The Art of Losing

This particular article idea came to me after our most-recent podcast as my co-host DJ Premo brought up a tweet I had a few days ago about the Miami Dolphins “Tanking for Tua.”

He basically asked me how I can cheer for my team to tank/press the reset button every single season for the better part of the last two decades.

I gave a shorter answer on the podcast, but here are my extended thoughts on why sometimes you have to cheer for losses in hopes of the idea of what lies ahead will be worth it.

As a Dolphins fan I’m forced to cheer for my favorite team to lose as we get towards the end of each regular season in hopes of finishing with a better draft pick because they’ve been stuck in mediocrity, and despite several attempts at a rebuild, they’ve never totally hit the reset button in an attempt to try competing with a new scheme, coach and quarterback.

It appears that with the firing of Adam Gase, moving on from Mike Tannenbaum, and the anticipated release of Ryan Tannehill, that the Dolphins are doing just that – a total reboot.

Being a fan of a team opting to go this route is frustrating. You’re going to have to part ways with veteran players that have been loyal to the team, you may likely lose some quality players in a trade (see Oakland with Khalil Mack & Amari Cooper last year), and worst of all, you’re going to watch a lot of football that results in a loss.

Image result for khalil mack amari cooper

The good news about that last point is the fact that you’re likely used to your favorite team losing by now, so hell, what’s another year? Especially if you can get behind the vision of the reboot and know that there is a greater plan that lies ahead.

A lot of people will say that you’re not a true fan if you’re cheering for your favorite team to lose. I would argue that most people saying this are fans of teams that have been fairly successful over the last 10-15 years.

If you continue to follow along with the moves the team is making, you cheer for young talent your team has invested in, and you make an effort to continue watching each and every game despite knowing your team stinks and you’re likely to witness some low-quality football, I say that you’re just as big of a fan of your team as that Patriots’ fan is of his.

Here’s my personal strategy for how I’ve cheered for losses in the past and how I plan on cheering for more Dolphins losses in 2019. I’ve broken it down into a five-step plan. It’s sort of like alcoholics anonymous without the alcohol. And as I typed that I realized that it should be a six-step plan, because alcohol may indeed help make this strategy work for you. So let’s consider any form of alcohol No. 6.

1. On game day cheer for a close, competitive game but hope that the ending results in a loss that borderlines heartbreaking or you at least feel comfortable with

In the event you’re not following me, what I’m trying to say is that you want your team to be competitive and keep the score close throughout, but ultimately lose on a bad call or an excellent play or set of plays by the opposing team.

It sucks to lose by 30 points knowing that your team was never in it. However, if your team can keep the difference in score respectable, you get to see more of the team’s true offensive/defensive scheme and can do a much better job evaluating players and their performance in the game.

And by losing the game on a blown call or a really great play by the other team, you can hold onto the belief that your team was in the game until the end; it just didn’t break your way this time.

Let’s be honest, as a Dolphins’ fan the Miami Miracle against the Patriots was cool, but did you really feel good winning on the trickiest of all trick plays when all the win did was delay the inevitable ending of the Dolphins not making the playoffs?

Image result for miami miracle

2. Cheer for your team’s young, recently-drafted players to flash/show signs of being quality starters in the future

My scenarios are all Dolphins related, because being a fan of that team and watching them play every single week is the sole reason this article is even being written.

But let me tell you what I liked about the 2018 Miami Dolphins season.

Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jerome Baker were two rookies that were given a chance in the starting lineup and flashed numerous times throughout the season. These two can and should be players the defense can build around and be seen as leaders a few years down the line when the team is (hopefully) ready to compete since they’ll have both the in-game experience along with the experience of knowing what it feels like to lose on a consistent basis and not wanting to go down that path again.

What you’ll be looking for from these players depends on the position they play, but on a very basic level you’ll be looking for some of the following traits.

You’re going to be looking for defensive players that are continually around the ball, players that create/come up with turnovers, and don’t seem to be out of place in relation to their duty in the scheme. Offensively, you want guys that seem to have a good knowledge of the playbook and their duties, show flashes of being able to make impact plays against NFL-level defenders, and an increase in playing time and targets/opportunities as the season progresses.

Image result for minkah fitzpatrick vikings

3. Don’t let a couple of wins fool you. Pay attention to how the team won their games and determine if you believe it’s sustainable

The Dolphins started 3-0 this recently-completed season, but I don’t think there’s a true Dolphins fan out there who would tell you that they felt comfortable and/or confident in the team following those three wins.

