But for the economics of three then fragile clubs, the Dolphins would have been the crown jewel of the AFC South. The Colts would have remained in the AFC EAST. Manning and Brady might have fought for division titles, while the Dolphins feasted on a hapless and backward division, coasting to 12-4 records and first round byes.
The Patriots, Bills, and Jets wanted to keep Miami, as the Dolphins were argued to be the principal rival of each of the three clubs, and therefore crucial to their revenue models. For reasons we may never know, the Dolphins accepted membership in a nasty, frozen division that was about to get tough, and the Colts got a free pass to the playoffs. And that was that.
A franchise that struggles in cold weather games inherited three games a season in New Jersey, Canada, and Foxboro, while the Colts migrate south to Houston, Jacksonville, and Tennessee three times a year. The NFL is a business, and the Dolphins paved the way for realignment and expansion by taking one for the team- er, league. But the franchise has suffered for it, make no mistake.
As we wrap up this season playing three games with our bitter foes, it is worth knowing where this all came from: dollar bills.
That said, the division is what it is. You have to win your neighborhood if you want to win the league. There is no better time to start than right now. But tell me you wouldn't rather be playing Bortles than Brady.