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Could This Year's Dolphins Be the Worst Team in NFL History?

MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 15: Jakeem Grant #19 of the Miami Dolphins drops a pass in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins lost to the New England Patriots on Sunday. This was the outcome everyone expected. The Patriots dominated the contest throughout. Again, this was expected. Everyone collectively agreed Miami was a borderline shoe-in for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft before the season even kicked off. But how bad the Dolphins have been so far has exceeded expectations. It’s significantly worse than really anyone could have imagined going in.

Through two weeks, the Dolphins have lost by the scores of 59-10 and 43-0. For those keeping track at home, it’s the second-worst point differential through two games (-92) in NFL history. In the process, they’ve given up the second-most points through two games (102) in NFL history. Both games came on their home turf, and the most recent blowout came at the hands of their longtime divisional rivals and their head coach’s former team. Through 120 minutes of football, the Dolphins have not, at any point, resembled something close to a competitive football team. It’s still early, but Miami has looked so horrendous that it begs the question: Is this Miami Dolphins team the worst of all time?

To judge, we’ll compare this squad to the only two teams unable to win a single game in a season during the modern era– the 2008 Detroit Lions and the 2017 Cleveland Browns. Both those teams were, on paper, more talented than Miami; the Lions had a young Calvin Johnson catching 78 passes for 1,331 yards and 12 TDs across from Roy Williams, while the Browns had first overall pick Myles Garrett, a good interior offensive line, and several other high draft picks that come from picking in the top five year after year. None of that is to say those teams were good, of course. But as it stands, the Dolphins do not have a single player on their roster even close to the caliber of future stars the Lions and Browns did. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the only starter who is widely accepted to be above-average, yet the coaching staff refuses to use him as a lock-down corner and he’ll probably be wearing a different uniform by next week.

So we’ve established, talent-wise, the Dolphins have a strong case to be worse than the Lions or Browns. They obviously cannot get worse than those two teams in terms of record. So it will come down to the quality of losses when it comes to the race for the title of worst team in NFL history. The Browns were bad, yet they managed to stay in the game for some of their contests. Cleveland simply found new ways to self-sabotage every week, from missing chip-shot field goals to dropping wide-open passes that would have all but assured a victory. The Lions reached similar levels of incompetency, but like the Browns, were only a few plays away from victory on several occasions.

Through two weeks, it doesn’t look like Miami will be in position to steal a win at any time this year. Just looking at the box scores of the first two games for the Dolphins in comparison to Detroit and Cleveland paints a picture that Miami fans won’t want to see. In 2008, the Lions lost 34-21 and 48-25 in the opening weeks of the season, while the Browns lost 21-18 and 24-10 in 2017. Not exactly wire-to-wire matchups, but they managed to at least put up points in garbage time and (in Cleveland’s Week 1 loss) had a chance to win until the very end.

The Dolphins haven’t had it easy to start out with. The Patriots look as dangerous as they have in years, while the Ravens look to be one of the better teams in the AFC. They should have a chance against lesser teams like the Bills, Jets (if Sam Darnold still has mono), and Bengals. But this is a historically bad beginning of the season for a team that did everything they could to offload talent for assets. Even if it was by design, the first two weeks were nothing less than embarrassing. It’s still September, but the Dolphins are shaping up for a strong run at the less-than-glamorous title of worst team of all time.