the regular season ends in Buffalo against the Bills on Dec. 30.
“It’s an honor to get to go out and step foot on that field every time we get to play at home,” Tannehill said this past week. “We want to put on a good show for
our fans and win every game that we play at home. It’s definitely something we look forward to.”
The Dolphins are not necessarily reeling from their blowout road loss to the Minnesota Vikings last week, which dropped their road record to 1-6 and put them behind the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans in a battle for the final AFC playoff spot.
While they need to win their final two games and need some help from other teams to reach the playoffs, the Dolphins have used their “never-say-die” attitude to overcome injuries to key players who would have contributed much of the season.
“You have other teams that can affect our season, good or bad. But none of it matters if we don’t handle the next two games and figure out a way to win,” Gase said this past week.
Wake and Gore will be unrestricted free agents after the season, with hopes the Dolphins resign them in 2019.
“Whenever the offseason
comes, after the Super Bowl, like I do every year, I’ll sit down and assess those different options and see where it takes me,” Wake said Friday. “I still feel good. I still feel like I can help.”
Added Gore: “The goal is to come back one more year. … Hopefully the Dolphins can resign me — that would be big. But you know how the business goes.”
After the season, the Dolphins could make a decision to improve their quarterback situation.
Tannehill, who is scheduled to make $18.7 million next season, could be retained, but it is clear the Dolphins need to select a quarterback in the NFL draft to groom for the future.
A Dolphins win over the Jaguars would help Gase, under the leadership of Tannenbaum and Grier, compile a 24-23 record in his three seasons as Dolphins coach with one more game to go. Miami has played 23 of those games without Tannehill due to injuries.
Miami’s season at home as
been eventful, starting with the longest game in NFL history against the Titans due to lightning delays, receivers Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant high-fiving while running into the end zone against the Oakland Raiders, and rookies like kicker Jason Sanders and linebacker Jerome Baker making game-winning plays.
The last two games had eventful finishes on the final play, including a miraculous 69-yard game-winning touchdown against the New England Patriots on Dec. 9.
The Dolphins know their offseason will likely come with uneasy decisions being made.
But a victory in the final home game of the season could have a lasting effect that indicates the franchise is progressing in a favorable direction.
Some help from other teams around the league could help, too.
“You keep fighting to the end,” Gase said. “Weird things happen in this league and you just never know.”
Coach Adam Gase huddles with QB Ryan Tannehill on Dec. 2. Sunday could be the final home game for several players, coaches and executives.