The Miami Dolphins are spending this week licking their wounds after the Baltimore Ravens blew them out last week. But even after that ugly loss, it's clear the Fins have the brightest future of all the South Florida sports teams.
We aren't talking about the short-term picture here. This isn't about a Dolphins loss in December, a Heat win in November, a Marlins free-agency signing in January, or the Panthers firing their coach just last week. If you step back and look at the lay of the land, the Fins' real estate looks best.
For the first time in
Adam Gase has already proven he can make chicken salad out of chicken shit.
Adam Gase might be the youngest coach in the NFL, but he's already proven he doesn't need time to learn on the job, unlike much older ex-Dolphins coaches. Entering this season, the most promising thing about Gase was the fact that he has proven that he can
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has a task similar to Gase's this year as he deals with a terribly flawed roster that has no chance to compete on a championship scale. While Gase is on the edge of the playoffs, the Heat is one of the worst teams in the NBA so far.
Ryan Tannehill has been here forever, he's seen it all, and he's still only 28.
Correction: Ryan Tannehill has seen it all, minus that whole playoffs tournament thing. He hasn't seen that yet, but he's heard about it! No matter how you feel about Tannehill as a football player, it's tough to argue with the stats he has put up before the age of 29. Tannehill is locked into a six-year, $96 million extension that could, if the Dolphins wish, keep him under center in Miami until the 2020 season. That might seem like a ton of money, but it will be a bargain for a quarterback over the next few years.
All signs point to Gase and Tannehill being able to, at the very least, form a head-coach/quarterback combo that is more than capable of leading a team into the playoffs. If the Dolphins can put together a strong running game and a formidable defense, Tannehill won't be the part that holds them back.
The New England Patriots can't possibly keep this up much longer.
Next season, Tom Brady will be 40 and Rob Gronkowski will be coming off his 100th back surgery. There
Laugh all you want, but once the almighty Patriots are without Brady, the Dolphins will have an opportunity to be in the AFC East race year in and year out. Nothing lasts forever. Just ask Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas.
True, neither the Heat — which plays in a league where top teams come and go every few years with superstars' moves — nor the Marlins have their paths to the playoffs blocked by such a single, dominant franchise. But both those teams look much farther away from being challengers.
Dolphins general manager Mike Tannenbaum finds talent.
Say what you want about Mike Tannenbaum and the job he did in New York, but if we are judging him only by his first full year as Dolphins GM, he's done a fine job. The Dolphins' draft this year netted them Laremy Tunsil, Xavien Howard, Kenyan Drake, Leonte Carroo, and Jakeem Grant, all players who have made a difference in some way this year. Many have started and produced. If you've been a Dolphins fan for more than five minutes, you know getting literally anything out of a draft is a success, much less an entire draft full of depth and players who produce.
Tannenbaum's trade with the Eagles on draft day in which he netted Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso for the price of a few slots in the first round turned out to be a huge success (especially because the Dolphins landed Tunsil with their pick). He has proven he will make the moves that win now, no matter the cost.
Pat Riley is the cream of the crop when it comes to dealmakers running teams, but the Big Three era depleted him of ammunition to make a run at any real difference-makers. If Riley can somehow still pull off huge deals to land championship-level talent with this roster while giving away very little in the process, he's a bigger GM god than we even thought. As for the Marlins, can you name their GM? Quick!
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Only the Florida Panthers have anything that resembles a plan for the future.
Among South Florida's pro franchises, only the Florida Panthers come close to the Fins for a clear-cut future. The Cats have a bunch of talent locked up for the foreseeable future. The problem is, that talent hasn't worked out very well this year, and those players just got their coach fired.
The Marlins, of course, are a mess year in and year out. They are looking to spend a billion dollars on their bullpen. The Heat is pinning its future on a handful of star players in free agency.
At the very least, at least the Dolphins have a foundation on which to build. For once, the franchise seems to be headed in the right direction. The talent might be average, but all signs point to the team continuing to build upon that foundation year after year.
No team in South Florida looks championship-ready at this moment, but if you had to ask who is closest or who has the best chance to have a parade in the next five years, the answer would have to be the Fins.