The loser hit four touchdowns on Sunday. Sunday’s underdog had a flawless quarterback rating of 136. Sunday’s underdog led his team to two 75-yard touchdowns in the last two minutes, giving Buffalo the lead twice at the end.
Sunday’s winner responded with his own fleeting miracles. Sunday’s winner got the ball with 13 seconds left and made two deep shots to miraculously score a tie field goal. Sunday’s winner won the overtime coin toss and then won the game for Kansas City, 42-36.
Have you ever seen a more discouraging game?
Have you ever heard everyone use words like “dramatic” and “historical” but couldn’t get past the local “depressive”?
The most immediate thought, and the most unsettling and, yes, depressing, while watching this playoff game, is that the Miami Dolphins are lost in the wild for the next generation of football. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is 26? Josh Allen from Buffalo 25?
Yes, you will find dolphins in the outback eating birch bark and sleeping on pine needles for years.
For most of the previous two decades, the Dolphins have been faced with a simple question: can you go to New England and beat quarterback Tom Brady?
As Sunday showed, the number of questions increased. Can you go to Buffalo and defeat Josh Allen? And then go to Kansas City and beat Patrick Mahomes?
If you can’t project it, what’s going on here anyway? What has changed over the decades?
That’s not even to mention who’s going to Kansas City this weekend. Joe Barrow took the Cincinnati franchise and lifted it to the AFC Championship game. This is what elite quarterbacks do even in their sophomore year.
(Also, as a matter of courtesy, there will be no mention of Justin Herbert, the quarterback the Dolphins conceded. He’s in a bad organization for the Los Angeles Chargers—a defensive coach with a 30-best defensive rating—but would have been the first NFL player like Jimmy Johnson would choose if he started a franchise.)
Four teams remain in the playoffs and the model the Dolphins have chosen is clear. The three surviving teams – Kansas City, Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Rams – have an elite-level quarterback who lifts everyone up like a tide.
San Francisco fourth and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He is good at many games. Sometimes he can be great. But you can’t pretend that his game can do more than escort a well-built team to the championship.
This is what the Dolphins decided when they went all-in on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Not that there were many options at this point. They shut down one owner Steve Ross and general manager Chris Grier, who were opened midway through the trading season by Houston’s Deshaun Watson (and his 22 allegations of sexual harassment).
Tagovailoa’s organizational idea is now what it was during Ryan Tannehill’s seven years: he’s good enough if everyone around him is good enough. Tannehill was fine in Tennessee, playing in the AFC Championship game two years ago and taking first place this year.
Well, he was fine until Saturday’s three-steal game cost Tennessee the season. It happens. And now, over a decade into his career, people are still wondering who Tannehill is.
Back to Tua and the dolphins, the defense looks great. But is anything else enough? Anything at all?
Enter the San Francisco model. He has a defensive line that wins games. He has good offensive weapons like wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle. He also had superb special teams blocking a Green Bay field goal and blocking a punt for a touchdown in his win.
They get a few winning draws from Garoppolo and that’s it. Under his leadership, they participate in the NFC championship – just like they participated in the Super Bowl a few years ago.
Here is the dolphin model. This is what they told the media, what they told the coaching candidates, what they told the entire Dolphins roster. And, frankly, which option? It’s not like Aaron Rodgers stepped into the club during the off-season. Or Russell Wilson.
Get another flyer on another young quarterback in the draft? Certainly. Why not? Greer can keep throwing darts.
Sunday’s Allen and Mahomes fireworks upset any dolphin fan. Now come Burrow and Mahomes. It is sad to look, sit here, eat birch bark and sleep on pine needles.