The Miami Dolphins were a competitive 8-8 in 2013 and just one win away from making the playoffs. They signed Branden Albert, a Pro Bowl left tackle and drafted right tackle Ja'Wuan James in the first-round to fix the offensive line. Miami added 1,000-yard running back Knowshon Moreno to boost their shoddy rushing attack.
Not so fast.
The early 2014 projections are in and it doesn’t look good for Miami. So far, many experts are predicting the Dolphins slide this year.
ESPN.com recently ranked the Dolphins in the bottom third of the NFL at No. 24. One voter -- NFL Nation reporter Kevin Seifert -- rated the Dolphins No. 30, which rubbed a lot of Dolphins fans the wrong way. Bleacher Report also rated Miami last at No. 32 and the worst team in the NFL. Football Outsiders predicted Miami would finish 7-9.
Why is Miami being ranked low nationally? Here are three theories:
1. Head coach on the hot seat
Analysis: It rarely looks good for a team when the head coach enters the season on the hot seat. Joe Philbin is a shaky 15-17 in two seasons. He has yet to post a winning record or make the playoffs. There are no excuses for Philbin to fail in his third year. Although the Dolphins won’t admit it publicly, it’s playoffs or bust. What if Miami gets off to a slow start? What if the Dolphins are out of the playoff race in November? Miami must win early to quiet the speculation. Philbin must also get his players to respond week in and week out despite his status.
2. Not much confidence in Tannehill
Analysis: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has one of the top-selling jerseys in the NFL. He gets a ton of support in South Florida. Yet, Tannehill doesn’t get the same love nationally. Tannehill has a mediocre 15-17 record as a starter. He hasn’t proven to be a winning quarterback in two seasons and it’s now or never. Tannehill is learning a new offensive scheme for the first time since college. He has also struggled throwing the deep ball and holding the ball too long. Based on early Power Rankings, it appears the national media does not think Tannehill is going to do anything special this year.
3. Bad Press
Analysis: Fair or not, the Dolphins have the national perception of a team in turmoil and previously with a bad locker room. Last year’s bullying scandal rocked Miami and put the entire organization in a bad light. To the Dolphins’ credit, owner Stephen Ross, first-year general manager Dennis Hickey and Philbin have done a lot to clean up last year’s ills. They let Richie Incognito and John Jerry walk in free agency and traded Jonathan Martin. But recent issues on social media with Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, who may face an early-season suspension, and Don Jones keep Miami’s locker-room issues in the spotlight.
When you consider all these factors, it’s easier to see why the national media isn’t giving Miami much respect this upcoming season. The Dolphins also have the 12th toughest strength of schedule.
Miami will have a chance to fly under the radar. That could be a good thing. Meanwhile, Dolphins fans shouldn't expect much respect from the national media leading up to the regular season.