Remember when the Jets could count on at least one win over the Dolphins every year, sometimes even a season sweep?
Those days seem like long ago. And those days certainly aren’t these days.
If you look at the direction the Jets have been headed in the past two seasons (read: rudderless and reeling) and the direction the Dolphins are currently taking (read: arrow pointing up), it doesn’t look like the Jets can count on anything other than hanging on for dear life and hoping for a victory.
When the Jets (0-5) play at Miami (2-3) on Sunday, the job Dolphins coach Brian Flores has done compared with the job Adam Gase has done with the Jets in the same period will be on display.
And it’s not a favorable display for Gase.
Flores, the Bill Belichick disciple from New England who took over in Miami after Gase was fired by the Dolphins and hired by the Jets, has coached circles around Gase.
Both Flores and Gase got off to terrible starts last season — Gase’s Jets going 1-7 with Sam Darnold catching mononucleosis and Flores’ Dolphins starting 0-7.
But the start Flores endured was historically horrific. Miami was beaten 59-10 by Baltimore in the opener, then 43-0 to the Patriots in Week 2, then 31-6 to Dallas and 30-10 to the Chargers. Four games into Flores’ NFL head coaching career his team was outscored 163-26.
Three more losses followed and the Dolphins were 0-7 before going 5-4 the rest of the way. Add to that their 2-3 start this season, and Flores is 7-7 since that forgettable beginning.
A year ago, the Dolphins were ranked last in the NFL in points allowed, yielding 30.9 per game. They were 25th in the league in scoring at 19.1 points per game. Their pass defense gave up 39 touchdowns and produced just 13 interceptions.
This season, the Dolphins are ranked 10th in points allowed (22.6 per game) 13th in points scored (27.2 per) and their pass defense is ranked sixth in the league.
You know what those numbers represent? Progress.
That’s not something we’re seeing from Gase’s team, which has been regressing.
When Flores’ progressing program was brought up to Gase this week, the beleaguered Jets coach was quick to point how different this Dolphins team is than the one he left after the 2018 season.
“There’s not a whole bunch of guys that were there with me at this point after two seasons,’’ Gase said. “I think [Flores] has got 8 to 10 guys that he had in New England. He’s got his guys in there that he’s familiar with.’’
Gase, too, was quick to point out the free-agent money the Dolphins doled out to build their defense. They signed cornerbacks Byron Jones (five years, $82 million) and Xavien Howard (five years, $76.5 million), as well as former Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy (four years, $51 million) and defensive end Shaq Lawson (three years, $31 million).
“They’ve done a good job to rebuild the defense really quickly, went out in free agency, signed a bunch of guys, got some guys that were disruptive in the pass rush, getting a corner that they made the highest paid corner in the NFL,’’ Gase said. “He’s got guys that are familiar with his system, that allows those guys to play fast.’’
The Dolphins, too, believe they have their franchise quarterback in first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa, who’s sitting behind hot veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick at the moment.
They’ve got some good things going on in Miami as opposed to the Jets, who don’t have a lot going for them right now and seem to be waiting for Gase to be replaced.
Perhaps the most important thing Flores has done since the nightmarish start last season was stick to his principles and not panic.
“I learned a lot from Year 1,’’ Flores said this week. “From a leadership standpoint, I think it’s important to be authentic, to be honest. I don’t have all the answers. I tell the players that, but I’m constantly working to find the right answers.
“I think it’s about being genuine and being authentic. At the end of the day, I’ll have peace with my actions and the things I say regardless of how things go.’’
How did Flores extricate his team from the abyss of 163-26?
“Thinking back on it, it was definitely a tough time, but I think we learned a lot from it,’’ Flores said. “Any time you deal with adversity, it either breaks you or makes you stronger. Hopefully it’s made us better.’’
One team playing in Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday has gotten stronger and better, and the other has not
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