“And when you say Miami, you’re talking Super Bowl …”
The famous line from the Dolphins’ longtime fight song probably hasn’t been closer to being true in two decades.
It started with ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky on Tuesday in his immediate reaction to Miami dealing for star Denver Broncos edge defender Bradley Chubb ahead of the trade deadline. Then, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa proclaimed Wednesday neither he nor his team shy away from Super Bowl talk or expectations. Chubb himself mentioned he believes his new team can compete at that level at his introductory press conference Thursday.
Super Bowls, however, aren’t won in early November.
So, the immediate task for the Dolphins (5-3) is to handle the games in front of them, beating teams they should beat through the end of the month.
It begins with the Chicago Bears (3-5) in a 1 p.m. kickoff at Soldier Field on Sunday before they come home for the Cleveland Browns (2-5) and, after a bye week, the Houston Texans (1-6-1).
Miami will be favored in each of those matchups. Nothing’s ever guaranteed in the NFL, but if this team has Super Bowl aspirations, then they should go into December at 8-3. That’ll put the Dolphins in prime position for the playoff push in a stretch that involves a West Coast swing at the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers, divisional road games in frigid Buffalo and New England and home tilts with the Green Bay Packers on Christmas and New York Jets in the finale.
“Miami can win the Super Bowl now,” said Orlovsky, the former quarterback turned analyst, on Tuesday, minutes after the news on Chubb broke. “I did not feel that way this morning. Miami can absolutely win the Super Bowl right now.”
Tagovailoa, coming off what was likely his best overall performance in last week’s win over the Detroit Lions, manifested his confidence in how deep the Dolphins can go.
“We’re not afraid to talk about Super Bowls here,” Tagovailoa said Wednesday. “We’re not afraid to talk about going to a playoff game, having an opportunity to go to one and then hopefully winning one. … I have full belief that we are capable.”
“I see the sky’s the limit,” Chubb said Thursday. “I’m just glad I could come in and fall to a good position where guys are winning, guys care, and we can get after this playoff run and Super Bowl and accomplish all the goals we go out there and fight for.”
What a difference a year makes. At this same point last season, the Dolphins had fallen to 1-7 after a seventh consecutive defeat. Although organizational faith was expressed in Tagovailoa, no one really believed it when former coach Brian Flores repeatedly said “Tua’s our quarterback.” Miami was in continuous pursuit of embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson. Now, there’s no question after trading the last of what was once two first-round picks in the 2023 draft.
From that moment at the trade deadline last year, the Dolphins are 13-4. Tagovailoa is 12-1 in games he starts and finishes, including 5-0 this year. And, maybe deservedly so, this team is indeed being mentioned in the championship conversation.
But adding Chubb and former San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. — after dealing fellow back Chase Edmonds in the trade that brought Chubb to Miami — doesn’t improve the Dolphins’ record today. To add to the win column this week, all Miami can do is win against the Bears.
And that’s the approach Mike McDaniel took, even in going through a busier-than-usual trade deadline.
“Right now, I’m exclusively a football coach,” McDaniel said Monday, a day before Miami’s coup to land Chubb and Wilson. “We have conversations, but I’m focused on our team as it stands and the Chicago Bears, who are going to be trying to beat us.”
That said, general manager Chris Grier noted Wednesday that McDaniel may have had a tad bit of influence in bringing in Wilson, his former player with the San Francisco 49ers. And McDaniel has said in the past that edge defender is his favorite position, so he was sure to be all in on adding one of Chubb’s caliber.
More so than the pass rush, which was previously lacking and hopes to be improved with Chubb’s presence, on Sunday, Miami will have to key in on stopping the run. Chicago has the league’s top-ranked rushing offense, splitting backfield carries between former American Heritage High standout Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery, while quarterback Justin Fields is right behind Lamar Jackson in terms of rushing at his position.
“He’s starting to just understand how disruptive he can be to NFL defenses,” McDaniel said of the second-year signal-caller. “Hopefully, he doesn’t further go on that learning curve here this Sunday, because it puts coaches and players in a nervous spot.”
Tagovailoa aims to build off his 29-of-36 performance for 382 yards and three touchdowns in Detroit. He faces a Bears defense that already ranked toward the bottom in several categories and recently traded away top defenders in linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive end Robert Quinn. But former Boyd Anderson High star Eddie Jackson is still a menace in the secondary.
With Wilson and former 49ers teammate Raheem Mostert reunited in the Dolphins backfield, Miami looks have the ground game complement the high-flying aerial attack. Robert Jones, in a Chicago homecoming, is likely to start at left guard for the injured Liam Eichenberg.
If the Dolphins are going to compete for a Super Bowl, they’re likely to have to win January playoff games on the road as a wild-card team if they can’t catch the Buffalo Bills (6-1) in the AFC East.
Winning in cold weather late in the year can help prove they’re capable of that. Miami lucked out in Chicago in terms of temperatures, which project to be around 60 degrees, but the Dolphins do figure to see winds in the double-digit miles per hour in the Windy City, giving Tagovailoa a chance to show he can throw in those conditions.
Source: Berkshire mont