Nearly 47 years ago, they met for the Lombardi Trophy—and they played a rematch a decade later in Super Bowl XVI.
When they face off Sunday, though, Washington and Miami will be playing for the potential No. 1 pick in next spring’s draft—and to avoid the ignominy of being the NFL’s worst team.
It takes a lot to undercut a squad that has been outscored 163–26 and is on pace to set league records for fewest points scored and most allowed. But thanks to Miami’s bye week and its own extraordinary dysfunction, Washington has pulled ahead in the race to the bottom.
At least the Dolphins have a plan. They knew they’d be terrible this season, with a real chance to become only the third 0–16 team in league history.
So they started jettisoning their few assets, trading standout offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and top receiver Kenny Stills to Houston and dealing safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the floundering Steelers. As a result, Miami currently owns three first-round picks in 2020 and two firsts and two seconds in 2021. If they follow their “process” well, the Dolphins could become the NFL’s version of the Houston Astros or Philadelphia 76ers.
Conversely, Washington’s delusional front office ignored all the obvious signs and declared itself a contender, despite gaping holes in its offensive line, receiving corps and secondary. After five losses (the last four lopsided) and plummeting fan interest, embattled team president Bruce Allen made coach Jay Gruden the scapegoat and fired him Monday, doing him a massive favor.
Unlike the Dolphins, Washington has stubbornly refused to field offers for holdout Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams, preferring to fine him in the vain hope that he’ll return. Williams’ trade value diminishes by the week, robbing the team of a chance to add another much-needed high 2020 draft pick.
Such is the backdrop for Sunday’s game in Hard Rock Stadium, with tens of thousands of empty seats expected and a reason for Fox Sports announcers Sam Rosen, Ronde Barber and Lindsay Czarniak to apply for hazardous duty pay. The winner will feel slightly better for a few days, while the loser gets the inside track on the No. 1 draft pick (although the equally wretched Cincinnati Bengals may have something to say about that).
If it’s the Dolphins, many early mock drafts identify Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovaiola as their likely choice. (That could make things even more uncomfortable for incumbent Josh Rosen, a first-round pick two years ago by Arizona who was sent packing when Kyler Murray was chosen first this year.)
Washington’s new coach will inherit Dwayne Haskins, who never endeared himself to Gruden. So its draft target may be Georgia’s stud offensive tackle Andrew Thomas as Williams’ successor.
In January of 1973, the Dolphins beat Washington 14–7 in Super Bowl VII in a game best known for Garo Yepremian’s infamous attempt at a pass after seeing his field goal attempt blocked. It capped Miami’s 17–0 season, the only perfect mark in league history. Since then, alumni from that team drink an annual champagne toast each year when the NFL’s last unbeaten team falls.
This Sunday, there may be a lot of drinking in Miami and D.C., but not for the same reason.