It’s difficult to imagine a worse start to the 2019 NFL season than what the Miami Dolphins have suffered through thus far. The team has been outscored an astonishing 102–10, tying the 1973 New Orleans Saints for the most points allowed (102) and worst point differential (-90) through two weeks in the Super Bowl era.
To make matters worse, both of those games were at home.
Heading into their Week 3 matchup in Dallas, the Dolphins are massive 23-point underdogs, which makes for the largest spread since 2013 and one of the five largest spreads since the AFL-NFL Merger.
While certainly the team’s schedule to open the year has been a difficult one, there is little reason to believe that the team will improve over the course of the season. Instead, it’s far more reasonable to wonder if the team will win any games at all and if the 2019 Dolphins could end up the worst team in NFL history.
Miami Dolphins or Hurricanes?
You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Miami football team taking the field at Hard Rock Stadium the past two Sundays for a collegiate team.
During Week 1 against the Ravens, the Dolphins found themselves down 21–0 by the end of the first quarter and trailing 42–0 at halftime before falling 59–0. Fans were already booing less than nine minutes into the game and by the start of the second half, they had mostly left entirely.
Miami’s defense surrendered a whopping 643 yards (the Dolphins’ offense managed just 200) and 59 points, completely shredded by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense. By the fourth quarter, even RG3 got in on the fun. Rarely do we ever see such a complete annihilation of a football team.
Then, it happened again. The Dolphins kept things to a respectable 13–0 by halftime against the Patriots, but once the second half got underway, the game developed into another rout, aided greatly by four second-half interceptions, including this unreal pick-six from Jamie Collins featuring a one-handed snag and an almost cruel jog to the end zone.
Here’s the result of every Dolphins’ drive in the second half. Sensitive parties, cover your eyes.
Interception, Punt, Punt, Pick-Six, Pick-Six, Turnover on Downs, Turnover on Downs, Interception.
I warned you.
No Fitzmagic This Time
Over the first two weeks of 2018, Ryan Fitzpatrick dazzled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, throwing for over 400 yards and four touchdowns in each game. The world was enamored by Fitzpatrick’s on-field performance and off-field style and swagger. His Bucs had upset the Saints and Eagles, two of the best teams in the NFC, and the press chalked it up to “Fitzmagic”.
The 36-year old Fitzpatrick, now in his 15th season and starting for his eighth team, has failed to replicate any of those heroic to begin 2019. Through two games, Fitzpatrick has just 274 yards passing, one touchdown, and four interceptions. Since two of those were pick-sixes last week, Fitzpatrick has thrown more touchdowns to the Patriots’ defense than the Dolphins’ offense this season.
Heading into Week 3, Fitzpatrick has been benched in favor of Josh Rosen. However, Rosen has been equally abysmal so far, with a line of 8/21 for 102 yards and two interceptions.
Set Up for Failure
The Dolphins have been terrible, but we expected them to be terrible. Maybe not this terrible, but terrible nonetheless.
Operating under first-year NFL head coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins went through the wringer before the season even began. In early July, defensive tackle Kendrick Norton was involved in a car accident which led to the amputation of his left arm.
Later that month, just four days into training camp, Flores fired offensive line coach Pat Flaherty. During the preseason, when the Dolphins were rumored to be interested in trading Laremy Tunsil for the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney, reports suggested the locker room would revolt if Tunsil was traded to the Texans.
A few days later, that’s exactly what happened. Although not for Clowney, Tunsil was sent to Houston along with Kenny Stills, who himself had publicly criticized the team’s owner. Clearly, it wasn’t all fun in the sun to begin with.
Tanking for Tua?
The Dolphins have been criticized for what even before the season looked like a pretty obvious tank job. It seems the team’s goal for 2019 is to perform as poorly as possible in order to secure the #1 pick in the 2020 draft, which would likely be used on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Following the team’s Week 1 defeat, multiple players requested trades, not wanting to be a part of a team operating under a tanking mindset. One of those players was Minkah Fitzpatrick, the team’s first-round pick in 2018. The cornerback was recently traded to the Steelers for Pittsburgh’s first-rounder in 2020.
Following their trades with the Texans and Steelers, the Dolphins now own five picks in the first two rounds of the 2020 draft, which will be used to start their rebuilding process.
The Worst Team Ever?
While the 2008 Lions and the 2017 Browns are the only teams to go undefeated in a 16-game season, the 1976 Buccaneers, who went 0–14, hold the record for the worst point differential in a season, at -287. This makes the ’76 Bucs arguably the worst team in NFL history, although they deserve some sympathy considering it was their first season in the league.
With a -92 point differential thus far, the Dolphins are nearly a third of the way to the Bucs’ record with 14 games remaining. Considering that Bucs team only played 14 games, Miami essentially has a 92-point head start at the record.
Will they get there? The smart bet, as with most all-time records, would be no. Winning even just one game would send that differential in the opposite direction, making things much harder for the Dolphins. There’s also the possibility the Patriots will be resting their starters by the teams’ Week 17 rematch.
However, it will be exciting to watch the Dolphins this season, as we’ll be morbidly curious to see just how bad things can get. And you never know — technically, they could still turn it around.
Connor Groel is a writer who studies sport management at the University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as editor of the Top Level Sports publication on Medium, and the host of the Connor Groel Sports podcast. You can follow Connor on Medium, Facebook, and Twitter, and view his archives at toplevelsports.net.