The Miami Dolphins' season crashed and burned Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. The 30-12 pasting at the hands of the Steelers crushed Dolphins fans, but for a team that started 1-4 -- and was a missed Cleveland Browns field goal from 0-5 -- it's remarkable Miami made the playoffs.
Owner Stephen Ross has made his share of hiring mistakes since taking over in Miami, but with coach Adam Gase running the show the Dolphins finally have reason to believe the future will be different. Ross can smell what Gase is cooking.
"I think we've come a long way from where we started," Ross told reporters in the locker room at Heinz Field after the game, via the team's official website. "Certainly unhappy right now. But I'm happy with the direction we're going. I think we have the right coach, the right people in place and I have the basis for something. Everybody is smelling it. They want it more and that gives you optimism for next year."
Sunday's playoff appearance was the first since Ross took over full ownership and the franchise's first since 2009.
There are some depth problems on the Dolphins' roster, but with Gase getting the most out of the talent he's given, Jay Ajayi as the workhorse, Ryan Tannehill's improvement, and Ndamukong Suh the centerpiece of the D, the optimism in Miami is clear.
"I think how the organization has come together," Ross said. "You saw a team that was 1-4. Everybody was ready to write it off at that point and how they fought back and came together as a team. That's great to see. The way we ended up was pretty good ... not today. Certainly, everybody in this room is disappointed. But I think the basis is here to really create something and hopefully we're in the right direction. I believe it."
Miami made strides, but Sunday's shellacking showed it's still several difference-makers away from competing with the big boys of the AFC. The moves this offseason will show whether the team can take the next step and close that gap.
"Today it's a loss," Ross said. "But I feel good the direction that the team is going. I'll only be satisfied with winning the Super Bowl."