The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack


Somehow these Fins managed to bypass mediocrity in the rebuilding process from last season’s horrendous 1-15 record. They went from having the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft to winning the 2008 AFC Eastern Division Title with a win over the hated Jets on Sunday. And for those not quite as obsessed with numbers as the Voice of the Dolfan, the Fins’ 11-5 record means that their winning percentage went from last year’s .063 to this year’s .688, an eleven-fold increase. Rather amazing isn’t it? Kind of makes you want to send No-Cam-Do a belated Christmas gift, maybe an embroidered shirt bearing these simple numbers: “.063 TO .688.”

Imagine 5 months ago being told that Chad Pennington would lead his team to the playoffs with a win at the Meadowlands in the Jets’ season-ending game against Miami? That would have made any Dolfan sick at the time for sure. But strange things happen in the NFL and even when the crazy Packer/Favre sideshow was going on in Green Bay last summer, who would have ever thought that a season-ending Pennington win at the Meadowlands would have filled Dolfans with such glee and made the hometown fans sick to their stomachs.

And Chad really did get revenge, severely outplaying Mr. Loyalty himself, Brett Favre, the QB that the Jets dumped him for a month before the season started. Pennington, who had gone into training camp as the Jets QB, found himself suddenly released when the Jets signed Brett Favre. Then the Fins, who were facing a season with rookie Chad Henne or second year bust John Beck as their starter, signed Pennington quicker than you can say “Jets Choked.”

Although Pennington had an uncharacteristic fumble on a sack, he still protected the ball better than Favre who was picked off 3 times, including a pick-six by Phillip Merling in the second quarter on the first play from scrimmage after Pennington had hit Ted Ginn on a 27-yard touchdown pass. In the span of 15 seconds the Fins’ turned a 6-0 deficit into a 14-6 lead. However, the Jets would not go away easily; scoring 11 unanswered points to retake the lead with the help of John Denney’s snap over the head of punter Brandon Fields. From there the Fins’ defense said “no mas, no mas” and held the Jets while the offense scored 10 unanswered points to wrap up a 24-17 division-clinching victory. It was the Fins’ fifth win in a row and their ninth in their last 10 games.

Pennington was 22 of 30 (73.3%) for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns in his big showdown. He finished with a 113 QB rating for the day. Meanwhile, Favre assuredly did not look like a Hall of Fame QB, completing only 20 of 40 (50%) for 230 yards and 1 touchdown with 3 interceptions. How ironic, as Chad Pennington was JETtisoned by the JETS in favor of Brett, and then proved to be the difference in the decisive season-ending game. With all the other off-season acquisitions by the Jets, it is likely that Pennington could have led the Jets to the playoffs had the Jets stuck with him. Instead, Chad provided the leadership that carried the Fins to the AFC Eastern Division Title, while knocking both the Jets and the Patriots out of the playoffs. In the final analysis, the Jets did the Fins quite a “Favre” by signing Brett.

With the character displayed by this Fins’ team, who can write them off going into the playoffs. True, they have more holes than most playoff teams, but none of those holes are in the effort or heart displayed come game time over the last 2 months. This team, just one season removed from laughing stock status, has found ways to win week in and week out. And the team that plays the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs next weekend, will not be the same team that was embarrassed by the Ravens in a 27-13 home loss on October 19. Since that game these Fins have only lost once.

If there is anything that Dolfans know going into the playoffs it is that Tony Sparano will have the team well prepared for the Ravens and Chad will provide quality leadership as he has throughout this incredible journey from chumps to champs. This season did not end in December and it may not end with the Wild Card game either. Stay tuned as this incredible year continues to unfold. And how fitting it is that No-Cam-Do is coming to Miami for the playoffs so he can receive his belated Christmas gift in person. So let’s put a rush on that “.063 TO .688” embroidered shirt!

Although no Dolfan wants to offer any condolences to either the Jets or the Pats, it is easy to feel sorry for Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor. Dolfans reluctantly said good-bye to both last off-season, believing in their hearts that it was better to let these two true Dolphins go to playoff contending teams in the twilight of their great careers, but who knew that their best chance to taste the playoffs would have been to stay put. Neither Zach’s Cowboys nor Jason’s Redskins are going to the playoffs and the Fins have captured their first division title in 8 years. But who knew that Zcarcells and Sparano would bypass mediocrity in the rebuilding process en route to the AFC Eastern Division Title!

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