"We must be the best team to start 0-7 (in NFL history)."
So said Miami Dolphins LB Kevin Burnett in the locker room following the team's 30-23 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The win was Miami's fifth in seven games after the team lost its first seven to start the season.
The Dolphins have looked like a totally different team during that stretch, but Dolfans may be excused if they do not share Burnett's enthusiasm. Miami's improved play could have as much to do with it's soft second-half schedule than its inherent talent.
Miami's first seven opponents, all of whom beat the Dolphins, sport a combined .561 winning percentage. Their next seven opponents have not fared as well, with a .440 winning percentage (The 5-9 Bills were only counted once, though the Dolphins have beaten them twice).
Beating the teams you're supposed to beat (and losing to the teams that are supposed to beat you) does not make you the "best team to start 0-7." It just makes you a mediocre team that happened to start 0-7.
The Dolphins are riding high thanks to their current hot streak, but make no mistake, the team as it is currently constructed is not good enough to compete for a playoff spot next season.
There are some important pieces already in place, like WR Brandon Marshall, CB Vontae Davis, and LB Cameron Wake, to name a few. If general manager Jeff Ireland can draft a good quarterback and acquire some help in the offensive line and defensive secondary over the offseason, then the Dolphins might actually be able to take a step forward next season, as opposed to the steps back the team has taken in recent years.
Ironically, each win this season makes it more difficult for the Dolphins to draft the quarterback of their dreams come April. With top prospect Andrew Luck expected to be gone after the first pick is made, the Dolphins might not be able to get the highly-touted Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin III, or Landry Jones by the time they make their first pick in the draft.
If the season ended today, the Dolphins would have the tenth pick in the draft, with at least three teams ahead of them in need of a quarterback of the future.
These wins in November and December may feel good now, but if the Dolphins lose out on a top-flight quarterback in April because of their draft position, they will be the football equivalent of a box of donuts: tasty now, but full of empty calories that will haunt you later.