Over the past 13 seasons, the Miami Dolphins have won the AFC East just once back in 2008, the year Tom Brady missed just about the entire season due to injury. Since Tom Brady took over the starting quarterback job with the New England Patriots in 2001, it has been the Patriots’ division. There have been only two seasons in the last 13 where the Patriots haven’t ended the season as division champions. The Patriots have been such a dominant force in the East since the Brady/Bill Belichick era began in 2001 that they have never finished with a record less than a winning one.
In 2013, the Dolphins had an opportunity to clinch their first postseason berth in five years. All they had to do was win one of their remaining two games against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. The Dolphins squandered that opportunity by losing their last two games, scoring just seven total points and setting off a chain of firings that led the Dolphins to firing former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and general manager Jeff Ireland.
The Patriots, on the other hand, won their fifth consecutive division title with a 12-4 record and advanced to the AFC Championship Game for the third straight year before falling to the Denver Broncos, 26-16, last Sunday. Although Brady will be 37-years-old at the start of next season, the Patriots still have the second-youngest roster in the NFL.
The Patriots would appear to have a bright future after saying that, but their championship window is actually closing. These aren’t the invincible Patriots of the early 2000s which won the Lombardi Trophy three out of four seasons. This is a squad that has lost big game after big game on an annual basis for the past nine seasons. The Patriots’ success was more of an indication of how weak the AFC East was as a division and of how weak the AFC was as a whole rather than a sign of how complete the Patriots were as a team.
The Dolphins now start another chapter of their franchise with a new offensive coordinator (Bill Lazor) and a yet-to-be-hired general manager. With a young-and-improving quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and a solid supporting cast on offense and defense, it’s time for the Dolphins to make the AFC East their division in 2014.