A Bridge Too Far And Far Too Long


The Miami Dolphins are a storied franchise.  They get little respect from the mainstream media because frankly, they have always been a bunch of guys that just went out and did their jobs.  Talk about the 1972 team leads media types outside of Miami calling the team “old” and “bitter“.  While Jim Kiick agrees that they are in fact old, bitter is not a word that he accepts.  Mercury Morris will tell you the same thing.

There is a bridge though that long ago got burned to the ground.  When Jimmy Johnson took over the franchise he demanded a departure from the old for his version of the new.  He wanted nothing to do with the 1972 team and nothing to do with any of the Super Bowl teams that Miami and Don Shula had fielded.  What he wanted was his own mark on the franchise.  It was a lasting one for sure.

Johnson’s burning of the bridge between the past and at the time present left the Dolphins without it’s identity.  Gone was the hard knock lifestyle of a Don Shula run camp and in it’s stead was the “rah rah” of a “How about them Dolphins” persona.  Indeed.  The Dolphins never became the success that Jimmy Johnson’ ego was set to cast and in the end, he took his money and his Dallas Cowboy Super Bowl rings and ran back to TV leaving his legacy with the Dolphins all but gone and questions to who built the Cowboy championship seasons open for discussion.

With Jimmy Johnson gone, the Dolphins were left with his personal hand picked successor, Dave Wannstedt.  From the verge of something special, the Dolphins began what would be a downward spiral that lasted far too long.  From Wannstedt to Nick Saban, the Dolphins became the bottom feeder that teams like the Jets and Lions.  The Phins had lost focus of their history, they had lost their stigma of being the winningest coached team in the NFL.  They were in the gutters looking out.

While the Dolphins history will be viewed in stark contrast with it’s recent past, it is still the history of 1972, 1973, the mid-80’s and early 90’s that still stand out in the minds of the fans.  Now, after more than a decade since Don Shula walked the sidelines, the Dolphins identity is being pulled from the time capsule that had long ago been buried in the field behind the team offices.

Tony Sparano has been here for only a few months. Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland a bit longer.  Parcells comes from his own history.  A man that has ties to Don Shula in terms of his mentor being a disciple of Don Shula.  Now that bridge that has been too far gone for too long is being rebuilt slowly and by simply reaching out.

According to Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris, the Dolphins top football brass has asked for these legends among Dolphins to talk to the youth of this team, to come around the field, be part of the team again.  Parcells wants his team to know where this team came from.  He wants them to understand that there was a time when this franchise did not accept losing.  That losing was not in the teams vocabulary.  When losing a Super Bowl meant giving away your AFC Champion rings and never allowing them on your finger because they were “loser” rings as Kiick announced.

That is what has been missing with this franchise.  A defined attitude.  A respect for the past to mold the future.  Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano will not forge their own history, they will simply try and write another chapter.  They are calling for history to help.  They are learning from the decade gone, the dark ages, trying to not repeat the mistakes of those that walked beneath the shadows of a bridge too far for far too long.