Instead, the NFL championship game might not return to Miami for a long time. Last week the Dolphins were denied public money for a stadium upgrade by the state Legislature, which removes South Florida from serious contention for the 50th Super Bowl and perhaps subsequent NFL and college title games as well.
The defeat in Tallahassee also raises questions about the future of the Dolphins under multibillionaire owner Stephen Ross. He contends $350 million in stadium improvements are badly needed, but he's unwilling to foot the entire bill himself, and ruled out a less expensive, scaled-down renovation.
The Dolphins say they're already heavily in debt and one of the NFL's most leveraged teams, making upgrades impossible without taxpayer help.
"I don't think there is a clear alternative at this point," chief executive officer Mike Dee said. "I don't think there is a road to a Plan B without legislative action in Tallahassee."
Ross, 72, hasn't indicated any desire to bring aboard a co-owner to help finance a stadium project. He hasn't threatened to move the Dolphins, and it's unlikely the league would abandon South Florida, with several NFL franchises in smaller markets more logical candidates for relocation to Los Angeles or elsewhere.
The Dolphins could try again next year for legislative approval, but they may have burned that bridge with their criticism of House Speaker Will Weatherford, who killed the plan by not putting it up for a vote.
"He'll still be the speaker of the House next year," Dee said, "and I don't see him changing his opinion."
The stadium owned by Ross opened in 1987, and the Dolphins have argued upgrades are essential to keep Miami competitive in Super Bowl bidding. The city has hosted the game 10 times, and Miami and San Francisco are finalists for the 50th Super Bowl in 2016.