Commentary | Dolphins aim to silence unfavorable narratives that linger

A narrative remains the narrative until it’s put to rest.

Want a few examples?

The Miami Dolphins are fish out of water in cold-weather environments, which was evident in Miami’s 26-7 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs this past season, and has been a contributing factor to the franchise’s late-season slides for a decade or two.

The Dolphins annually fall apart physically at the end of the season when games become more physical, the roster becomes riddled by injuries and backups have to become contributors the past two seasons.

Those are two contributing narratives on why South Florida’s NFL franchise hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2000 postseason — a 24 (bleepy bleep) year drought — which is now the NFL’s longest stretch of postseason failure.

“If you’re wanting to change a narrative, you’re going to have an opportunity,” coach Mike McDaniel said when asked about the 2024 season the week after the NFL schedule was released.

Everyone has their theories why Miami struggles late in the season, and mine is that the roster general manager Chris Grier has spent the past nine years assembling isn’t built for playoff football, which is typically more physical than the regular season.

Bottom line is, the Dolphins have a soft, finesse reputation, or identity, and that’s something they won’t shed until they win a postseason game, or two.

“These past two years have been B.S. in my own view,” Pro Bowl tailback Raheem Mostert said Tuesday after Miami’s OTA practice, which sets up next week’s mandatory minicamp, which wraps the team’s offseason work. “It’s all about breaking that cycle.”

Monster’s referring to the issues that have plagued the Dolphins the past two seasons, where hot starts are soiled by a lackluster finishes to the regular season.

Last season the 9-3 Dolphins had a fourth-quarter 28-27 meltdown that cost the team a win against the Tennessee Titans, squandering Miami’s chances of locking up the AFC East division early. Miami then beat the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys at home, qualifying for the playoffs with 11 wins, before getting smacked in a 56-19 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, which sealed up the AFC’s No. 1 seed, and the MVP honors for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

That physical game occurred in Baltimore on Dec. 31, and cost Miami a handful of starters.

The next week the Dolphins lost a 21-14 fourth-quarter nail-biter to the Buffalo Bills, at home, in a winner-take-all AFC East division battle.

Then came Miami’s disappointing playoff loss to the Chiefs, a game where the NFL’s top-ranked offense from the 2023 season produced 264 yards in the fourth-coldest game (minus-4 degrees) in NFL history.

In fairness to the Dolphins, Miami closed out the regular season’s final month playing without nine starters — Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips, Xavien Howard, Jerome Baker, Mostert, Jaylen Waddle, Isaiah Wynn, Connor Williams, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Tyreek Hill was playing through a high ankle sprain that impacted his performance and availability during those final games.

But every team faces injuries, especially late, and Miami has run out of gas in the fourth quarter of the season twice under McDaniel’s watch.

“It’s a reflection of pretty much everything we’ve been going through,” Mostert said. “Injuries, guys going down, [backups] not feeling comfortable, guys not feeling in the right position, coaches not working on the same page towards the end of the year when it does really matter.”

The entire Dolphins organization knows what time it is with late season struggles. The problem is, they don’t have a solution for the problems yet.

According to McDaniel, the hope is that they will be in a similar position this year, and maybe the third time’s the charm.

“These are the things that we’re trying to establish ourselves to take the next step as an organization. We’re trying to do that anyway, so the fact that the schedule gives us the opportunity to do what we’re working tirelessly to try to accomplish, I thought it was fitting,” McDaniel said, referring to Miami’s difficult closing six-game stretch.

The Dolphins face the Packers in Green Bay on Thanksgiving night, then host the New York Jets the following week.

On Dec. 15 Miami faces the Texans in Houston before hosting the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 22. Then the Dolphins visit the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 29 before closing the season on the road against the New York Jets.

That’s four of the final six games on the road, and three of them in cold weather climates.

It should also be pointed out that four of the five late-season opponents were postseason participants last year, and the lone team that wasn’t is getting a healthy Aaron Rodgers back, regaining a four-time league MVP.

“You have to be a tough-minded football team to be your best at the end of the season. That’s a formula that we’ve found in portions of the season that we have a very direct concerted goal of making sure that we take the next step as an organization,” McDaniel said. “So yeah, I’m not in the business of hiding from something. We’re going to have to pay the piper at some point.”