Hyde: Dol­phins hope for hope

What the fi­nal home game of the year means for the team.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Safid Deen |

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.”

JOHN MCCALL/SUN SEN­TINEL

Coach Adam Gase hud­dles with QB Ryan Tan­nehill on Dec. 2. Sun­day could be the fi­nal home game for sev­eral play­ers, coaches and ex­ec­u­tives.

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