When Jimmy Johnson took over the Miami Dolphins after the impromptu retirement of Don Shula, more than just the logo changed. The entire philosophy of the organization changed as well. See, Jimmy didn’t want a Dolphins past. In fact, he didn’t want to recognize anything that happened for that team prior to his arrival.
His disdain for the past accomplishments of the team carried over to the players as well that were held over. Keith Sims the long time All-pro guard felt the pressure of that change. “Jimmy seemed to be picking off the Shula Dolphins one by one”, he said on Saturday night at a Dolphins event when I asked him about this issue.
Sims went on to say that Cam Cameron started bringing the alumni back into the fold of the team and that Tony Sparano, Bill Parcells, and Jeff Ireland have continued the “Past meet the future, future meet the past” restoration. It shows on the faces of the alumni, the players on the team, and is a reflection of the entire organization.
Sims is quick to point to owner Wayne Huizenga who has been approved by the league to sell off 45% of his 50% stake in the team and stadium. Sims credits Wayne with what he says is the “best Alumni program in the NFL”, so much so that he points out that alumni of other teams often remark about it at meetings.
After Jimmy Johnson left the Dolphins, Dave Wannstedt never truly embraced the past either, instead he stepped on the last vestige of the Dolphins iconic past when he dismissed Dan Marino…something Marino of course has never forgotten. From DW to Nick Saban, the team just seemed to drift away from the past that made the Dolphins name famous. If for no other reason than simply a lack of trying to reconnect.
It appears now that this years team is changing more than the record and the amount of fans in the stands. Tony Sparano has invited ex-Dolphins on the field for practices…a mistake he shrugs off after the assistant coach fiasco prior to the Jets game. Now, the Alumni are more involved once again. The team is leaning back on their past to reshape their future and so far it’s working.
Ask Jimmy Cefalo about this team and he almost beams. “It’s been a long time and it sure is fun to watch” he said. John Offerdahl smiles and laughs when the team is mentioned and said that the losing was a reflection on the teams past players as much as it was on the players that were the make-up of the team.
Keith Sims is now the President of the Alumni Association, to him Tony Sparano is as impressive as Shula. He likens the new HC to his long time HC. Sitting in the back of the Phins auditorium, Sims listened to Sparano talk and answer questions. He came away so impressed with what he heard that he spoke glaringly positive of the HC to the webmasters present. So impressed that following Sunday’s game, he quoted Sparano from Saturday night.
Sims isn’t the only one. Don Shula is smiling again and he is loving what he sees as well. He has come away very impressed with Chad Pennington and the way the Dolphins are playing football again…funny…they are playing the same type of hard hitting football and open offense that Shula ran for more than two decades. It’s no wonder that the excitement is back, it’s almost as if Shula himself has been brought back as a younger version of himself in Tony Sparano.
Yes, I realize that Sparano is not Shula and one season does not dictate a HC, but when you pay attention to the way this team struts, they respect this man immediately commands, you only have to look into our own teams’ past to see the likeness. Just ask the Alumni…they are finally meeting the future.