The Miami Dolphins are 3-3 and it is the first time since 2010 the team has been above .500 after the first month of the season. In that time frame the team has changed coaches and fans have flown “Fire Jeff Ireland” banners above the stadium. Slowly, the team is winning back it’s fan base. More importantly they are changing the minds of those same fans who jumped ship or at least stood on the plank awaiting their turn.
Winning will do that.
It’s far too early begin claiming this team has turned a corner for good. Far too early to say that this team can challenge for a division, the playoffs, a Super Bowl. Too early to say that this team can beat the New England Patriots. Here is the thing though. This team. They are not getting blown out. They are not losing ugly. They are winning by fighting the entire game and they are losing by the same.
No one expected this team to be any good this year and many believed that this team simply couldn’t rely on a pair of rookies at two of the most important positions on the field. Quarterback and head coach. The Dolphins however are relying on both and getting results. Ryan Tannehill is “Tan the Man” in Miami these days and Philbin has not been criticized for poor coaching decisions instead he has been applauded for having his team prepped and ready.
Rewinding the calendar puts this years moves or more importantly this years lack of moves into a unique perspective. While the free agent class has been a failure, producing no starting players now that Richard Marshall is injured, the free agents they didn’t sign would have not only cost more but may have had even less impact on this team. Matt Flynn anyone?
The Dolphins took a different approach to this off-season. Jeff Ireland spent little and while he got what he paid for the fact is the teams youth has responded well to Joe Philbins’ no nonsense approach to coaching. Perhaps the biggest key seems to be the fact that the coaches are actually teaching the players instead of requiring them to learn it on the fly. Simple techniques are being taught over and over again instead of assuming the players would “get it”. That’s not to say the previous coaches didn’t teach but it is very evident that the same players who were on this roster last year are far more productive this year in a new system. Something that rarely occurs.
The faith of the Miami faithful has waned after years and years of non-productive seasons. Unlike other divisions, the ire towards that failure has unfortunately been buoyed by the continual year to year success of the Patriots the competitive in your face nature of the Jets. Now, suddenly the Dolphins are relevant again. Tied for first in a 4 way battle for the division, the Dolphins suddenly control their own fate with both New England games and both Buffalo games in their future and a Jets re-match upon their return from the bye week.
The most impressive part of the Dolphins season thus far has been the fact they rarely repeat the same mistakes twice. After losing to the Jets in overtime, then losing to the Cardinals a week later, the Dolphins have found a way to complete the game the next two weeks. They need to now focus on keeping the opposition from making the game close in the fourth quarter at all. With high-powered New England on the schedule twice and San Francisco on the schedule as well, the Dolphins need to find a way to control the clock and put points on the board. Consistently.
For all the things they need to do, the fact is they are still learning and growing within the system and continual progression will further improve their support from the fan base and eventually bring fans back into the stadium that still is empty. The Dolphins have a few weeks before they will appear in front of their home crowd. With two road trips coming off the bye week, one to NY and the other to Indianapolis, the team could find themselves two games above .500 as they saunter back to their home turf on November 11th.
Whether or not the hometown fans have fully bought into what the Dolphins are selling will be dependent on a number of factors and record will go a long way to making that stadium full when they return. When they do, I will be there. The November 11th match-up with the Tennessee Titans is my trip to Miami this year. I will see first hand not only the progress the team has made on the field and hopefully continued, buy how much the fans have bought into that progression off of it.