The Miami Dolphins want you to remember history not celebrity. It’s why on opening day Sunday the Dolphins will be giving away hats celebrating the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ perfect season. This is the 40th anniversary of that one of a kind season. Instead of an orange carpet for celebrities to walk down, the team has done away with that completely, they will have members of that 72 team at the gates passing out the hats.
It’s safe to say that the Dolphins are finally trying to bridge the gap between it’s present with it’s historical past.
With that comes high expectations. This weekend is no different. With the Oakland Raiders coming to town, fans are looking for positive changes from last weeks loss to Houston. While “tipped” passes has been the anchor for the local media, fans are growing tired of the doom and gloom garbage that is swelling up and out after one opening game loss by a team that has been gutted once again.
The Raiders may supply that hope. Banged up after a Monday night loss to the Chargers, the Raiders themselves are going to try and rebound but they may do so with injured lineman, wide-receivers, and cornerbacks. It’s a Greek gift horse and the Dolphins shouldn’t simply overlook it. Nestled inside is a team that does’t want to go down to a Dolphins team that every turn is being ridiculed and laughed at in the media.
The Dolphins proved last week that they can play. Two batted balls fall to the ground and it’s a different game. Legedu Naane fights for the inside slant and it’s a different ballgame. Defensively and offensively the Houston Texans are head and shoulders better than the Raiders and the Dolphins held their own for all but 6 minutes. If they can erase those six minutes and play with the same tenacity they did in Houston, the Dolphins may be .500 by Sunday night.
It will take a team effort no doubt. Ryan Tannehill has to be brilliant and more calculated. The team needs to throw deeper more to keep the safeties off the line. The line needs to hold their blocks longer forcing the defenders to keep their hands down and out of the passing lane. And the Dolphins need turnovers. Over the last two seasons the Dolphins have failed at gaining momentum by way of defensive take-away’s. That bleeding needs to stop. Keeping the offense on the field will build continuity and timing. It will provide Tannehill leadership opportunity and maybe, just maybe, they start finding a way into the end-zone.
In the NFL you need four sides to your game. Offense, Defense, special teams, and the quarterback. Without any part of that you set yourself up to fail. Last week, the Dolphins had the defense and special teams but failed at the other two. Miami will not face an easy task by any measure and there is no home field stigma that will put the Dolphins out in front early simply by stepping out onto a field they call home.
These Dolphins are not simply trying to win games. They are trying to win back their fans as well. Trying to give the fans a reason to put their rear-ends back in the seats instead of in the sand at the beach. Names, systems, draft picks, and owners don’t do that. Winning does. The Dolphins have been consistently losing for so long that the expectations to win have waned to the point of anger and even hatred. This week will either soften some of that anguish or add gasoline to an already burning fire.
The Dolphins themselves need to look beyond that expectation and reach deep within to accomplish their own. They need to realize that they need to do their jobs, every play, every down, every series, for every quarter to win. They need to come together as a team. Develop a bond that will reach beyond the playing field and into the locker room. A relationship that puts every player completely at ease to do their jobs knowing exactly that the guy next to them is doing theirs. It’s one of those things that rarely occurs overnight and sometimes not at all.
If and when the Dolphins find that, they will be a team. For now, they need to learn how to win. They need to learn how to make the little changes in their games that put them in better position for success. Catching a ball, blocking a defender, or wrapping their arms around a player instead of lowering their shoulder going for a hit. Fundamental hiccups can cost a team a lot.
Perhaps Sunday will bring the Dolphins those changes they desperately need. Maybe they reach the expectations of the fans. And maybe they give a glimpse into the future of what this team can become.