The Miami Dolphins have a little get up in their step these days after ending first a ten game losing streak and then ending a seven game home losing streak. Suddenly after an 0-7 start the Dolphins are walking with a little bit of swagger. A little more pep in their step. In some ways, the team should be applauded and given a pat on the back, they could just as easily phoned in the season and melted down behind closed doors. Pointed fingers and made accusations. Instead, they came together and won two games in a row.
Some will point to guys like Karlos Dansby who is starting to become a leader here after two seasons of coming up short. I will get to more on him after the jump. Truth be told, and you may not like it but this recent turn of events belongs to the head coach, the likely to be fired at years end, Tony Sparano. His role in the Dolphins turnaround can not be overlooked. As much as he has been the target of the losses, he should also be recognized as a pivotal part of the teams new attitude.
I know, I know, I’m crazy right? Wrong.
I have maintained all along that this team as most teams are, is a reflection of their head coach. The lack of urgency in games, the poor play making, poor execution, the “it’s o.k. to settle for 3″ attitude is all directly attributed to the nuances of Sparano. Where Sparano fails in his game management, he excels in his preparedness and his treatment of his players. While a recent SI poll indicated that 21 of 111 NFL players said they would not want to play for Sparano (he came in second in that poll) Sparano still has the respect of his locker room. The players never quit on Sparano because Sparano never quit on them.
Not one time this season did Sparano toss someone else under the bus. Even the widely panned play of Marc Columbo, evidenced weekly as one of the worst offensive lineman in Dolphins history is regarded publicly by Sparano in a positive light. Why? Because Sparano has the backs of his players. He believes they are better than their record and in some ways he shoulders that record alone. It’s something that the players emulate.
In the locker room there has only been a handful of issues and most of those went nowhere. In fact, nothing went anywhere. The team got down to business and while their play on the field simply cracked until the last two weeks, they hung together. A them against the world attitude. Derived from their head coach. Even with a two game win streak in hand, these Miami Dolphins can’t win. With every victory comes shouts from fans to stop. The long lasting desire to land a franchise QB in next April’s draft. The more the Dolphins win, the further they drop from the top of that QB class.
But Sparano doesn’t care about the future, he is coaching for now. He is coaching for his self pride, his own drive, and desire. More importantly, he is coaching to win for his players who at every turn has been ridiculed at laughed at by the media…and the fans. Sparano is not a great game coach and despite that poll, he is actually well respected by his players. Upon leaving Dallas four years ago, TE Jason Whitten said the Cowboys lost a great coach and a great guy. He said the team, the Cowboys, loved playing for him. Promotions can do strange things to you in life.
The Dolphins are finding a stride now. They have a reeling Buffalo Bills team coming into town this weekend. The Bills were trounced last Sunday by the Cowboys 44-7. The Miami Dolphins will then make a quick turnaround for a Thursday Thanksgiving game in Dallas a short 4 days later. 3 games in 11 days. A sweep of the next two will put the Dolphins on a major turnaround. Al little too late. Finishing strong is not always a bad thing. It populates belief and it teaches winning. Something this team is in short supply of.
Yes, the ultimate sacrifice may very well be the loss of a top three QB which is what the fans want more than anything right now but losing doesn’t guarantee a winning QB. Just as an Andrew Luck may be the next Peyton Manning, he could also be the next Ryan Leaf without the attitude. Sure Matt Barkley could be the next Mark Sanchez but could also be the next Drew Brees. The point is you don’t know. You can research it, scout it, plan for it, and do all your homework and still get burned.
While the team is moving forward and fighting harder now than the seven weeks prior, it’s the play of LB Karlos Dansby that stands out the most. Dansby, for the first time since his arrival is playing motivated. He is becoming a vocal leader on the field and is no longer simply waiting for others to make plays but instead is stepping up and making them himself. He is leading by example and the team is buying it.
Whether they too are tired of losing or suddenly realizing what they need to do to win is a fair question that simply won’t be answered. But in the locker room where most teams would have fallen apart, Sparano has kept them together and it’s paying off.