- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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We write about it all the time in the AFC East blog. This remains the "Brady and Belichick" division until another team proves otherwise.
For the second straight year, the New England Patriots were the only AFC East team to finish with a winning record and make the playoffs. Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland elaborated on the gap between the Patriots and the rest of the division at Thursday's NFL combine.
"There is a gap, certainly they have won the division quite a bit, so we have to close that gap," Ireland said. "To say that, I think it’s a five-game gap right now in wins and losses, so that’s where the gap is. So we have to close that gap and we plan to do our best job, put our best foot forward getting that done this off-season.
"Now whether we can completely close the gap, we have to get back on the field and close the gap on the field, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to talk about it right now."
It starts with the coaching and quarterback play. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are both elite. They are a pair few teams can match, especially in the AFC East.
But Miami is the biggest threat to New England's current dominance. The Dolphins were 7-9 last season, appear to have a rising quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and plenty of offseason resources to improve the team. Miami owns nine draft picks and more than $40 million of cap room to chase top free agents.
All these factors are why Ireland is confident that Miami can close the gap with the Patriots in 2013. The resources are certainly there to succeed. But it won't mean much unless Ireland and the Dolphins can wisely use those resources.