Dolphins’ winning season should elicit joy for present and future – NFL Nation

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins‘ 2020 journey isn’t done yet, but they accomplished something in Sunday’s 22-12 win against the New England Patriots that is worth celebrating: clinching a winning season for the first time since 2016.

This is just the second time over the past 12 seasons the Dolphins will have a winning record, and it’s difficult to find a time over the past two decades in which the franchise has been surrounded by more optimism than right now.

“I’m just happy for these guys,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “But honestly, for the Dolphins fans, we got great fans, people who are lifers, man. They love this team, so we’re happy to bring some joy to our fans because they deserve it.”

The Dolphins (9-5) are solid playoff hopefuls and their clear path to the postseason is to beat both the Las Vegas Raiders and the Buffalo Bills on the road and they’re in.

Whether Miami makes the playoffs or not, this season is already a success and fans should be ecstatic. There’s a clear direction for the franchise for the short-term and long-term, and it is ahead of schedule on the massive rebuild that began more than a year ago.

“Since Day 1, there was never a doubt in my mind after I met Coach Flores and got around the organization that we could do some good things,” Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “But I just hope that good things can continue to keep happening for us, but it’s all about putting the work in. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”

Flores deserves NFL Coach of the Year love, cornerback Xavien Howard is worthy of NFL Defensive Player of the Year consideration and rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa continues to take impressive steps in his development with every game he starts (seven so far).

The Dolphins are a young team with only one player who is 30 years or older (quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, 38). They haven’t sacrificed player development in exchange for winning, they’re doing both at the same time.

“We got a tough, mentally tough, physically tough, resilient group that knows how to deal with adversity, doesn’t go in the tank, keeps fighting, keeps working, keeps coming to work, good, bad, hot, raining, whatever, whatever the situation, whatever the situation is, these guys just work,” Flores said. “That’s one thing I know, every day that everyone’s going to work hard. I don’t take it for granted, but I know that that’s the case.”

The future looks even brighter as the Dolphins hold two first-round and two second-round picks in the 2021 NFL draft, thanks to the Houston Texans via the Laremy Tunsil 2019 blockbuster trade, and plenty of salary-cap space to continue upgrading their roster.

But for a team that recites the one-day-at-a-time mantra like it’s a daily anthem, there’s no reason to rush. Miami should savor every moment and maximize what it can do in the present, because as many Dolphins fans know, one should never take winning for granted.

The playoffs would be a remarkable accomplishment in Year 2 of the Dolphins’ rebuild, but the biggest win might be bringing joy to their fans again.

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