There are some in the local media who want you to believe that the thousands of fans sitting in the bleachers at the Dolphins home games are partly to blame for the teams 1-6 home record. There are some who want you to believe that when a player says they feel more comfortable playing on the road than at home that in some way that means that Miami fans are volatile to some degree. That there may be too much pomp and circumstance rather than good old fashioned “rah rah sis boom bah”.
Well they are wrong.
Every single one of them.
Why? Simple, have you been to a live game this season? Or any season in the last 15 years? I have. And while it wasn’t a raucous affair of noise shattering indulgence like you might see in other stadiums, it was loud and fans cheered. And when necessary, and yes, sometimes it’s necessary, they booed.
So, let’s take a look at why, the fans are not responsible for this mess. Shall we?CEO Mike Dee has pointed out that the Miami Dolphins’ stadium has the largest margin of space between the first row of sideline seating and the field. This alone is a result of sharing the stadium with the Florid Marlins. Dee also stated that the stadium will add more seating to the field level after the Marlins leave the stadium for good. This will allow the Dolphins fans to send more noise to the field rather than losing it as it flows to the turf.
The stadium design has never allowed for a true home field advantage. The open air style directs nothing back to the field and with the above mentioned margin of space between the field and stands it’s worse. Dee also eluded to changes in the foreseeable future with a design that would send more noise to the field. You can watch that clip here.
The play on the field is conservative. It has been for sometime. Jimmy Johnson was a grinder but at least he was exciting. It pains me to say that. Dave Wannstedt once said, “you run the ball to control the clock, but you pass the ball to score points” or something very close to that. Dave Wannstedt chose to run the ball. As a result, he began the major turnaround from a high-scoring offense to a low scoring methodical grind it out conservative offense.
That trend continued when Nick Saban took over. Never staying long enough to fully imprint his style on the team. Cam Cameron was left trying to overhaul a team that needed overhauling on both sides of the ball and despite the 1-15 season, it was clear that the offense was so dreadfully bad that being conservative was the only approach. That of course leads us to where we are today. A Bill Parcellian offense that is as antiquated as it is outdated. Run by an OC who is a throwback to an era when conservative ball control was the hot new style on the field.
The players have become conservative in their approach on the field. Often at times doing nothing more than not making a mistake rather than making a play. Ronnie Brown who shook off the cobwebs and became electric who would finally “hit the hole” instead of dancing around it has reverted back to the dancing. Chad Henne lost his energy that he displayed at Michigan and has taken a coaches role as the caretaker QB who is told “don’t think, just do” and do it without making a mistake.
This has been going on in Miami for over 15 years and slowly the energy in the stands has become the same as what is presented on the field. Conservative. The fans root for this team, but they do so at times that go along with what is being called on the field. They are not cheering the simple 1 yard gain or the WC that nets -1. They cheer when Brandon Marshall touches the ball or when Dan Carpenter kicks a field goal. They cheer when the opposing offense is put in a position to get rattled. And they are, and can be loud.
It all slips away. In the fourth quarter of the Cleveland Browns home loss, the one I attended this year, the team was in position to win, the energy high despite the play on the field. When the Dolphins took the ball on the final drive, everyone thought they would pull it out. It was there on the wall. But conservative play calling in the waning moments left the fans believing that the team was playing for over time rather than a win. It sucked the life, the energy, and the will out of the stadium. So much so that when Chad Henne’s final pass was batted across the field to a LB their was no energy left to suck out of the stadium. No groan heard round the world. Fans simply got up and headed to the exits as the Browns kicked the winning field goal and I said good-bye to the stadium for another year.
This is Miami fan football. Reserved like the play on the field. It is very hard to cheer for the 2 yard gain. It’s very hard to lose your voice for an offense that is so soft and uncharismatic that sometimes the action in the stands is more entertaining than that on the field.
Right or wrong, it’s hard to blame the fans who fill the stadium week in and week out. They cheer when they are supposed to and they are quiet the rest of the time. But at least they are there. If you want to blame the fans, blame the ones that don’t go in the first place. Because the rest of us do cheer on the team regardless of what it sounds like from the press box.
As for the booing, understand this, fans have a right to boo. It’s their voice. It’s how they express their displeasure. I don’t endorse or agree with booing your teams players. They are out there fighting and bad game or no bad game, they will give what they have on that field. I will not boo when a player drops a pass and I will not boo Vernon Carey when he gives up a sack. But I understand why some will boo the coaches and the outcome of a game, or a play call (yes fans booed everytime the Dolphins lined up in the WC formation).
It’s not hip, it’s not disrespectful, it’s the only way they have to express their displeasure with the nature of the game. Would you rather they simply not go? There are a lot of fans who do just that.
The Dolphins are the only ones who can change the atmosphere of the stadium. That starts with changing the way you play the game. If conservative game plans are the order of business then it damn well better work and you better win with it, because the fans have been mired in this for far too long and there really isn’t anything to go out and cheer for right now. Not when your coaches are satisfied with playing for ties, rather than wins.
Some say the Miami Dolphins need to change their attitude, mentality, and approach to the game. That will likely change the attitude, mentality, and approach from the fans. It’s not the sideshows of Stephen Ross that are distracting because that isn’t remotely evident on the field during the game, it’s the sideshow of a conservative offense that doesn’t score that is distracting and doesn’t fill the stadium to capacity. Keep that in mind the next time you want to blame the fans for the product on the field.