When NBC shuffles schedule to add Miami Dolphins, everything is truly different | Schad

MIAMI GARDENS — As Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel made clear on Wednesday, the goal of this season was not to get "flexed" into a "Sunday Night Football" game.

But, dang, really?

This is how far we've come.

"But, you know," the affable McDaniel added, "it's, I think you acknowledge it, and that's something that the players should be proud of."

McDaniel is focused on finding a way to defeat the 49ers — his previous team, but don't ask him too much about that — on Sunday.

But one Sunday later, the California-livin' Fins will play at the Los Angeles Chargers.

And some highly paid NBC executives, who are in no mood to do anybody a favor, decided the money choice was to move Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and their teams into a prime-time slot.

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"Getting better throughout the year, that's where championship teams are made, and built," Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle said Wednesday.

These Dolphins are not afraid to speak about championships. And Waddle, just like Tua, knows what it takes to be a champion. In college, anyway.

This is a very talented team but also still quite a young one.

Television execs know who's best

In the same way we know how good teams really are by studying the Las Vegas odds, those television executives know, too.

The Dolphins have been crappy on the national stage for too long.

Dating back to 2015, Miami is 3-8 on the national prime-time stage, outscored by an embarrassing average of 34-15 in the defeats.

The Dolphins have appeared on "Sunday Night Football" only twice since 2010. And so yes, Vegas thinks the climate is very different in South Florida these days.

And television executives, too.

Miami is not only fun — see Waddle, Tyreek Hill, see adults dressed in cheetah and penguin costumes in the stands — but good. Really good.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa smiles in the Hard Rock Stadium tunnel prior to the start of last Sunday's game with the Texans.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa smiles in the Hard Rock Stadium tunnel prior to the start of last Sunday's game with the Texans.

Miami is 8-3 and has won five straight. But the success window goes beyond that.

What if I told you that over the last 20 games played, no NFL team has more victories than the Dolphins?

Miami, Kansas City and Philadelphia are all 16-4.

Elite air. Championship class.

Mostert: We can't stray as stakes increase

"We have to stick to what we know best," said Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert, who once led the 49ers to a Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium. "You know, I think that's the biggest thing, especially when you're dealing with a championship-caliber team. You can't let anybody get out of our game. Our game is our game."

Are the Dolphins built for this moment?

We're about to find out. Those 49ers tore things down to the ground in a 2-14 season in 2016. One year later, Kyle Shanahan and McDaniel joined San Francisco's staff. And in Year 3, they reached the Super Bowl.

This is Year 3 after the Dolphins' intentional and strategic teardown. Would a Super Bowl appearance be ahead of schedule? What if it wasn't?

Yes, odds are still in favor of Kansas City and Buffalo in the AFC. But who's to say Miami couldn't shock the world? The Dolphins are the third choice now.

And we're all going to see whether Miami is in fact championship-caliber in a three-game road stretch at San Francisco, Los Angeles and Buffalo.

McDaniel's approach is to take this on without fear.

"At some point in time, you're going to have to play teams that are really good," McDaniel said. "You're not gonna be given anything. And it's going to be in front of a live audience. And the stakes are going to be all in. So you continue. You can't get enough of these opportunities, which we're very fortunate to have."

Almost every string McDaniel has pulled in his first season has worked.

Positive energy. Boosting the confidence of his players, especially Tua. A scheme inspired by San Francisco and tweaked to play to Miami's strengths.

McDaniel wants his players to stare this opportunity right between the eyes. To ignore the reality of the situation would be "delusional," he says.

Are the Dolphins ready for this stage? Are the Dolphins as good as NBC executives believe they are? Are they worthy?

We're all about to find out.

Joe Schad is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at jschad@pbpost.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: NBC flexes Miami Dolphins vs. Los Angeles Chargers for Tua, Herbert