The Miami Dolphins will get a reprieve this weekend when the NFL hits the annual reset button on the league. Setting all of the teams back to zero wins. Zero losses. For some teams, the regular season is a fast paced out of the gate sprint to the finish line. Others take a methodical approach that builds as the season moves on. For teams like the Miami Dolphins, it’s a weekly assertion to simply find an identity.
Which brings us to the problem with this years Dolphins team. It’s not a physical issue, it’s a mental one. This team simply is not a team yet.
Off the game-day field, players have been trying to impress the new coaching staff. They have been practicing to save their jobs, win some jobs, and learn their jobs. So far that individual effort has translated to the game-day field with individual efforts. Looking no further for proof, last weeks HBO Hard Knocks episode showed on film exactly what is lacking with these Dolphins players. Teamwork.
There is no sense of urgency. A definite lack of camaraderie. There is no, “I got your back” leadership. Joe Philbin and his coaches pointed out on screen the fact that after a running back goes down, no one bothers to help him back up. They literally walk right by him and let him get up on his own. A fight breaks out at camp and no one steps in to protect their side of the fracas. No one steps in to break it up. TE’s are not making blocks, pursuing blocks, and WR’s are nowhere close to understanding what each other’s role is on given play.
This is the task at hand for Joe Philbin. Not Jeff Ireland, not Mike Sherman, and not Kevin Coyle. Joe Philbin. So far, Philbin seems to be more concerned about changing the attitude of the team and that is the first step in building a “team” concept. The lack of team concept is clearly an indication about how bad things spiraled out of control last year despite the fact the team won 6 of the remaining 9 games when the games no longer counted.
The 0-4 pre-season record isn’t a big deal. It means nothing. The performance of the team, the effort of the team, and the fact that they don’t play like a team, is a concern. A big concern as the regular season kicks off a week from last night. These Miami Dolphins are faced and tasked with an uphill battle that starts with their rookie head coach. They have to believe in Philbin first and foremost or Philbin will lose the locker room and at that point it’s useless to try.
Philbin however has one thing on his side. A proven formula for success and a living model of that proof in his former team the Green Bay Packers. He only needs to get the players to believe that they can and will be that good. The first step is getting the team to believe in each other. When that happens they will believe in themselves.
It sounds like I am pointing my finger at the HC and saying this is his fault, that isn’t the case. As I said in a recent article, your veterans must be leaders. If your veterans play 100% half of the time, they are sending the message to the other guys that it is acceptable to play like that 100% of the time. There is a losing mentality in Miami that has plagued this team for over a decade. The Dolphins team doesn’t know they can win. They don’t believe they can win. Why? Because they don’t win.
There are only a handful of players on this team that have come from successful winning organizations yet they are not the ones standing up and leading this team. Outside of Reggie Bush who appears to be trying. The issue is they lack a concept that great teams live by. Team is a four letter word that requires 100 percent participation and belief. This team lacks that concept.
For all of the shortcomings for a teams like Green Bay, New Orleans, and New England, they succeed because they do not want to let each other down instead of failing because they don’t want to let themselves down or lose their job. No one on this team, evidenced by the lack of effort and production this pre-season has found a way to buy into that edict.
For all his attempts in four years, Tony Sparano could never get the team to rally together. The lack of continuity simply made things more difficult for the players to find a way to gel side by side. Cam Cameron tried to do what Philbin is doing now, instilling that fight together family bond but his inability to win the players respect spelled his doom. Philbin isn’t losing the teams respect, he is acting like a seasoned head coach but most of this teams players haven’t been around this formula and some may not be buying into it, grasping it, or understanding it.
That is the uphill battle that is going to plague Joe Philbin and the 2012 Miami Dolphins. Not roster turnover, dropped passes, or missed tackles. Knowing what the guy next to you is going to do and when he is going to do it, allows players to elevate their knowledge of their positions. That is when those proverbial bonds are formed and that is when a group of players become a team. Become a family. And ultimately have each others back.