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MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami/AP) — The Miami Dolphins had been one of the winningest franchises in the NFL since the team’s inception.
Since the beginning of the new millennium, however, things have not come nearly as easily for the Dolphins.
Miami interim coach Dan Campbell leaned against a lectern and squeezed hard on both sides, as if trying to reduce the wood to rubble while he discussed another mess of a season.
It’s over with three games to go. The Dolphins (5-8) were eliminated from the playoff race by their latest loss, ensuring a franchise-record seventh consecutive season without a postseason berth, or even a winning record.
“I’ve been here six years,” Campbell said Tuesday, “and nothing has gone the way we wanted it to be. Every year we come in with new hope, but we’re going to have another season where we (extend) the playoff drought. I make sure it stings and hurts, because the minute you go numb to that, you’re just a loser. I want it to hurt. It motivates me. It’s not too much for me to handle.
“That’s how you get motivated to win — you get tired of losing.”
The Dolphins still harbored faint playoff hopes before blowing a second-half lead and losing 31-24 Monday night to the New York Giants. Now they prepare for a matchup of also-rans Sunday at San Diego (3-10).
“I hate to be in this situation again,” center Mike Pouncey said. “But it seems like it’s the same thing every year. We’ll see what kind of character we’ve got on this team. We’ll see what guys really like football, and find the ones that don’t, and we’ll get them out of here.”
Like Pouncey, management has likely started thinking about offseason decisions. The biggest could involve yet another coaching search, with Campbell’s chances of returning dimmed by the team’s recent struggles.
Campbell joined the Dolphins as an assistant coach in 2010 and was promoted in October to replace coach Joe Philbin. He declined to speculate about his chances of keeping the job.
“I just want to win,” Campbell said. “All I care about is San Diego. That’s it.”
The Dolphins are 4-5 since Campbell took over, and their performance Monday — 12 penalties, half a dozen dropped passes, blown coverage on the Giants’ go-ahead touchdown — didn’t reflect well on the coaching staff.
Campbell was especially unhappy about four personal foul penalties.
“Those are the most disappointing,” he said. “Those things will be addressed one on one with those individuals. They’re totally inexcusable. There’s nothing that’s OK about that.”
Another costly mistake was Ryan Tannehill’s overthrow when Jarvis Landry was open behind the Giants’ secondary with Miami trailing and five minutes left. That turned out to be the Dolphins’ last offensive play.
“Jarvis did a good job of separating, taking it deep, and I overthrew him,” Tannehill said. “I had time to make a good throw. I saw him break. I tried to get the ball to him quickly, and didn’t make the throw.”
Run-pass balance was an issue, as it has been all season. Lamar Miller rushed for 89 yards but carried only 12 times, and Campbell said he was nursing a sore ankle in the second half.
Campbell said health wasn’t an issue for former Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes, who has played poorly of late. His primary responsibility Monday was Odell Beckham Jr., who caught seven passes for 166 yards and two scores.
The loss stung even more because it came in prime time before a sellout crowd that included the Dolphins’ 50 greatest players, who were introduced at halftime to celebration the franchise’s 50th season.
“We didn’t get it done on the biggest stage of our season,” Landry said.
The stage will be much smaller at San Diego. The season then concludes with home games sure to be sparsely attended against Indianapolis (6-7) and New England (11-2), which clinched another AFC East title with Miami’s latest defeat.
“We’ve got three to go, and it’s strictly playing for the love of the game, because now you’re out,” Campbell said. “We created our own mess. We’re responsible for it. But now we’ll find out who really loves it and who wants to finish this thing out, and who wants to play for the logo on their helmet and the name on the back of their jersey.”
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(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)