We’ve reached a point in our calendar year that can be particularly challenging for fiending football fans across the country. That dead time at the conclusion of minicamp is brutal, like a dry football desert. We’re taunted by the start of training camp being right around the corner; and the Hall of Fame Game approximately a month away (Aug. 4th) gives us a sense of just how close we are. We can almost taste it, like a cold drink of water. Yet like a mirage, these long drawn-out weeks we’re currently drudging through – which are conspicuously filled with inactivity – remind us just how far we still have to go.
It’s at this barren juncture when we have time (and plenty of it) to look around the league at certain teams and assess the state of the franchise: Where have they been? Where are they at? Where are they going? Today we’ll dive into the Miami Dolphins.
The Miami Dolphins is an organization with a storied history and a proud fan base. However, with every passing year, the “glory days” seem more and more like ancient history. Surprisingly, this year marks half a century ago when the 1972 Dolphins accomplished the first, and only, perfect season in NFL history. That season would be their first of back-to-back Super Bowl wins. Then in the 80’s and 90’s, Dan Marino (with the help of the “Marks Brothers”) would completely rewrite the NFL history books on his way to capturing every passing record of importance. Needless to say, there was a lot of winning during these decades. So much winning in fact, that the man who coached the team during all this time, Don Shula, is the all-time winningest coach in NFL history, with 347 victories (including playoffs) under his belt.
In their more recent history, the Dolphins have been defined by mediocrity. Over the last 20 years they’ve averaged just over 7 wins per season, with a few outlier seasons (a couple pretty good, as well as a couple really bad) just to keep the fans on their toes. But how does that old saying go? “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” Yet even amidst the constant mediocrity, the broken clock that is the Miami Dolphins, has not been right once; that is, they haven’t won a single playoff game in the last 21 seasons – an obscene amount of time for any professional team in any professional league.
With all that said, there seems to be a sense of hopeful optimism coming from the fans in Miami right now. Why is that? How can that be? When the team fired head coach Brian Flores early in the offseason (a move that shocked the league) after back-to-back winning seasons, things seemed to be headed for a tail-spin. Yet after hiring a fresh-faced youngin’ with no head coaching experience in Mike McDaniel, there seems to be an equally fresh new energy in and around the organization.
The team has brought back their defense in its entirety, completely retooled their offense (including adding game-changers like Tyreek Hill), and seems to finally be breathing life and confidence into their quarterback (as opposed to sucking it out of him the past two seasons). Miami has added Dolphins legends and fan-favorites like Sam Madison, Pat Surtain, and Wes Welker to its coaching staff. And for the first time in recent memory, there seems to be direction… a game plan of sorts. Let the defense continue to dominate, while the offense sets the tone with a run-first attack, allowing Tua’s accuracy and speedy weapons to pick defenses apart in the open field.
Maybe it’s the charm and positivity that naturally oozes from coach McDaniel every time he interacts with the media. Maybe it’s the palpable feeling of rejuvenation and sense of fun and confidence that is emitted from any number of players when describing this new regime and its impact on the locker room. Maybe it’s knowing that the winning foundation that has been laid in Miami the last few years is being built upon with the necessary missing ingredients. Maybe it’s that finally (for now at least), for the first time in years, the constant swirling cloud of unnecessary distractions and hindrances that seems to loom over this franchise has dissipated – “Are they trading for Deshaun Watson or not? Are Tom Brady and Sean Payton coming to save them or not? Do they believe in Tua or not? Is the owner paying the coach to lose or not?” Finally, the Dolphins seem to be breathing clean air, and focusing on the important things.
Now what does all this mean when it comes to wins and losses and results this upcoming season? Coach McDaniel has been the first to acknowledge that all this good energy, this upward trajectory, this influx of offensive brainpower and talent, this confidence… it all means nothing, especially if the team doesn’t get the job done this season. And forgive the “fin fan” if he’s tempered his excitement, or for being speculative of his own great expectations set upon this team. But for some inexplicable reason, to those following the team closely, this just feels different. The time is now for this broken clock.