End Of The Innocence

There are no more excuses. Miami Dolphins fans will tell you that whatever happens next is gravy. The Dolphins have secured at least a .500 season. Pundits predicted everything from 4-12 to 7-9 a few crystal ball viewers played the “homer” card and went with 9-7…they are looking more and more right each passing week. Still, if you say now that it’s o.k. for this team to lose because they have exceeded expectations, well you would be wrong. Losing now doesn’t grant a stand up applaud at the end of the season. This is the end of the Dolphins innocence, to steal a line from the great Don Henley.

These Dolphins have told their fans that losing is not acceptable. There have been so many opportunities for them to cash in their checks and look ahead to next year. Consecutive losses to open the season and one horrendous embarrassment in week 2. With NE on the schedule in Foxboro…the Phins could have packed it in. Instead they didn’t quit.

Two weeks and two wins later the Phins were at .500 and their fans began to murmur about long winning streaks and taking over the division.  Of course those two wins were replaced two more losses and the fans roller coaster ride of emotions were on the downswing again.

Somewhere along the way however, someone forgot to tell these Dolphins that they were supposed to lose.  Someone forgot to tell these Dolphins that they were in full blown rebuild mode and that winning was only supposed to be hit or miss 4 or 5 or 6 at best.  The 9-7 and 8-8 crowds began to hush and the Dolphins themselves just went out and played football.  Winning football.

They found ways to win games they played poorly in, they found ways to compete in games they lost and took away the fact that they didn’t lose because they were the worst team on the field, they lost because they made stupid mistakes and beat themselves.

Now, 4 weeks shy of week 17 the Dolphins control their own destiny.  They face two winnable games in the next two weeks.  No more excuses can be laid on the front of the Davie training center complex.  This is no longer a rebuilding team, it’s a football team.  This is no longer a young team of rookies making an impact or veterans teaching the youngsters what the NFL is like.  This is no longer a head coach who is in his first NFL season.  This is truly the end of the innocent excuses.  This team is no longer allowed those amenities for their season.

The Dolphins will face off against the AFC East killing San Francisco 49’ers this weekend.  The 9’ers have already beaten the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park.  They are hungry and they too like the Dolphins are believing in themselves.

The Playoffs start in 4 weeks and the Phins have a legitimate shot at making those games.  While the wildcard is not impossible, the division is their best shot by far and these Dolphins must realize that it won’t be handed to them.  Last season, the Phins lost 6 games by 3 points.  With one win, and bounces going the other way, they easily could have been 7-9 as opposed to 1-15.  This team has a different attitude.  A different approach.  This team realizes that winning is not about stepping out onto the field and assuming that the breaks will come.  They have to make their own luck.

In 2003 the Dolphins finished their season 10-6 and missed the playoffs, it began the downward spiral that saw this franchise win more than 8 games only once since.  The Phins may yet again finish their season 10-6 and whether in or out of the playoffs it will be a fitting end to the darkest ages in franchise history.

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