Change of mind


Miami Dolphins fans were dreading another season of suffering, another season of ineptitude at quarter, another of a paper tiger called a defense, another season at the bottom of the AFC East. Then everything changed. First Favre decided to return to the NFL. Then the Jets picked him up and let Chad Pennington go. Pennington had been a quarterback lauded for his accuracy, but slammed for his weak arm. The Dolphins quickly signed him.

Pennington has made an immediate impression at Dolphin Stadium. The quarterback has made the Miami a player in an AFC East that has been left with a giant question mark now that New England is Brady-less. Now the Dolphins have a chance to make a competitive run in a division up for grabs and have a chance to claim they are the best football team in Florida, competing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jacksonville Jaguars for that crown.

Miami has more than just a new quarterback. The franchise brought back Ricky Williams. Williams is not as dangerous as he once was, but he and Ronnie Brown make a formidable running back combination. The wide receivers are not exactly the biggest threats. Ted Ginn Jr. and Derek Hagan are not going to force a lot of special attention, but these next couple of seasons are more about starting to develop a new culture.

A date to the Super Bowl is not in the cards this season or the next, but a chance to build a team that does not expect to finish in last place is just as important. Pennington is not the long term answer. Left tackle Jake Long, center Samson Satele, offensive tackle Vernon Carey, tight end Anthony Fasano, and line backer Canning Crowder are though.

Those young players need to get a whiff of a real game and a real sense of a chance to win. If anything in sports is clear it is that losing teams make losing players. That habit is hard to break, so getting into the habit of thinking you can win any game is important for a coach and a franchise.

The Miami Dolphins schedule is now full of winnable games every week and the future for the franchise is looking brighter with every snap Pennington takes. The team is a long way from its new peak though, and the addition of skill players and young defenders, as well as a clear heir apparent at the quarterback position are next for the Dolphins. Those tasks are still many, but just getting out of the mentality of a 1-15 team is the first step.