MIAMI — It’s nothing personal, Kansas City, so please don’t take it that way, Chiefs fans. But would you please lose? I know y’all haven’t been in a Super Bowl since the 1969 season, so being one win away is a little bit of a feel-good story and all that.
No matter. K.C. winning the AFC championship would deny host city Miami the most intriguing possibility left in the NFL’s final four playoff teams.
The Dolphins haven’t been in a Super Bowl since 1984, so Miami hosting the game without tasting it can be bittersweet, a cruel tease.
So here we are, again, sifting through the Chiefs-Titans and 49ers-Packers semifinal matchups to find what is — or should be — of most interest in this final four to South Florida fans:
1. Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Tannehill: The story is so far-fetched you dare not make it up, but then it actually happens — this is why we love sports in all its unscripted glory. And the fall and rise of Tannehill is the best thing going right now.
Yes, I know. Tennessee rides on the back of running beast Derrick Henry and stout defense more than on Tannehill’s arm. Nevertheless, the Titans season pivoted sharply when Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota as starting quarterback in Week 7. It is why the team is this far. Tannehill led the NFL in passer rating, and if he doesn’t get some MVP votes, call the cops.
Now Tannehill is one win from playing in a Miami Super Bowl in the same stadium where for seven seasons he tried and failed to make the Dolphins winners. It was unfathomable as he began the season traded and demoted, sitting as Mariota’s backup.
Tannehill of course didn’t fail here nearly as much as the Dolphins failed him by never doing what the Titans did in surrounding him with enough talent. Tannehill returning to Miami and maybe raising the Lombardi Trophy in the Dolphins’ backyard would simply be one of the great redemption tales in sports history — and one every Dolfan with a heart should be rooting for.
So get out the way, Chiefs!
2. The Hall haul: The 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class to be revealed just before the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 has a distinct local flavor.
Sunday night we saw the emotional reaction live on Fox TV as it was annoUnced Jimmy Johnson, former Hurricanes and Dolphins coach, had so deservedly made it to Canton, Ohio. I have not covered a man who took a loss harder, or who ultimately figured out how, when and why to quit coaching, before it ate him all up. Well done, J.J.
Finalists who still could make it include longtime Dolphins stalwart linebacker Zach Thomas, former Hurricanes star running back Edgerrin James and receiver Reggie Wayne, and Fort Lauderdale-born/Dillard High receiver Isaac Bruce.
Best of luck to all, but let it be Zach’s time. He has shouldered the weight of the wait.
3. The Bosa/Kumerow connection: Defensive end John Bosa was the Dolphins’ No. 1 draft choice in 1987 and DE Eric Kumerow was the top pick the next year. They were brothers-in-law. They were not great NFL players. Oh but the bloodlines were good!
John’s son is Niners’ rookie pass rush star Nick Bosa, out of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High. Eric’s kid is Packers backup receiver Jake Kumerow — cousins vying to reach the Super Bowl in the town where their dads were top draft picks.
4. The ex-Cane and FIU Panther still standing: Most years, there are more former Canes in a final four, but this time it’s only Jimmy Graham, the Packers’ starting tight end.
FIU is repped by Jonnu Smith, also a starting tight end, for the Titans.
FAU Owls still playing: Titans kicker Greg Joseph and 49ers linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair.
5. Here’s what happened to Sam Madison: He was one of the Dolpohins’ best ever cornerbacks from 1997 to 2005. Now he’s finishing his first season as defensive backs coach for the Chiefs.
Also of note, Packers inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti’s name should be familiar because his father, Tom, was Canes defensive coordinator for UM’s first national championship in 1983 and later directed Dolphins defenses from 1987 to 1995.
6. The other former Miami QBs and ex-Fins: It isn’t just Tannehill. Matt Moore is K.C.’s backup QB (he started two games this season), and Chad Henne is the third stringer. Henne was a Dolphin from 2008 to 2011 and Moore from 2011 to 2017.
Other ex-Fins in the final four: Chiefs running back Damien Williams (Dolphins 2014-17), Titans guard Jamil Douglas (2015-16), Packers guard Billy Turner (2014-16) and 49ers nose tackle Earl Mitchell (2014-16).
7. Going, way, way back: San Francisco’s third-string QB is C.J. Beathard. He is the grandson of Bobby Beathard, whose long tenure as an NFL executive famously included both Dolphins Super Bowl wins as the team’s direct or player personnel from 1972 to 1977.
8. And the loose ends: San Francisco receivers coach Wes Welker is a former Dolphin, and Niners D-line coach Kris Kocurek was on Fins staff in 2018. Packers special teams coach Rayna Stewart was a Dolphin in 1998. And, no, we didn’t forget Titans tackle Kevin Pamphile, Miami-born out of Central High.
Of all of the South Florida ties still alive in the playoffs as four teams try to reach Miami, we would be happy with just one:
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