Miami Dolphins biggest failure is discipline and identity

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 10: Ryan Tannehill
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 10: Ryan Tannehill /

The Miami Dolphins will add to their roster this year through the draft and through free agency. They will get starters, depth players, and maybe even a playmaker or two. What they won’t get is leadership.

Miami has a lot of things wrong within the team but what they lack the most is character. Character in the form of leadership. Character in the form of an identity. Character in the form of discipline.

Miami finished the season next to last in penalties in 2017 and frankly who wants to ruin their day by counting all of the pre-snap penalties that Miami had to suffer through? Not this guy. It’s bad enough just knowing that it was bad.

The Dolphins managed to kill themselves with far more consistency than they had at stopping the run. More consistency than they had at scoring touchdowns. In fact Miami most consistent plays of the year were the ones where they were forcing the referees to reach into their pocket for a yellow flag.

First and ten would turn into first and 20 before the ball was even snapped. A third and short became a third and ten before the ball was snapped. Defensively the Dolphins were not much better allowing opposing offenses an extra five yards before the ball left the center’s hand.

This is on the coaches. They knew about it they didn’t fix it. Leadership lacked in the locker room and a recent article by Armando Salguero sums it up perfectly as to why. Who should have stepped up? Who didn’t step up? Anyone. No one.

In 2016 the Dolphins looked to have an identity. A never give up, never quit fight that joined the team together as a singular unit. Last year it was fragmented. Players ran their own routes, Byron Maxwell ran his own scheme, Jay Ajayi complained instead of becoming a leader. Everyone looked to someone else and no one looked in the mirror. As Salguero says the Dolphins have too many “I will let my play do my talking and not enough talk”.

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Identity is born from leadership and from identity comes pride. With pride the mistakes tend to stop. In 2017 the Dolphins were not fighting to win games in the closing minutes, they were behind and many times were behind a lot. Players were making mental errors because they were trying make plays on their own instead of making them as a team. This was the stark contrast between Adam Gase in 2016 and Adam Gase in 2017.

Now it needs to change. And it starts with Adam Gase. It starts with his coaches that he is now hiring and replacing the leftover Joe Philbin staff. His coaches need to coach. They need to build team unity and drive the players to become better. But the players need to look inside themselves and become leaders and those that can’t lead need to learn to follow and not be “me-type players”.

Ryan Tannehill was the glaring missing piece in 2017 and while he was on the sideline trying to get his teammates up, he can only do so much when they are on the field and he is not. It is funny to think of Tannehill as a leader considering he has never been considered a leader. But he was.

In 2016 Tannehill led and his teammates on both sides of the ball looked to him as the guy that would and could change the game. In 2017 there was no one there to pull them together.

Ryan Tannehill however can’t be the only one. On a defense with Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, and Reshad Jones, three Pro-Bowl level players, not a one of them have ever held a torch to the others. For all of Cam Wake’s pre-game rousing antics to get his team fired up, there is none of that on the field.

The veterans need to lead the younger guys because the younger guys can’t lead the veterans. This is where a big problem lies. It creates a lack of team unification and that is where the team loses identity. Miami has no identity. They are not a ground and pound running offense or a trench warfare special forces unit who makes opposing interior lineman pay. They are not a prolific passing team that keeps corners off the line and linebackers dropping into coverage.

On defense they simply are not that physical. The most physicality they have shown is when Kiko Alonso comes up late on a sliding quarterback. It needs to change. The culture of losing needs to change.

More importantly Adam Gase needs to change. He needs to bring out the best in his players. Find a way to win with them and find a way to use their talents to their best. Winning cures a lot of things but losing can kill progress far quicker. In 2016 there was progress it regressed in 2017. This is the biggest challenge for Miami heading into 2018 and a question that they need to find an answer for.