With the Labor Day weekend officially behind us, there may be sadness for some as summer’s conclusion draws near, but for football fans, this means one exciting thing: football is back!
Starting this week, the National Football League kicks off another exciting season showcasing 32 teams battling it out to earn one of two spots in Super Bowl LIV in Miami. However, this season carries a little more importance than the average season.
This season is the NFL’s 100th season. Yes, you read that correctly.
Together the football world is celebrating 100 years of kickoffs and kneel-downs, flashy runs and unbelievable catches, players destined for greatness right from the draft and others rising from the bottom, and dynasties continuing or underdogs shocking the world under showers of confetti.
In the months leading up to Thursday night’s game featuring two of football's primordial teams, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, the stage could not have been set better for this ceremonious season.
Once-dynastic-turned-sleepy NFL franchises have awoken from their slumber and completely changed the landscape of the league. Several stars and coaches are now on new teams, causing joy for some and questions for others in terms of their respective teams' future. Competitions between long-established veteran players and up-and-coming rookies have opened as belief in the former’s time being up looms.
There has been much discussion about possible expectations for the 100th season as things have evolved, and now these are the ones that stand out as solid with opening kickoff just hours away.
#1 The Dolphins go from “Miami Miracle” to Miami rebuild
Across several seasons in the recent past, the Miami Dolphins have never been considered more than one of the NFL’s mediocre franchises. However, now they will be the next team to undergo the unpredictable and burdensome rebuild.
The organization has seen their one shining moment in the past several seasons be the “Miami Miracle” against the New England Patriots last season. The veteran presence and culture surrounding their team, however, has failed to help them reach playoff-contender status. The Ryan Tannehill experiment was filled with countless injury woes and the expectations of Adam Gase never came close to fulfillment, leading to the departures of both.
Not to mention, the Dolphins have also had to deal with numerous distractions such as the Laremy Tunsil smoke mask videos and the negative media circus surrounding players like Ndamukong Suh when he was in Miami.
As a result, the owners and management have decided to pull the plug on the 2019-2020 season and press the reset button on their roster and staff.
They fired Adam Gase who now is with the New York Jets and sent Ryan Tannehill packing to the Tennessee Titans. After failing to bring in Jadeveon Clowney from Houston, a team looking to trade him as a last effort to boost their roster, they looked to the Texans for tank support.
With Houston looking for the easy solution to up their championship chances in 2019, the Dolphins agreed to send them their 2016 first round draft pick Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills in exchange for two first round picks in the next two drafts amongst other pickups. Some believe Stills being added to the deal was a result of his recent comments regarding team owner Stephen Ross.
Earlier in the offseason, they also traded for former Arizona Cardinal quarterback Josh Rosen and signed veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick to the roster, who is expected to start during week 1 against Baltimore.
The Miami Dolphins are geared up for the rebuild project that finally saw success in Cleveland with the Browns as they enter the 2019-2020 season.
They have whittled their roster down to a group of young talent and rookies around whom they want to build their franchise, exposing weaknesses in areas that make or break football teams like the O-line. The quarterback situation is far from favorable as Fitzpatrick is turnover prone and Rosen won’t get the chance to play. All their recent deals leave them is a pile of draft picks with which they will need to make big splashes in order to earn any relevancy in an uncompetitive AFC East division.
Newly hired head coach Brian Flores, a former assistant with Bill Belichick in New England, remains adamant that his Dolphins team will not approach each game from a tanking standpoint, but from a competing one. As quoted by ESPN staff writer Cameron Wolfe, Flores spoke about how the tanking talk goes against the football culture he’s grown up in:
“This game means a lot to me. I wouldn't disrespect the game with that. Again, no, we're not. We're going to try to win every game. I think that's disrespectful to even say that.”
"It's always important to win. I've always believed that. I think to take any other approach is not how you coach the game."
While it is good for Flores to defend the integrity of his team, actions speak louder than words and we’ve seen this movie before with teams who’ve undergone or attempted to undergo a rebuild.
Just ask Hue Jackson.