I know. It's March and we're not close to football. Free agency starts next week, the draft is still a month and a half away, and meaningful football is almost six months out. And here we sit, lamenting a 6-10 season and the loss of a player who is arguably the best slot receiver in the game. It's all doom and gloom, right? Well...maybe not. Here are some thoughts for 2018...BEFORE we even get into free agency and the draft. And I'll tell you something right now; I think the Dolphins are going back to the playoffs in 2018. Why? 1) Almost everything that could go wrong for this team since December of 2016 went wrong. Tannehill sprained/partially tore ligaments his knee, decided to go against surgery on the advice of physicians...and rehabbing the knee didn't work. So he had to have surgery. Tony Lippett, arguably the 3rd CB on the team, ruptured his achilles. Their 2nd round draft pick, who certainly looked like he would help the LB corps, blew HIS knee out. So the team brought in Lawrence Timmons to help there, and he promptly lost his mind. A freaking act of God hurricane basically cost the Fins a bye week midseason, and forced a hellish road trip. The offensive line coach showed up on a hooker's Facebook page snorting lines of cocaine. Starting CB Byron Maxwell stopped doing what he was told and was released. Nate Allen missed half the season. Starting RB Jay Ajayi was traded. All of this stupid crap happened, most of it in the space of a FEW MONTHS. And the team only won 6 games. And yet.... 2) There were decidedly things that went right. On December 11 of last year, my phone rang. It was my buddy Grek, and I knew exactly what was coming. I answered the phone, and there was dead silence for about five seconds. Then: "Dude. What the **** was THAT?" I responded, loudly, "THAT is what happens when everyone shuts the **** up, goes out, and does their ******* JOBS." The Dolphins had just finished kicking the Patriots's asses. No, it wasn't as close at the 27-20 final score made it look. That game and the Denver game showed exactly what many people had been hoping for. Xavien Howard arrived as one of the best young corners in the game. Kenyan Drake showed one of the reasons why the Dolphins were willing to part with Jay Ajayi. Jordan Phillips made people look silly at times. Jakeem Grant was integrated into the game plan and paid immediate dividends. When people did their jobs and followed the game plan, this team won. And it looked good doing it. And then he asked me, "Do you think they can win out?" I responded, "Dude, I really don't know. This team is so hot and cold with their execution. They could very well LOSE out." And, of course, that's exactly what they did. So.... 3) Why am I hopeful for 2018? You can call it "wearing aqua-colored glasses" if you want, and you might have a point. But I'm writing 2017 off as "the year that everything went wrong." And remember what Adam Gase said about the last couple games of 2017? About how everyone was playing for their jobs? Apparently he wasn't JUST talking about the football roster. Practically the entire coaching staff was torn apart, and replaced with staff that Gase wanted and was familiar with. The message and mantra is clear: This team did NOT perform and execute game plans as expected, and both players AND coaches are being held accountable. This is Gase's ship, he's got the coaches he wants and is getting the players he wants. Will is pan out? I don't know. I'm hopeful. There is a fine line between "Adam Gase doesn't know when he's made a mistake with game planning, and he refuses to adapt," and "The staff and players are not coaching properly and executing the game plan properly, and he's adamant that it's going to work, because when it works, it works WELL." Regardless, they're getting Tannehill back, and almost everyone saw what was going on with him before he got hurt. Fans saw it, analysts saw it, and even Gase said, "The game is slowing down for him." They're getting McMillan back. They're getting Lippett back. They've got exciting young players like Drake, Howard, Grant, and Godcheaux. They've got low-cost high-upside players like Anthony, Taylor and Tankersley. They've traded for Robert Quinn. Could 2018 be another year of regression from 2017? Maybe, but I don't think so. I cannot possibly imagine as many things going wrong for the Dolphins again. It's just very, very improbable. The key to this team winning is the execution of a plan, and I believe Gase is putting the team in the best position possible to do exactly that. At any rate, it's doesn't cost any more to be hopeful than it does to be pessimistic. Without getting all "Shawshank Redemptioney"...I choose to hope. Fins Up.