First, wins against Tennesse, Oakland and the New York Jets aren’t impressive due to the lack of quality opponents. Second, if you paid attention to how the Dolphins were scoring points in these games, you’d quickly see that the philosophy they were having success with was not sustainable.

For example, the game against the Titans was a complete mess. It was delayed multiple times for several hours, the Dolphins scored on a kick return by Jakeem Grant, and the touchdown pass to Kenny Stills came on a 75-yard bomb. Keep in mind the fact that Stills recorded just 553 total receiving yards last year; that long-yardage touchdown wasn’t the norm in this offense. In fact, that play accounted for nearly 14 percent of his total receiving yardage on the year. Not sustainable.

Against the Jets, a team that ended up 29th in the league in points allowed per game, the Dolphins scored 20 first-half points but the first score occurred after a turnover that left the Dolphins at the opponent’s 15 yard line while the second touchdown came off a two-play drive. Not sustainable.

The third game of Miami’s 3-0 start may have been the biggest fluke. Miami beat Oakland, 28-20, but 21 of the team’s points came on gadget plays. Trailing 17-3 at the end of the third quarter, Grant took an 18-yard pop pass from Tannehill to the house before scoring midway through the fourth quarter on a 52-yard pass from Albert Wilson (clearly not the Dolphins’ quarterback). The Dolphins’ final points in this game came on another pop pass from Tannehill, this time a 74-yarder via Wilson. Not sustainable.

Remember when the Denver Broncos made the playoffs with Tim Tebow at quarterback and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs before getting smashed by the Patriots?

Despite the hype around the team in what will forever be remembered as Tebowmania, the Broncos’ front office knew that style of offense wasn’t going to be sustainable in today’s NFL. They proceeded to lure Peyton Manning into becoming the team’s quarterback to pair with a nice set of offensive skill players and a very solid defense and eventually turned into Super Bowl champions.

This particular scenario didn’t warrant a complete overhaul, but the team’s decision makers realized how they won with Tebow wasn’t sustainable and made the necessary/correct adjustment.

Image result for tim tebow vs steelers

4. Play fantasy football so that you have other things to cheer for during the football season and that you don’t feel like you’re wasting an entire NFL season

If you’re reading this it’s fairly likely that you already play fantasy football. In the event you’re favorite team is about to undergo a losing season and you don’t currently play fantasy football, my advice is to start.

Fantasy football is great.

The draft. The belief that you have the best team in your league following the draft. Being able to pay attention to other games besides your favorite teams and having a rooting interest. The trash talking with opponents in your league. The trades and waiver-wire additions. I could go on but I think you get my point.

If you’ve never played and you’re scared that you’re just going to waste your money since you’ll be the newbie in a league with others that have played for years, don’t let that hinder you.

There are inexpensive (or even free) leagues that you can get into, and I’m sure you have a friend that plays who would be willing to help you get started/make sure you’re not doing anything too crazy. Hell, I know a podcast that would love to help you with draft strategy, weekly start/sit debates, waiver-wire advice, etc., just let us know!

Just start playing fantasy football. The addiction will quickly take over and you’ll find yourself in half a dozen redraft leagues, a couple dynasty leagues, and you’ll still turn in a couple of daily fantasy sports lineups to reach that final high.

Image result for fantasy football

5. Follow college football and be knowledgeable about the NFL Draft and which positions/types of players your team may be in the market for

Much like I said 10 seconds ago about fantasy football, start paying attention to college football if you don’t do so already.

By knowing the offensive and defensive positions your team is in need of, you’ll be more knowledgeable about the options your team may be targeting come draft time and you won’t be seeing these players for the first time in the event your team ends up selecting one of them.

Watching your NFL team lose on a consistent basis will quickly expose weaknesses and give you a pretty good idea of where the front office may be focusing their attention come draft time. If you see that your team struggles in coverage and cannot get to the passer, search out some draft-eligible players at these positions and dedicate some of your Saturday to watching them play.

Not only will you be watching and learning more about the future players of the NFL, but you’ll quickly become a fan of college football and you’ll start dedicating another day of the week to this game.

Also, doing this will (I assume anyways) make the experience of your NFL team winning feel even more rewarding knowing that you put up with some terrible football in the past and that you watched/scouted players that are now on your favorite team before they were even there.

If you disagree with this theory and believe cheering against your favorite team is the biggest sin you can commit as a football fan, yell at me in the comments below or find me on Twitter here, as I’m sure to have several answers built up from all of my years watching a losing team.

Image result for tua tagovailoa

Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as the guys recap Super Bowl 53 in a manner that’s guaranteed to be more entertaining than the actual game!

Ben Morgan is a co-host and blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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