As we look at the last couple of years, we see that the dolphins have tried different strategies to improve the performance of the team. For instance in 2002, to help improve their offense the Dolphins acquire RB Rickey Williams a former Heisman Trophy Winner from the New Orleans Saints.
Williams would have an immediate impact as the Dolphins got off to a terrific 5-1 start. However, in a Week 6 primetime game on the road against the Denver Broncos QB Jay Fiedler injures his thumb as he Dolphins win in the finally seconds 24-22 on a 55-yard FG by Olindo Mare.
Now Fielder on the sidelines the Dolphins would struggle as backup Ray Lucas struggled with turnovers as the Dolphins lost three straight games. Lucas would rebound to win two straight, but once again, the Buffalo Bills beat the Dolphins.
Fiedler did return eventually play the second half against the Bills but was clearly rusty. Despite the injuries and turnovers, the Dolphins appeared to be heading for the AFC East title behind the dominant running of Rickey Williams who set a franchise record with 1,853 yards, winning the league's rushing title. However, two bad losses in the final two games to the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots would drop the Dolphins out of the playoff completely as they finished in 3rd place with a 9-7 record.
The Dolphins in 2003, came into the season with championship in their blood, but got off to a shaky start as they tumbled on in the season opener losing at home to the Houston Texans 21-20. The Dolphins would recover and would win their next four games to enter a showdown at Pro Player Stadium against the New England Patriots 4-1 with first place at stake.
At the same time, the Florida Marlins were making a surprise run to a World Series Title so the Dolphins still had to play on the dirt infield. This would end up costing them what would turn out to be the most vital game of the season as Olindo Mare missed a 36-yard Field Goal in the final minute of regulation. Mare would miss a 35-yarder in overtime before the Pats won the game 19-13 on a Tom Brady 82-yard TD pass. Both of Mare's misses came off the infield dirt. Injuries would once again take their toll on QB Jay Fiedler as Brian Griese son of Dolphins Hall of Famer Bob took over the starting job in the middle of the season. Griese would fail to live up to his fathers name as the Dolphins struggled splitting the next four games. The Dolphins stared another loss in the face in Week 12, as they trailed the Washington Redskins at home 23-10 late in the 3rd Quarter when Fiedler came in off the bench to lead to fourth Quarter Scoring drives to keep the Dolphins playoff hopes alive with a 24-23 win. The win seemed to lift the spirits of the Dolphins who carved the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving 40-21 to enter a must win game against the Patriots with an 8-4. However, a blizzard would arrive in New England at the same time and the Dolphins looked cold and confused in 28 inches of snow, as they were shutout 12-0. The Dolphins would lose again to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night the following week to fall to 8-6, even with 2 wins the Dolphins would be unable to sneak into the playoffs despite a solid 10-6 record.
Following the Dolphins second straight season in 2004, without the playoffs would come the most turbulent off-season the elite franchise's history. Despite being unpopular with the fans, the Dolphins decided to keep Coach Dave Wannstedt, while bringing in a General Manager, Rick Spielman to make personnel decisions.
At the same time, Dan Marino returned to the organization as club president, but less then a month into the job Marino had second thought about taking a job viewed mainly as a figurehead position and resigned.
Off the field, Randy McMichael was arrested for domestic violence, while Ricky Williams tested positive for Marijuana and faced a suspension. Things would go from bad to worse a week before training camp when Williams failed another drug test and suddenly decided to retire, in protest to the NFL's strict schedule and rules against Marijuana use, leaving the Dolphins with a giant void entering the season, which was to late to fill.
The turbulent off-season would lead to an a terrible nightmare for them as the Dolphins lost the opener 17-7 to the Tennessee Titans as Hurricane Ivan was bearing down on South Florida. After losing Week 2 on the road in Cincinnati to the Bengals 16-13, the Dolphins had to rearrange their schedule again for Hurricane Jeanne playing at night in a quagmire losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 13-3.
The losses would continue to mount as the Dolphins lost their first six games on the way to a dreadful 1-8 start that would lead to the resignation of Coach Dave Wannstedt. Under Interim Coach Jim Bates things would not get better as they dropped there next 2 games before beating the San Francisco 49ers 24-17 in a match up of 1-8 teams, marking the 20th anniversary of their Super Bowl XIX match up when the two were a combined 33-3. Nothing went right for the Dolphins all season as new QB A.J. Feeley was often mistake prone throwing several interceptions, which were returned for Touchdowns, as the Dolphins, spent the entire season in last place posting a franchise worst 4-12 record. However, one lone bright spot came on a Monday Night in December when the Dolphins stunned the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots 29-28 as the Dolphins defense intercepted Tom Brady twice in the final 2 minutes. Following the season the Dolphins hoping to get the season behind them hired LSU Coach Now in 2005 they have Nick Saban to lead the future, while releasing QB Jay Fiedler who lost his job to Feeley during the season. The Dolphins would go on to draft Ronnie Brown of Auburn with the second overall pick, while leaving the door open for Ricky Williams to return.