There is no question that when you look at the New England Patriots who annually sit at the top of the AFC East, that continuity plays a big role in that success. The Patriots have very little play-maker turnover from year to year, little to know major shakeups on their coaching staff, and management has relatively stayed the same. The same can not be said about the rest of the AFC East who have been playing catch-up for some time.
When Miami Dolphins fans talk about the “glory days” it’s obvious that they refer to the era of Don Shula. During Shula’s time in Miami the same method that has found success in New England was employed way back then. Shula rarely lost key members of his team (Csonka and Kiick), he rarely lost top coaches, and managed to keep the rest of the AFC East squarely behind him in the standings. The Dolphins records against his divisional opponents sometimes stretched into double digit victory streaks.
This year the Dolphins will not be making any major franchise changes that we are aware of. First year head coach Joe Philbin and his coaching staff will return as will GM Jeff Ireland. It will be the first year without major turnover for the Dolphins in quite some time. That can not be said about two other AFC East teams. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
In New York…the city…the Jets will likely lose GM Mike Tannenbaum. They are better than 50% likely to lose HC Rex Ryan and reports surfacing today indicate that former Miami Dolphins OC Tony Sparano could be fired at any time. The fallout from yet another disappointing season has the Jets looking at a full blown makeover come 2013. The Jets hired Ryan in 2009 and immediately Ryan proclaimed that his team would go to the Super Bowl. While he came within one game of making that a reality, the truth is the team spent and spent and spent on high profile players who couldn’t work to make his boasting a reality.
The Jets traded up for Mark Sanchez and now it appears as though he will be shown the door next season as well. 2013 could be a major shakeup for the Jets and even a small miscue in correcting their issues could spin the downward much the way the Dolphins have spiraled slowly in the last 8 to 10 years.
In Buffalo the moves expected this off-season are far less major. Head coach Chan Gailey is expected to return to his job as HC but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to be gone leaving the Bills searching for a signal caller again in the off-season. Last year the team added Tyler Thigpen but he made no significant contribution to the team. They also traded for former Seattle Seahawk QB Tarvaris Jackson but Jackson has been inactive every game this season and is expected to remain that way in week 17.
The Bills are treading on thin ice so to speak with the retention of Gailey if in fact they do look for a franchise QB through the draft or even free agency. If the Bills fail to make an impact next season they will be looking for a head coach in 2014 and a much larger shake-up could be in store. For now, Dolphins fans should take a little comfort in knowing that if both the Jets and the Bills retain their coaches and fail, they will likely implode early and face a rebuilding in 2014 setting each franchise back a few more years. Opportunity for the Dolphins to move up in the division is walking in the neighborhood…ready to knock.
We of course have seen this far too many times. 2004 saw the Dolphins move on from Dave Wannstedt eventually to a rebuild under Nick Saban. Saban hung around for two seasons before giving the team over to one year man Cam Cameron. In 2009 we turned it over again to Bill Parcells. In 2010 we turned the defense over to Mike Nolan, in 2011 we turned the offense over to Brian DaBoll and the defense over to Todd Bowles, in 2012 we turned it all over to Joe Philbin. My dates may be slightly off here, but you get the full picture nonetheless.
The fact is you can not have a successful franchise in any major league sport without one of two things. Continuity in your team and/or money to buy a winner. The Dolphins have had no continuity since Dave Wannsted resigned in 2004 at the bye week. It’s hard to say that 2013 represents a true continual structure but the fact is no assistant coaches are expected to leave, the HC is in tact, the GM is in tact, and the team has a “franchise QB” returning for his second season. It may not necessarily equate to a playoff season but it should improve the team considerably and start the team down the path of recovery. While two of their AFC East opponents possibly regress.